Michael Symon's Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen Hardcover – Nov 3 2009
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Michael knows who he is and where he lives, and his heritage and community come into play in his deeply personal, soul-satisfying dishes. The thing I love most about Michael's food is that it's hand-crafted and focused and each dish has a distinct story to tell. -- Bobby Flay
About the Author
MICHAEL SYMON is an Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America and a James Beard Award Winner. He is the chef and co-owner of the acclaimed restaurants Lola and Lolita, located in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as Roast, in Detroit, Michigan.
MICHAEL RUHLMAN is the author of twelve nonfiction books, including The Soul of a Chef, and has coauthored many cookbooks, such as The French Laundry Cookbook with Thomas Keller.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Let me tell you, this is a great book! I read it from cover to cover over the weekend. Some of his recipes contain ingredients we aren't accustomed to cooking with (beef cheeks, pork belly, etc.), but believe me, his food is delicious! I was so pleased to see that he put recipes in the book for some of his classic dishes. Some of the best are the Beef Cheeks Pierogies with Wild Mushrooms and Horseradish; Lola Fries; his famous Mac and Cheese with Rosemary, Goat Cheese and Chicken; Fried Brussels Sprouts; Spicy Tomato Soup with Blue Cheese; Dates with Chiles; Dill Pickles...I could go on and on. In addition to the recipes being absolutely delicious, they are easy to follow and generally uncomplicated. Many times he offers suggestions for substitutions in his recipes, which is nice (e.g., substituting beef shoulder for the beef cheeks in the Beef Cheeks Pierogies). Let me tell you, this man is a food genius, pure and simple. I've already made a few recipes, and can't wait to make more. I encourage you to buy this cookbook. You won't be disappointed!
The cover does project Michael's great smile, but it should have had another Symon distinctive, in fact a first for a cookbook. It should have been fitted with one of those "sound producing greeting cards when you open the cover" to have his infectious laugh with busy kitchen sounds in the background.
I first ran into Michael in friend Ruhlman's "Soul of a Chef." Next, saw him on FoodTV network in Melting Pot, and then later in Iron Chef competition. Had on top of this that his new restaurant here in Detroit, "Roast" made me check it out. It was superb, so I knew I had to dig and mine this cookbook more than a casual pass.
This reviewer loves the intro writings of the chef(s) and what their philosophy of cooking is, and why this cookbook? Michael is to the point: "approachability! Share food with home cook! straightforward! economical! minimal embellishments! big,big flavors and soulful satisfactions! It's also to be a tribute to his heritage, to which we all should admire and give it a taste. It's Greek-Italian-Slovakian. He's typical in admonishing us home cooks to buy best ingredients and apply good technique, and wanting us home wanna be's to be better with every dish.
What is fascinating about all this as Symon points out is his sections on charcuterie and pickling. Not many of us mess around with these areas, so this will be adventuresome to say the least to indulge. My early venture into Symon's world is not extensive to this point, but can report that he meets his goals easily and persuasively. I made the Pierogies with Wild Mushrooms and Horseradish (my wife is nuts about pierogies) and substituted cubed beef shoulder for the cheeks as Symon Says, and the dish sung! His restaurant was famous because he kept prices low and used minimal pots/pans, limiting himself to $20 back in late '90s and 2 pan max. Here, it takes 3: pasta pot, skillet for mushrooms and Dutch oven, but the results are worth it.
Also, tried his Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup and it is unique and a go-to! Heat of sriracha and rich blue cheese combine with San Marzanos tomatoes to make this rich and satisfying bowl of pleasure. Didn't have opportunity here to go with his recommended blue cheese source, but will try it out soon. Substituted Maytag Blue and it seemed grand.
This is definitely a home centered cookbook, and one the into-it home chef will want to refer to often to learn this wonderful ethnic collection and technique improving offering, as are the Symon Says sidebars. The photos are excellent as are all Clarkston Potter offerings.
Or, don't chop the heck out of your herbs; just give them a good chop-through and leave them alone or you'll damage the flavor.
