Thursday, December 15, 2011


My First Homemade Rillettes

I have always had the ambition to make rilletes, an irresistible French meat spread that is perfect for parties or for casual snaking with a glass of wine.  Rillettes are milder than pate. There are as many recipes for rillettes as one can imagine and the steps vary greatly, which is why I've resisted making them, until now. The classic rillettes is made from pork and pork fat and little else (a few aromatics, some chicken broth) and requires a long soft simmer in a heavy pot while you go about your business (some recipes call for duck, some for uncured bacon, and other cuts of pork--it can be come very elaborate). I read through all of my French cookbooks (I Know How to Cook, French Farmhouse Cooking, Around my French TableGlorious French Food, Jacques Pepin's new Essential Pepin, my all-purpose cookbooks (Gourmet Today, How to Cook Everything).  I consulted Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (both volumes) and From Julia Child's Kitchen.  Surprisingly, she makes no mention of rillettes at all.  So I probably have at least thirty recipes for this heavenly spread.  But the easiest, most efficient, least fussy was FROM THE GROUND UP: Hundreds of Amazing Recipes from Around the World for Ground Meats, including Beef Chicken, Pork, Seafood, and More by James Villas (Wiley), which was published this fall. I've already reviewed it, and it has a place in my best-of lists.  Villas' mastery makes sense. When you count Beard, Child, Craig Claiborne, Jacques Pepin, Pierre Franey and other cooking legends as friends, you're bound to pick up a tip or two.  In this case, Mr. Villas has distilled the essence of this spread.  My first batch (I'm making two) produced two impressive pints, which are going under the Christmas tree and traveling to a few parties this season.  This is one of those recipes you might incorporate into your season plans, and who doesn't love getting a crock of this silky stuff as a gift.  Best of all--you made it. 

Here is James Villas' glorious recipe. 

French Rillettes of Pork

French pork rillettes are one of the most glorious appetizers ever conceived, and I’ve never served a crock or ramekin that wasn’t wiped clean by guests. Traditionally, rillettes are made by shredding the cooked, tender, unctuous meats with two forks, but so long as you don’t over-grind, they can be prepared quickly in a food processor. Packed into small ramekins, the rillettes could be served as individual appetizers, but I prefer simply to place a large crock with a big basket of toasted French bread rounds in the middle of the table and let guests help themselves. Do try to make the rillettes a day in advance and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
3/4 pound fresh pork fat
1 medium onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Herb bouquet (1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 2 bay leaves, 3 whole cloves, and 2 parsley sprigs tied in cheesecloth)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine

1. Trim off any skin on the pork shoulder and cut the meat and fat into 2-inch chunks. Place the meat, fat, onion, garlic, herb bouquet, and salt and pepper in a casserole or large saucepan. Add the broth, wine, and enough water to cover by 1 inch, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer till the meat is very tender, about 3 hours, skimming from time to time. Uncover the casserole and continue simmering till the liquid has evaporated and the meat is cooking in the fat, about 1 hour.

2. Transfer the meat to a heavy bowl and let the fat cool to room temperature in the casserole. Shred the meat with two heavy forks (or grind coarsely in a food processor), add the cooled fat, and continue working with the fork till the mixture is smooth and silky—almost a heavy paste. Taste for salt and pepper, pack the rillettes in small ramekins or a large crock, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Serve with small rounds of toasted French bread.

Monday, December 5, 2011

BEST COOKBOOKS OF 2011; Plus a Few More Worthy of Your Attention

Was there a big trend in cookbooks in 2011? Not that I could see, though meat was a big single subject item with at least six or so coming across my desk.  I got a slew of single subject books (more bacon, more cupcakes, even a pie-baked-in-jars collection, which I think are called cutie pies).  There were also some thundering disappointments which I'll skip over because they came from sources that I've admired and written about extensively (nobody hits a home run with every book, and cookbook writers are no exception).  But there were a bunch of fine cookbooks published this year, some which took me by surprise, while others, long anticipated, lived up to expectations.

