As a private chef I’m always digging up new ideas for dishes to try out on my clients. I do this not only to delight and surprise people eating what I cook, but to stave off the boredom that comes from cooking the same things over and over again. Any chef worth his salt is always reading, learning, exploring, and experimenting.
With that in mind I can heartily recommend two books I just got. While I love poring over big, beautiful food-porn books like the recent Thomas Keller Ad-Hoc cookbook or that massive El Bulli doorstop, sometimes smaller (and let’s face it, cheaper) books will provide more inspiration, education, and amusement.
Ideas in Food by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot is smallish and unassuming at first glance. But this lovely, picture-less book has real depth of insight for both the novice cook and the seasoned veteran. The majority of the book is filled with simple, creative recipes for breads, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and meats, but all are impeccably crafted and surprisingly inventive. A simple macaroni and cheese, a parsnip ice cream, short ribs braised in root beer, eggs boiled over low heat for 13 minutes until custardy, kimchi cracklings, octopus confit – all are very well explained and sound phenomenal. The latter portion of the book veers into molecular gastronomy, with explanations on methylcellulose, agar-agar, and recipes utilizing an ad-hoc nitrogen freezer made from a Styrofoam cooler. All the recipes and tips are written to both demystify the processes we sometimes unknowingly initiate during cooking and provide explanations for why they work. Get it! And check out their affiliated website, ideasinfood.com. Great pics!
Save the Deli by David Sax is not a cookbook, but an in-depth and fun exploration of the American Jewish Delicatessen, as a cuisine and a cultural phenomenon.
Tracing the origins of what we Americans know as deli food back from its Eastern European roots to its flowering in New York’s lower east side, and its transformations as it conquered the rest of America, Sax tells a rich story of rise and decline, history and myth, tradition and innovation, economics and heart with a style that is witty and often injected with shots of youthful, almost borscht-belty humor. The colorful characters and flavorful descriptions are worth trying out this easy-to-digest book. You’ll be craving a pastrami sandwich as you read it.
Langer’s in LA: 1/2 pastrami, 1/2 #19 special pastrami with swiss & cole slaw