26 Oct2007

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Michel Richard seems to be an obsessive compulsive chef, in a good way. And his book is a joy to read. One of the few pastry chefs who switched to cooking savory food, he is referred to in the jacket of the book as a “chef’s chef.” With a foreword by Thomas Keller, and some of the most stunning and uncluttered visuals, this is a book I could not resist acquiring. While books to this style often intimidate a home cook, the recipes of Michel Richard are relatively simple and almost always incorporate a slightly unusual, intelligent and unique twist. There are several dishes in this book that I will try this holiday season. Apparently obsessed with crispness, I am curious if I can replicate some of his dishes in Manila’s humid weather. Some things I look forward to trying are his All-Crust Potato Gratin, Green Bouillabaisse with Aioli (though some ingredients are TOUGH to find in Manila), Crab Poppers (little bite size morsels like crabcakes but more sophisticated), and Chicken Faux Gras (a stunning sounding pate made with chicken livers, my childhood nemesis)…this last one is definitely on my holiday list! Happy in the Kitchen, by Michel Richard, list price $45.

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I love many Vietnamese dishes. They have a clarity to them that is punctuated with a healthy dose of pungent herbs and spices. I have only been to Vietnam once, on a two-week business trip and at that time, I ate to work, not worked to eat. But I did get a wonderful introduction to Vietnamese food during that trip and when I was subsequently assigned to a year-long project in Melbourne, Australia, I lived around the corner from a small Vietnamese restaurant that I ate in 3x a week for my rice fix. At home, my only foray into Vietnamese cooking has been the fresh spring rolls, and attempts at various noodles, but with this new book by Andrea Nguyen, I hope to do more, particularly a good basic Pho broth and recipe. Ms. Nguyen spent most of her life in the U.S., so this book is certainly targetted at an audience in a Western set-up… or just right for me as well as an introduction to the cuisine. The book has a disappointing lack of photos (lower budget?) but never mind, the recipes seem simple enough to follow and cover most of my favorites. I need to do a whole week of Vietnamese cooking so that I can utilize some flavorings that I don’t usually have in stock. Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by ndrea Nguyen, list price $35.

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Artisanal is a restaurant in New York City that we have been meaning to try for several years. My sister encouraged us to check it out since Mrs. MM is a cheese fiend, but the last two times we tried to get in, it was totally booked and we ended up at the nearby Brasserie Les Halles instead. So when Terrance rennan and Andrew Friedman published this book, it was a natural selection. It has beautiful photos, delicious sounding and relatively easy to make recipes for a home cook. The book also has a wonderful pantry section that covers some basic sauces, dressings, oils etc. I found this section really interesting. As for the dishes I want to cook sometime soon… maybe the Pork Steak with Sage, Pumpkin and Prunes (I notice all of these ingredients in Manila stores at the moment), Macaroni and Cheese (from a purveyor of cheese, you won’t be surprised this version calls for Parmiggiano Reggiano, Gruyere or Comte and Mascarpone!), and Chocolate Soup with Orange Curd Napoleon. List Price $35.

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Cindy Pawlcyn’s book “Big Small Plates” is a bit confusing… not quite appetizers, not quite meals…but that is precisely how I like to eat sometimes. Often, at a loss in a restaurant, I order 2 or 3 appetizers instead of having a main course. That way, I get more tastes and flavors in one sitting. Nicely photographed with an interesting mix of familiar appetizers with a bit of zing, and several Mexican influenced recipes as a result of her restaurant kitchen staff, this is a book that will inspire avid cooks and amateurs alike. Nothing fussy here, just good solid takes on classics and in some cases, classics done in a great new way…She also has suggestions for party or dinner menus that incorporate several smaller dishes rather than main courses. Definitely a back-up or bench warmer in case you haven’t filled your shopping basket with several of the previous books I have mentioned. List Price $35.

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Finally, The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. What can I say, I am a caveman carnivore once in a while. A great guide to meat, with many recipes and techniques for handling and prepping meat. There are a few photos, but way too few. The recipes are easy to follow. A good basic reference book for meat. List Price $35.

Has anyone noticed that the price point for cookbooks today seems to be $35? Is that bizarre or what? Why not $33 or $39 considering the varying amounts to work, research, content that goes into them… talk about cartelized pricing… Hmmm, I wonder why. Enjoy your books this holiday season!!!

