D.O.M. Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients



D.O.M. Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients
Alex Atala. Phaidon, $49.95 (320p) ISBN 978 0 17148 6574 4

It’s not every cookbook that includes a meditation on death, but Phaidon strikes again in its continuing effort to reimagine the genre. This time they call upon Atala, a magic realist of a chef whose D.O.M restaurant in Sao Paolo is one of the most important culinary outposts in South America, if not the world. He explores 45 Brazillian foodstuffs, and one universal state of non-existence, in this captivating volume. For each ingredient, such as lamb, sea fish, or cocoa, there is a page of exploratory text, followed by a beautiful and brooding full-page photo shot against a black background, followed by one or more recipes. Some offerings are absurdist. The instructions, in full, for ants and pineapple are, “Place a piece of pineapple on top of a serving dish and top with an ant. Serve immediately.” Others are significantly more involved, reflecting the chef’s classical training and obsession with Brazillian flavors and textures. There is sea snail with wakame and tangerine foam112, lime and banana ravioli, and heart of palm brandade with anchovies.  Death makes its entrance between chapters on game meat and shellfish, three pages of text and 15 pages of photos that are as dark a paean to sustainable eating as one is likely to find, pointing out that, “We are, indeed, omnivores, murderers and selfish. We are human.” (Oct. 2013)

Taste of the Town





Taste of the Town
Todd Blackledge and JR Rosenthal. Center Street, $20 (208p) ISBN 978 1 4555 4729 6

The arc of cookbook authorship is long, and it bends toward obscurity.  Books by celebrity chefs have given way to books by celebrity eaters and now to this collection by a semi-celebrity eater who is also a college football analyst. ESPN devotees will know Blackledge not only from his Saturday announcing duties, but also from his minute-long Taste of the Town segments wherein he visits and samples the eateries around whatever campus he finds himself on gameday. Collected here are bite-sized restaurant reminiscences from 20 college towns, along with recipes from his favorite diners, bbq joints, seafood shacks, and ice cream parlors. Near the University of Alabama he visits the Waysider, where Bear Bryant once dined on country ham, and shares their recipes for salmon croquettes and chocolate pie.  At Ohio State, he explores the Thurman Cafe’s infamous Thurmanator burger, a bunned morass of ground chuck, bacon, ham and three kinds of cheese.  As a bonus, or perhaps a penalty, Blackledge includes a chapter entitled Coaches Can Cook, which features favorite dishes from men who have spent a lot of time in locker rooms. Audibles include tuna relish from LSU’s Les Miles, Jimmy Dean sausage dip from Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, and -- What are they thinking? -- a salsa recipe from Joe Paterno. A September release date bodes well for fans heading out on SEC road trips, but this would more likely be a game changer come Father’s Day. (Sept.2013)
 

The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook



The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook
Alexe van Beuren and Dixie Grimes. Clarkson Potter, $29.99 (238p) ISBN 978 0 385 34500 2

Water Valley, Mississippi, is a small, rural village saved from obscurity by being just 25 minutes from the campus town of Oxford, and by being fortunate enough to be the home of chef Grimes and self-made business woman van Beuren. B.T.C., which stands for “Be the Change,” is their little grocery cum diner that could, a local favorite that caught national attention when van Beuren was profiled in a 2012 New York Times article that also contained a shout out to Grimes’ pear zucchini soup. This effort to share the B.T.C. experience is a gentle mix of traditional Southern fare, creative variations thereof, and profiles of the only mildly colorful local residents like Mickey Howley, who drops by for cauliflower soup, and Billy Ray Brown, their milkman. Van Beuren’s unadorned prose keeps the character studies pure, with a refreshingly minimal amount of folksiness, while Grimes’ 120 recipes alternate between classic and surprising. Her shrimp salad is chock full of Hellmann’s, but her tuna salad calls for two types of raisins. Having cooked in several fine restaurants over her 20 year career, Grimes also has no problem combining interesting flavors and textures, as with her honey pecan catfish, and her oyster casserole with pimentos, dry vermouth, and nutmeg, topped with crushed Ritz crackers.  (Mar.)

