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Craft of Cooking: Notes and Recipes from a Restaurant Kitchen [Hardcover]

Tom Colicchio
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 28 2003
From Tom Colicchio, chef/co-owner of New York’s acclaimed Gramercy Tavern, comes a book that profiles the food and philosophy of Craft, his unique restaurant in the heart of New York’s Flatiron district, and winner of the 2002 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in America. From its food to its architecture and menu design, Craft has been celebrated for its courageous movement away from culinary theatrics and over-the-top presentations, back to the simple magic of great food.

Realizing that his own culinary style had grown increasingly unembellished, and gambling that New York diners were experiencing that same kind of culinary fatigue (brought on by too much “fancy food”), Colicchio set out to prove that the finest food didn’t have to be the most complicated. From its opening in March 2001, Craft offered diners simple, soulful dishes centered around single ingredients that went on to shake up many people’s ideas of what “restaurant food” should be like.

Craft of Cooking leads you through Colicchio’s thought process in choosing raw materials—like what to look for in fresh fish, or how to choose the perfect mushroom—to show that good food is available to anyone with access to a good supermarket, farm stand, or gourmet grocery. The book also features “Day-in-the-Life-of-Craft” portraits, which offer a fascinating, behind-the-scenes glimpse at areas of the restaurant beyond the dining room. These segments allow the reader to peer into the fast-paced prep kitchen, to witness the high drama of reservations, and to get a taste of the humor and empathy necessary to serve New York’s colorful visitors and foodies.

And then there are the recipes. Craft of Cooking presents 140 recipes that range from the simplest dish of spring peas to roasted fish; from lush but effortless braises to complex brining and curing of meat for homemade charcuterie, included to give the reader a “fly-on-the-wall” experience of visiting the Craft kitchen for themselves. Dishes are divided–like the Craft menu itself–into categories of meat, fish, vegetables, potatoes, grains, desserts, and pantry, and then further delineated by technique–roasting, braising, sautéing, etc.–with abundant suggestions and technical tips. Using Tom’s straightforward and friendly voice, Craft of Cooking offers recipes suited to any purpose—from a quick family meal to a festive dinner party for twelve.

As he did in his James Beard award-winning book, Think Like a Chef, Colicchio uses Craft of Cooking to teach, tell his story, and offer inspiration to cooks of any skill level. With more than 100 full-color and black-and-white photographs, Craft of Cooking is destined to become a staple of home cooks everywhere—the one “restaurant cookbook” they can’t live without.

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Curing duck breasts and hanging them like hams in your refrigerator for three weeks may not be your particular pail of blueberries. Or brining a whole, 30-pound piglet as a precursor for making porchetta. But how about grilling a hangar steak and slathering it with a bordelaise sauce? Mind you, this is a sauce that calls for a bottle of dry red wine and three quarts of veal stock as well as the requisite vegetables. But that's the point here: the best imaginable ingredients and a lot of focused work leading to a sublimely simple outcome. Simple in this case being an ultimate grilled steak experience. The kind of experience dished up at Tom Colicchio's restaurant Craft. Craft of Cooking is Colicchio's way of making that same experience available in your own home.

The author of Think Like a Chef is betting that if he shows you what he does in a commercial kitchen, it will have an impact on your home cooking. Because what he does in his kitchen is what he likes to eat at home. It's not about speed, and it's not about convenience. It's about making food taste great without fanfare or pretension. The book breaks out in major ingredient sections, meat, fish, vegetables, and the like. Subsections in meat, for example, include charcuterie, roasting and grilling, and braising. Some of the recipes, like the one for baby lamb, are simply too big for the home kitchen. But Colicchio wants you to see what he's up to. He wants you to think about it. There are long asides about various products--the hangar steak, mesclun, beurre fondue--called ingredient portraits. And there are notes that detail how all the elements of a restaurant from prep to wine service fit together.

For anyone who simply loves to read delicious recipes, this is an elegant book. For those home cooks with some experience--skilled amateurs--Craft of Cooking is a challenge as well as a portal to a whole new realm of fine cuisine. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