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Maria Clara says:

    Your cookbook recap/review is a source of inspiration and encouragement especially to novice chef/kusinero/kusinera of the house or for expat after 5:00 p.m. household or weekend chores. I know good source of materials out there are endless only my budget and imagination are the restrictions. I cannot wait to see your rendition of Michel Richard, Andrew Nguyen, and the rest. As for Bruce Aidels’ cuisine to me they are more of a pulutan type of food, greasy, spicy and salty. By the way Bruce Aidels is married to Nancy Oaks the author and owner of a San Francisco, California famous restaurant Boulevard. I can just picture them talking about the next day menu offering in their restaurant at bedtime.

    Oct 26, 2007 | 10:56 am

     
  2. Silly Lolo says:

    It looks like I will be eating out for the next few months! Leave me alone. I’ll be reading cookbooks.

    Oct 26, 2007 | 12:04 pm

     
  3. myra_p says:

    MM, one of the best things I did on my last trip to NY was spend hours at The Strand and buy hardbound cookbooks that, while not fresh off the press, were discounted enough ( all well below $20) to allow me to bulk up my little cookbook library. The used books section also revealed a few gems, most of them below $10. Wouldn’t it be great if our local BookSale could grow to become as big and exciting as The Strand?

    Oct 26, 2007 | 2:37 pm

     
  4. apm says:

    Hi Marketman,

    I am a fan of Bruce Aidells and have most of his cookbooks. I’ve listed below my other favorite cookbooks for a carnivore:

    The River Cottage Meat Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall. The author has a propensity for raising livestock and butchering things himself.

    Pork & Sons by Stephane Reynaud. This is probably the most beautifully laid out cookbooks in my collection (I have over two thousand in my collection). The French version won many awards. The American version just came out this year.

    Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson. This is a classic. I am waiting for the sequel having ordered my copy online.

    Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. One of the better books on Charcuterie available on the mass market.

    Oct 26, 2007 | 3:22 pm

     
  5. corrine says:

    Myra_p, can you tell me the address of The Strand in NY?

    Oct 26, 2007 | 5:24 pm

     
  6. Marketman says:

    apm, I have the Charcuterie book as well. And I definitely want the Pork & Sons one… myra p, my best find was an ukay ukay book sale find in Baguio, a Joy of Cooking for a couple of bucks!

    Oct 26, 2007 | 5:34 pm

     
  7. siopao says:

    For me… The Time-Life series “The Good Cook” is probably the most important set of cookbooks I own. Kinda like Larousse for dummies.

    I also like both of the Thomas Keller books and Peter Reinhart’s “Crust and Crumb” and Richard Bertinet’s “Dough” both on bread-making

    Oct 26, 2007 | 7:40 pm

     
  8. Jacob's Mom says:

    MM, ako din, I found a clean copy of The Joy of Cooking at a yard sale for $2!

    Oct 26, 2007 | 8:00 pm

     
  9. tabchie says:

    Hi Manong MM, mayroon ka bang ma re-recommend na Pilipino cookbook by chance??? I’m so intrigue with pilipino cuisine…i just love it..specially iyon mga specials nang mga provinces….it’s such a joy reading all your travels around the Philippines. The first time i visited your blog was when TFC showed Chicken Inasal Eatery by some actor…never tasted it…but your Inasal was good!!! And your pics are mouth watering…grabeh!!

    Oct 26, 2007 | 8:39 pm

     
  10. zena says:

    Apm, I am GREEN with envy at your collection. 2,000! I wonder if you’ve tried at least 1 recipe from all the cookbooks. =)

    I love booksale. If you know what you’re looking and how to look, you get great finds.

    Oct 26, 2007 | 8:47 pm

     
  11. Myra P. says:

    Hi Corinne, The Strand is on 12th and Broadway, the area of Union Square. Check out their site for more info http://www.strandbooks.com. Most trains have a stop right on Union Square, plus Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods is there too. Oh, and the 4X weekly farmer’s market…

    MM, my copy of Joy of Cooking is falling apart from abuse and overuse, but I refuse to buy the newer edition because the recipes are all different, and kinda yuck, like they resurrected middle america recipes from the 1950’s, an ode to the original versions of JOC. The 1997 edition stands out because it has the most modern and global recipe selection.

    Oct 26, 2007 | 10:22 pm

     
  12. Apicio says:

    Ey Siopao, that series has found so much use from me too all these years (what, more than twenty years and running?) although a couple of the volumes do not particularly speak to me (Beverages and Fruits). It actually raises your level of kitchen savvy and show you techniques you can apply to a lot of Filipino specialties, instructions are clear and accurate and most important, illustrations are meaningful and supportive of passionate amateurs. I beg to differ but definitely not for dummies. Besides those such and such books for dummies have the same little appeal to me as cults that oblige me to fall on my knees and confess that I am a wretched sinner when I am not.