Cooking With Fire



Cooking With Fire
Paula Marcoux. Storey, $19.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61212-158-1

Marcoux, the food editor of Edible South Shore magazine, is an expert in the fields of food history and archaeology. Her dual interests meld nicely in this collection which is as much about creating sources of heat as it is concocting recipes. For those who revel in primitive forms of cookery, there are plenty of adventures to explore, from the simple to the complex. Chapter one is entitled A Fire and a Stick, with instructions on toasting cheese (“impale a cube of cheese upon an implement”). A section on spit roasting examines how to roast a leg of lamb by dangling it over a fire on a string. And there are well-photographed instructions on not only how to bake naan bread, but also on how to create a Neolithic era oven that does the baking. Some recipes are irresistibly dangerous. For example, a cocktail called a flip calls for a red-hot poker to be immersed in a glass of rum, beer and molasses. It’s a drink that would probably come in handy while trying the more time consuming projects such as bean-hole beans, which requires digging a hole, tending a fire within the hole for six hours to create a suitable layer of coals, then burying a pot of beans in the hole to cook for at least half a day. (May)

Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook



Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook
Neal Corman with Chris Peterson. St. Martins, $29.99 (336p) ISBN 978 1250041098

Latin scholars take heed, this is not the Virgil of the Aeneid, it is the Virgil of the BBQ. Which is not to
say that there isn’t a certain kind of poetry to be found among the nearly 100 recipes offered here. It is a poetry of the masses, a vast overview of barbecue reflecting the cuisine found at Virgil’s restaurant in New York City. And just as the name Virgil is a Times Square fiction, a mythical savant of all things smokehouse, this collection does its best to be a country-wide know-it-all. Corman, the corporate executive chef of the company that owns Virgil’s (and its Italian brother eatery, Carmine’s), tackles Memphis, Carolina, Texas and Kansas City style menus, with healthy doses of Cajun and East Coast delicacies thrown in for good measure. So, the chapter on beef offers dry rubbed Texas brisket, a Kansas City burnt ends sandwich, and smoked pastrami. Memphis spare ribs and Boston Butt are among the half dozen pork offerings, while the seafood selections include crawfish étouffée and fried catfish. A chapter on drinks tends toward the sugary, with choices like Georgia sweet tea, spiked with peach schnapps . But beer, by far, is the beverage of choice, with a “right beer” recommended pairing accompanying nearly every food recipe. (Apr.)

The Big-Flavor Grill



The Big-Flavor Grill
Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby. Ten Speed Press, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60774-527-3

Schlesinger, the former owner of Boston’s East Coast Grill, and Willoughby, the former executive editor of Gourmet, have been barbecuing and writing together since their 1990 classic, The Thrill of the Grill. The subtitle of this, their ninth collaboration, is “no-marinade, no-hassle recipes.” And, while indeed there is not a drop of marinade to be found among the 130 offerings, one man’s no-hassle might be another man’s mess. Instead of the time consuming bother of soaking the meat before grilling, the authors advocate the laying on of hands, via a variety of dry rubs, or of saucing the meat after grilling, often by tossing vigorously in a large bowl. This seems a bit dangerous in their recipe for jerk wings from hell, which calls for the cook to puree, and then rub onto the chicken, a paste made from ten scotch bonnet peppers in less than a cup of liquid . Safer, more fruit-filled, and heavily hyphenated options include chicken thighs with apricot-chile glaze, pork chops with green apple-jicama salsa, and five-spice grilled steak tips with grilled pineapple and sweet-sour sauce. The cultural diversity of flavors is evident throughout, and especially noticeable when it comes to their half-dozen shrimp recipes with options including New Orleans style, Chesapeake Bay style, Japanese, Thai, encrusted in cumin seed, and stuffed into tacos after being tossed “like crazy” with pineapple, cilantro and chopped chiles. For those who dare drink while they toss, cocktails with mint or ginger or pineapple round out the collection. (Mar.)