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In this expansive tome, food stylist and writer McLagan offers an alternative to the rubbery chicken breasts and fish filets now standard in Western cookery. By eliminating bones (and fat) from our diet, McLagan passionately argues, we've traded flavor for health and efficiency. Indeed, her book operates on the premise that the pleasure of gnawing on a lamb chop cannot be underestimated. More than a cookbook, this is a compendium of folklore, literary quotes and historical facts that refer to bones' significance across cultures from ancient times to today. There are chapters on beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish and game, each with an introductory section explaining anatomy and recommended cooking temperatures. Sidebars offer suggestions for carving, using unlikely parts, and recovering endangered bone-cooking arts like "spatchcocking," or removing the wishbone from a bird. McLagan's recipes range from arcane (Lancashire Hot Pot, which traditionally consists of a deep dish of stew covered with a potato crust, and long lamb bones piercing through the topping) to contemporary continental (Osso Bucco with Fennel and Blood Orange Sauce). While some recipes are time-consuming, McLagan's instructions are generally clear and precise. With its emphasis on tradition and technique, this work won't appeal to the 20-minute chef, but it will be a welcome addition to the slow-food aficionado's library. Photos. (Nov.)
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