Craft of Cooking: Notes and Recipes from a Restaurant Kitchen Hardcover – Oct 28 2003
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
The book has an arrogance that I find very annoying and will not buy any other books by this author.
The book is divided by eight simple sections, in which there are rewards for the skilled amateur.Read more ›
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.