"I haven't tried to simplify these recipes for the sake of the home cook," writes Colicchio (Think Like a Chef). "Simple food doesn't mean simplistic. It requires a healthy dose of skill and hard work." And with that caveat, he offers up 125 uneven dishes. While there are plenty of recipes that are simple to prepare, most of the book's recipes require time, patience and, occasionally, deep pockets: Duck Ham must hang in the refrigerator for three weeks; Braised Monkfish calls for 17 ingredients, three of which are sub-recipes; and foie gras and black truffles make several appearances. Colicchio is unapologetic in including "behemoth" recipes-restaurant dishes that he admits may be out reach of most home cooks. Uncompromisingly fresh flavors are his touchstone, and squeamish cooks may find it disquieting to discover that many ingredient animals such as soft shell crabs and lobster meet their end at the cook's hand. Colicchio has subdivided the chapters into sections according to technique-roasting, sauteing, braising, pureeing, marinating. Each chapter includes ingredient portraits, as well as essays, that give a sneak peek behind Craft's doors. (While the photos throughout are nicely placed, the extreme close-up of carrots and celery on the cover is a kind of culinary Rorschach test.) The essays, though, are a jarring interlude because the book, which is written from Colicchio's point of view, suddenly does an about face by quoting the chef, and the disembodied narrator is never revealed. But will all this dampen sales? Certainly not. The Colicchio name is enough to sell this book, and the clear, simply written recipes will quell even the worst case of kitchen anxiety. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I was very let down by this book. This book is mainly about how the cooking is done at Craft and has little to do with the "Craft of Cooking". I really doubt that I will ever need to know how to cook a 150 LB. lamb. Even at that the instructions are so basic as to be usless on how to break down the lamb. I would do like I think most would and leave this in the hands of my very valuable butcher.
The book has an arrogance that I find very annoying and will not buy any other books by this author.
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Format:Hardcover
I anticipated many good things in this new Tom Colicchio cookbook, based on the title and the author's excellent first book, 'How to Think Like a Chef'. My first surprise was that the title mislead one to think it was a general book on cooking skills. Instead, it is an exposition on the cooking at Colicchio's Manhatten restaurant Craft and the title was really a play on words. A much more accurate title would have been 'Cooking of Craft'. The author does not hide this fact. In the 'How to use this book' section, Colicchio states clearly that the audience for the book is 'a skilled amateur or enthusiastic hobbyist' where 'speed and convience are probably not your first focus here'. As the content 'this is a book that sets out how things are done in one restaurant, Craft'. My second surprise was based on the fact that Colicchio's stated goal for the cuisine of 'Craft' was to make the kind of simple, well prepared food he makes at home. Well.... When you throw in the '...prepared well...' qualifier with a bunch of extremely talented, obsessive corp of chefs working in the Manhatten restaurant market, you get something which no home cook in their right mind would consider 'simple'. I'm exaggerating a bit, since, as I will cite below, there is much of value for simple fare, but there is no evidence of this simplicity in the opening section on meats. In fact, the opening section in the meats chapter is on 'charcuterie', a term which the author does not even bother to explain. This IS rough going for newbies, especially since charcuterie is one of the fussiest and most time consuming of classic cuisinary techniques. But, it does get better.
The book is divided by eight simple sections, in which there are rewards for the skilled amateur.
Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Puzzling with Possibilities Jan. 5 2004
Format:Hardcover
Teetering between 3-6 stars, this cookbook causes that reaction, even if among one reviewer. It is simple, plain yet sophisticated and intricate. It smacks of the intensity of French Laundry, yet doesn't have the sizzle of ingredients and new process.
Here, Colicchio submits what he cooks at home in order to teach us what to become as home wanna be chefs. Same old, same old --- best of ingredients prepared with correct technique and walla --- crafted food.
Some truly inspires --- Sturgeon wrapped in proscuitto, Lemon Steamed Pudding, Braised Striped Bass.
Yet, disappointing in that so much is likely never to hit my menus. Maybe more towards five/six for others.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
133 of 143 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Restaurant Cookbook, still a bit undercooked Nov. 14 2003
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I anticipated many good things in this new Tom Colicchio cookbook, based on the title and the author's excellent first book, `How to Think Like a Chef'. My first surprise was that the title mislead one to think it was a general book on cooking skills. Instead, it is an exposition on the cooking at Colicchio's Manhatten restaurant Craft and the title was really a play on words. A much more accurate title would have been `Cooking of Craft'. The author does not hide this fact. In the `How to use this book' section, Colicchio states clearly that the audience for the book is `a skilled amateur or enthusiastic hobbyist' where `speed and convience are probably not your first focus here'. As the content `this is a book that sets out how things are done in one restaurant, Craft'. My second surprise was based on the fact that Colicchio's stated goal for the cuisine of `Craft' was to make the kind of simple, well prepared food he makes at home. Well.... When you throw in the `...prepared well...' qualifier with a bunch of extremely talented, obsessive corp of chefs working in the Manhatten restaurant market, you get something which no home cook in their right mind would consider `simple'. I'm exaggerating a bit, since, as I will cite below, there is much of value for simple fare, but there is no evidence of this simplicity in the opening section on meats. In fact, the opening section in the meats chapter is on `charcuterie', a term which the author does not even bother to explain. This IS rough going for newbies, especially since charcuterie is one of the fussiest and most time consuming of classic cuisinary techniques. But, it does get better.