Symon's take on product is also to be admired; take note of it anytime he mentions where he gets his product, as the bacon he uses takes an already sublime project to new heights of sublimity:)
In short, this guy knows what he's talking about and this is one of the more usable and handy cookbooks for the home chef that any celeb chef has put out--and this from a guy who's 18-3 on Iron Chef?
So try again I did and this time it got my attention. Michael's book is a collection of recipes influenced by his heritage, and, although diverse, then end product is a cohesive bounty of dishes, well photographed, supplemented with techniques and stories that translate as if he were standing beside you in your kitchen...
As for the interview, here's how it went;
As his book comes hot off the press, the Iron Chef, restaurateur and now author takes time out to talk about his food, thoughts and first publication Michael Symon's Live To Cook Recipes and Techniques To Rock Your Kitchen.
G.C. - The recipes in your book are influenced by a collection of ethnic backgrounds, diverse, yet cohesive. How did you decide which dishes were going to make the pages of Live To Cook?
M.S. - I wanted the book to be more than a collection of recipes, I wanted it to tell a story too, to tell the tale of my childhood till now. The recipes are a reflection of my family, friends, family and the way I was raised; these are the things that have got me to where I am now.
G.C. - If the book was penned by another author, how would you, as a chef, put the book to work in your kitchen?
M.S. - I would take a real good look at the base recipes, go through the lessons with young cooks, review how to season, baste discuss the use of acid and fat, how one plays off the other.
G.C - Name names... tell us which recipes in your book are must try dishes?
M.S. - Dates with chili; super simple, but sum up how I feel about food - sweet, salty... the pickles are great and such a huge part of how I cook. Pork belly is my thing and some of those family style dishes are great, my mom's lasagna is the best!
G.C - What is your daily or weekly routine like?
M.S. - I am quite regimented; 5am coffee, newspaper, workout, back by 8am. I hang out with my wife and then bounce from restaurant to restaurant. I spend most of my time at Lola working with the cooks. I am normally home around 10pm.
G.C - How did you fit writing Live To Cook in to your schedule?
M.S. - Well just like a restaurant it is not about one person and it took about four years. I did most of it out of my home; we just fitted it in when we could. I am happy that it took so long, it gave me time to really think about it and enjoy the process.
G.C - Your life has dramatically changed over the past several years, chef, restaurateur, author, Iron Chef. Who is Michael Symon?
M.S. - It has not changed me at all. I love being with friends and family, and my family keeps me very grounded especially my mother. She is Greek and know if don't call her I hear all about it, I am the same guy now as I was 20 years ago...
G.C. - With this kind of profile, does it mean that you can't eat out without an enthusiastic chef sending you a tasting menu or a collection of pork dishes when you simply want a burger? What's the best and worst part of being a well known chef?
M.S. - The best thing is that I can give back and give back in a way that I never thought possible. I support three charities; Autism Speaks, Share our Strength, a local Cleveland charity Urban Community Schools, I have been able to raise a million dollars since I have been involved with the school, I could have never done that without my "celebrity status". On the other end I have not had a normal meal out with my wife in years, I know peoples' intentions are never mean spirited, but people always want to stop at the table. As result, we have got pretty good at cooking at home.
G.C. - Whose restaurants' rock?
M.S. - All of Paul Kahn's places, Jonathan Waxman's Barbuto and Mesa Grill is always great. Bobby is so under rated. He is an amazing chef, I mean think about it, he brought Southwestern cooking to New York twenty years ago.
G.C. - Which high profile/Food Network chefs have you become friends with over the past few years?
M.S. - I know a lot of them from the days when the network was just starting up. I was on the show The Melting Pot so I know the old guard pretty well, Mario and Rachel. Bobby and the other Iron Chefs I know well but not so much the newer guys.
G.C. - What's next for you, do you see a follow up to Live To Cook or more restaurants in the future?
M.S. -I would love to do some single subject books, all about the pig... meat, grilling, pasta that type of book.
G.C. - What advice would you give to the chefs out there that would like to follow in your footsteps?
M.S. - You can't be afraid to work your butt off, don't get frustrated, work for the chefs you want to learn from and don't be afraid to ask questions...
Note: I am a Clevelander so I do I have an upfront appreciation for Symon's accomplishments.