    Oct 26, 2007 | 10:42 pm

     
  13. APM says:

    Siopao, Apicio

    I grew up borrowing copies of Time Life’s the Good Cook series. Later on I was fortunate enough to purchase all 28 volumes from Ebay. I find this series as important as my collection of Cook’s Illustrated. Incidentally the author of (the late Richard Olney) this series has two other cookbooks available in manila The French Menu Cookbook and Lulu’s Provencal Table.

    I also was able to purchase an entire collection of Time Life’s Foods of the World (the american edition had 27 volumes much more than the collection sold in the Philippines) and the Life Picture Cookbook (a large orange cookbook)on Ebay also. These were cookbooks that a lot of Filipinos grew up with, I didn’t really use them for their recipes but they were great for browsing.

    Oct 27, 2007 | 7:10 am

     
  14. APM says:

    Hi Zena,

    I tend to browse through my cookbooks. When I need a recipe I only rely on a few books. The truth is I have piles upon piles of unread cookbooks and food related books unread not for lack of interest but for lack of time.

    Oct 27, 2007 | 7:15 am

     
  15. linda says:

    MM,I too,would love to get the Pork and Sons cookbook.I had a quick browse through it and saw a lot of fantastic recipes and it’s pink cover will surely make it standout amongst my other collection,but,I bought other cookbooks at that time because we had a book signing from authors from here and around the globe during the Taste of Australia 10 day event we had here recently.

    Oct 27, 2007 | 8:19 am

     
  16. siopao says:

    @ Apicio

    My apologies. When I said “Larousse for dummies” I meant that it was easier to follow than the Larousse Gastronomique because of the photographs. But really, my bad for making a terrible simile :-)

    I buy cookbooks mostly for the technique than the recipes. and most of the techniques in “The Good Cook” are classical French and can be applied to any cuisine including Filipino… except the way they peel a mango (with a fork!!?)

    Oct 27, 2007 | 2:19 pm

     
  17. millet says:

    MM, my best ukay find is M.F.K. Fisher’s “The Art of Eating” -her five most famouse books all in one volume: “How to Cook a Wolf”, “Consider the Oyster”, “Serve it Forth”, “The Gastronomical Me” and “An Alphabet for Gourmets”..all for 35 pesos!

    Oct 27, 2007 | 3:04 pm

     
  18. Apicio says:

    APM, I think it is in the French volume where they included critiques of particular classical dishes solicited from celebrated food authorities of the day such as Craig Clairborne that prompted Atlantic Monthly to call it the first self-roasting cookbook ever published. My absolute favorite there is the Cooking of Viena’s Empire whose pictures and narrative made my actual Austrian visit pale and anti-climactic.

    Siopao, no apologies needed at all and that’s why I did not like the fruit volume.

    And Millet, wow! a deluxe edition ran into thousands of dollars a few years ago.

    Oct 27, 2007 | 10:11 pm

     
  19. gemma says:

    i got escoffier’s “le guide culinaire” for $3 from a sidewalk hawker in midtown nyc. i have searched all over for this book and never expected that i’ll end up finding it on the street.

    a must stop in nyc is the store “kitchen arts and letters” in the upper east side. they have a nice collection of hard to find cookbooks.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 4:00 am

     
  20. kayenne says:

    anyone ever heard of La Bonne Cuisine by Madame E. Saint-Ange? got it with a big discount from powerbooks when they recently held an outlet clearance sale. touted as The Original Companion for French Home Cooking. no photos, save for a few illustrations. i love the descriptions though… still going through it.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 2:57 am

     
  21. Teresa says:

    Oh no MM you’ve definitely fired up my adrenaline again to go pick-up copies of the books you featured. I promised i shall abstain first until i have accomplished the installation of new cabinets. I’m interested to get a hold a copy Pork & Sons as well.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 7:13 pm

     
  22. Marghi says:

    oH NO! MORE TO FEED MY ADDICTION…..YES STRAND IS AN ABSOLUTE HAVEN….AS LONG AS YOU CAN JUMP INTO A CAB IMMEDIATELY AFTER…..LOVE THE CHOICES HERE….

    Oct 31, 2007 | 4:55 pm

     
 

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