The book is divided by eight simple sections, in which there are rewards for the skilled amateur. These are:
Meat - This section answers a question I have always had about restaurant food. How does the restaurant kitchen handle preparing braised dishes, when most braises worth their salt often take hours to achieve the fall off the bone tenderness. The solution is obvious, based on the fact that braisees often taste better the next day. Viola, they are prepared a day ahead and reheated. These recipes show you how.
Fish - Very sound. Nothing ground breaking. The usual litany on using fresh ingredients.
Vegetables - Here is where the objective of simplicity starts paying off. Very good, truly simple recipes here, as long as you have a good supply of stock preparations at the ready.
Mushrooms - This section and the next are worth the (discounted) price of admission. Well done fussiness.
Potatoes - Actually found some reasonably simple recipes I have not seen before, and the compulsive obsessive twist on the classics.
Grains and beans - A few oddities. Sound stuff.
Dessert - A rather nicely large selection of recipes, highlighted by the large number of fruit compotes.
Pantry - The usual stock in trade. The recipes for fumet and ramp butter are interesting, and the classic French term and technique buerre fondue is new to me.
I am a compulsive book buyer, and my only criteria for being satisfied in a purchase of a technical book is if it had one idea I have not found anywhere else. In this book, it would be the restaurant kitchen's techniques for preparing braises. On the other side of the coin, there is a fair amount of material which may be only for the armchair, unless you wish to make your own puff pastry or roast you own whole baby lamb. Tony Bourdain is alive and well at craft, it seems.
The cuisine is based in the recipes of Italy, probably northern Italy, although I am sure Mario Batali would sneer at all of the frenchified stocks and techniques. No simple brodo here, thank you.
In this mixed bag of eye candy and practical advice, there are a few problems which are not worthy of the care the author and his staff devotes to the food of craft.
First, there are misspellings. I found, for example caul fat misspelled in a head note.
Second, there are erroneous page references. Things on page x weren't there. They were a page later.
Third, the recipe writing style was inconsistant. Some prep steps accompanied the list of ingredients and other prep steps were in the body of the method. When I saw Danny Meyer and Michael Romano of Union Square Café make a point of putting all prep work with the ingredients list, I thought it was trivial. It aint.
Fourth, there are mistakes in simple kitchen chemistry. For example, a recipe says that one applies heat to a mixture of sugar and cream and wait for the sugar to melt. Please. The proper term is dissolve.
Errors of this type lost this book it's fifth star.
I noticed this same type of carelessness in the copy editing of Diana Kennedy's new book, also published by Clarkson Potter. I would expect better from a company with such a large presence in the cookbook market. On the plus side, I do notice that Clarkson Potter binds their books to lay flat on the table and be bound very securely to take a lot of wear. The photographs seem to be a wash. They are no better than what one would expect.
This book is truly for the food hobbyist and cookbook collector. It does nothing for people who want easy, fast, cheap, or low calorie. It's secrets require some work and some experience to mine.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spoke to me Feb. 5 2010
By Ava - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Not too many cookbooks give more than a few recipes that I'm really excited about. This was packed with them. I'm really going to enjoy working through this book because it's just how I like to cook. Recipes highlight the food, allowing their flavors to shine through rather than cover them up.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth having but not near the top of the list Nov. 18 2009
By Charles E. Holmes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As several others have already stated, the title is misleading and should be the Cooking of Craft. Was that a consideration for me in buying the book? Yes, so perhaps I should even rate this lower.

I am above entry level skill wise yet still much of this book is beyond me in terms of availability of ingredients and practicality. Still it provides insight. On the other side there are several dishes I've tried and like, and the recipe for fava beans (though labor intensive) with the terragon tea alone is worth the price of admission for the book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We heart Tom Colicchio July 23 2012
By J. Gacioch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this cookbook for my husband after we dined at Tom Colicchio's Craft Steak in Las Vegas. We just had to be able to make more of Chef Colicchio's amazing meals. We love this cookbook and only wish that we used it more than when we're feeling adventurous and want to expierence great food in our own home. I just wish we had time to make something out of this book every night because everything we've tried has been spectacular.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bummed this doesn't include Craftsteak Aug. 19 2011
By Ptown Mommy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this because I saw it in Craftsteak (Las Vegas) after a recent visit there. I do like that this cookbook has many of Tom Colicchio's thoughts on food, restaurants, etc.
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