Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore Hardcover – Oct 25 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
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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About the Author
JENNIFER McLAGAN has over 35 years’ experience in the food business as a chef, caterer, food stylist, recipe writer and cookbook author. She has been a presenter at the highly prestigious Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival MasterClass Series in Australia and the Epicurean Classic in Michigan. She is a regular contributor to Fine Cooking, Food & Drink, The County Grapevine and The Niagara Grapevine magazines. Her books Fat and Bones have garnered top prizes in the food writing world, with Fat winning the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award. Visit her online at www.jennifermclagan.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
Beefsteak Fiorentina is the fastest way that you can satisfy the need for meat that I've tried so far.
The simplicity of the writing is such that one easily understands what they need to do to achieve success. But there is enough detail and history that those of us with a need for information will be satisfied and digging for more.
The illustrations and photographs complete the straightforward design of the book, which will make it a neccessary addition to any meat lovers library.
It's a purchase that you won't regret.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The pretext is that pound for pound, the boneless meat is a better value for the money. This monotone doctrine is probably wrong much of the time even if one did a careful pound of protein per dollar analysis of the two products, but that misses the point. This book is one long argument for the value added obtained from bones with our meat.
One thing I wish to stress is that one should not assume this book is a long essay or memoir in the style of Peter Kaminsky's `Pig Perfect'. The subtitle, `Recipes, History, & Lore' is a quite accurate statement of the distribution of content between recipes and `other stuff'. In fact, one can easily acquire this book as a general cookbook on how to cook animal protein, as it covers protein on the hoof, on the wing, and on (and in) the water. Virtually the only kind of protein it does not cover are those beasties such as the crustaceans and mollusks who wear their stiffening body parts on the outside.
Specifically, the author has chapters on:
Beef and Veal, including Bison
Poultry, including game birds
Fish, round and flat
Game, primarily venison and related meat on the hoof
Boneologue, with bone derived desserts, if you can believe it.
The two primary values derived from bone are gelatin and marrow. The first is one of those great universal ingredients, almost as valuable as lard or sugar, in the cooking of France. In fact, if one were to look for those things that most distinguish French cuisine from all others, it would probably include the use of gelatin in both stocks, desserts, and aspics used to keep food fresh on the buffet table. In comparison, marrow is almost a footnote, roughly similar to bottarga as an esoteric ingredient.
With the importance of bony gelatin in stocks, it is no surprise that virtually every chapter but the last begins with a recipe for the appropriate stock. So, this book becomes also a great reference for making meat and fish stocks.
It is no surprise that in a book on animal bones, there will be diagrams of the skeletons of each type of animal. This may be one of my few complaints about the book, in that for their relative importance, they are relatively small and poorly annotated. I can get much more by looking up the butchering diagrams in my Larousse Gastronomique. Similarly, I thing much of the discussion would have been much more illuminating if pictures of the various types of cuts were on display. This would have been much more valuable than the artsy black and white pics of cleaned bones and color pics of dishes, which I rarely look at in a cookbook anyway. But let us not let this distract you from a truly rich and readable cookbook.
As all recipes deal with bony cuts, I am especially pleased that so many of the recipes are braises. There are so many that Ms. McLagan makes special mention of the technique she learned from Thomas Keller's `The French Laundry Cookbook' of laying a circle of parchment paper on top of the braising meat and liquid. As Sara Moulton found out when she learned this technique from Jacques Pepin, this is not a personal `trick' dreamt up by some modern chef, it is actually a well-established practice in the French restaurant kitchen.
This is just one example of the great care Ms. McLagan applies to her recipe writing. Every recipe has its little hints and suggestions and warnings to prevent an inadvertent drying out. She is especially good on the proper technique of using the instant read or permenantly installed thermometer. This point alone makes the book important for amateur cooks.
The selection of recipes is just the right mix of familiar and unusual dishes. If you happen to own a substantial library of cookbooks, there is more than enough here to interest you. The recipes for game and the notes on cooking Bison and Beefalo alone are worth the price of admission.
For an average cookbook price, you get lots of great recipes for animal protein plus lots of entertaining wit and wisdom on making the most of the bones before the dog gets a hold of them.
The recipes I tried, including everything to do with marrow, the Four Bones In A Pot, and several others, were outstanding and well written. I was surprised that the author somewhat consistently (did not at least once but did on several other times) recommended sitting marrow bones in salt water for 12-24 hours to remove blood. I have not heard of that before but am now doing it. The food resulting from the recipes is generally very savory. Five stars for this.
However, it is a mistake that the author repeatedly uses vegetable oil in the recipes! Not a good or healthy choice for many reasons. And many of the healthy, useful and delicious fats that result in the cooking are thrown away in the recipes! Again, outdated? Certainly unappreciative of what the animal has to offer us health wise. No stars are deserved in this respect.
So I give a mixed review. But don't get me wrong. In my opinion the book is absolutely worth purchasing by anyone who wants to cook meats and bones well as long as they understand the books' limitations. Don't use the vegetable oil and don't throw away the healthy fats! I hope the author updates the book with more complete thinking and history on this wonderful food that can sustain and heal us as it did our ancestors.