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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
"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.