My Favorite Book of 2011

I couldn't wait for the American edition of Nigel Slater's TENDER: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch (10 Speed Press; $40.00), because I so much enjoyed The Kitchen Diaries, his previous work.  While that book dealt with a seasonal approach to cooking around the year, TENDER is about something I suspect many city dwellers often long for--a garden patch of their own.  Since 2000 Slater, one of Great Britain's most admired food writers, has planted vegetables in the small, forty-foot back yard of his London home.  In the process of sowing and creating meals with his own lettuces, potatoes, carrots, etc., Slater shares with the reader the thrill of watching something grow, tending to his garden patch with devotion and awe.  In all he writes with glowing affection and respect about twenty-nine different vegetables, from seeds to finished dishes. Slater is a wonderful creator of recipes. A Gratin of White Cabbage, Cheese and Mustard is a good example. He smartly points out that "the 'white' cabbages that sit on supermarket shelves like rock-hard footballs can be put to good use in a gratin." I think of celery in tuna fish or potato salad, or as my mother used to do, a celery stalk slathered with peanut butter. Slater gives us a lovely and simple soup of celery and blue cheese or another satisfying gratin of celery napped in a bechamel, Parmesan and breadcrumbs.  Here is that rare cookbook that belongs on the nightstand or armchair table, to be dipped into over and over again. But don't forget to  whisk it into the kitchen.  Kudos to 10 Speed Press for making this outstanding book available to American readers and cooks. Have I already said this is my favorite cookbook of 2011?

I became an enthusiastic member of the website run Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.  Presiding over a community of stylish home cooks, Hesser and Stubbs have found like-minded food lovers who share their recipes, suggestions, time-saving tips, selected genius recipes from some of the finest cookbook writers, and contests where members are asked for their best recipes for spinach or holiday cookies, etc. I confess that I've cooked more recipes from this site and now THE FOOD52 COOKBOOK: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks (William Morrow; $35.00) by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs and the Food52 community, than any other book or source this year.  All the recipes seem fresh, contemporary and even old favorites seem reborn.  The book represents "a year's worth of contests--every recipe comes from one of our members and was chosen as a winner by his or her peers," Hesser and Stubbs write in the book's Introduction. Each recipe is accompanied by comments from members,  a few words about the or by the cook, and tips and techniques. In my review a few weeks ago, I called it one of my favorite cookbooks of the year.  Two recipes from the book appeared on my Thanksgiving table, including Lazy Mary's Lemon Tart, an ethereal creation that uses Meyer lemons--rind and all--with sugar, eggs and butter poured into a pre-baked tart dough and given a thirty minute setting in the oven.  I also adapted their recipe for Luciana's Porchetta, using a turkey breast instead of a butterflied pork shoulder. The substitution worked perfectly, and I didn't have to stare at a pile of leftover turkey. I've already raved about Daddy's Carbonara, a fantastic Wishbone Roast Chicken with Herb Butter, and especially Simple Summer Peach Cake.  We've all got cookbooks with one or two really good recipes that we hang on to, but THE FOOD52 COOKBOOK is loaded with lots of recipes you'll want to use over and over again. The bonus is the website great cooking ideas, recipes, and community come together every week of the year.

The twelve states that comprise the Midwest received a valentine in the form of HEARTLAND: The Cookbook (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC; $35.00), Judith Fertig's magnificent tribute to the rich culinary traditions of this area of the country.  A wonderfully contemporary collection of recipes, historic anecdotes, profiles of food purveyors, and farmers HEARTLAND also soars because of the superb location and food photography of Jonathan Chester and Ben Pieper.  Page after page of images of communal dinners, livestock, covered barns, farmlands, gorgeous produce, and homemade foods, provide ample evidence of the sophistication, pride and sheer goodness of the food available in the very center of the United States.  A single recipe for No-Knead Clover Honey Dough provides the wide application of Clover Honey Boules, Clover Honey Challah, Farmhouse Yeast Rolls, Cider-Glazed Cinnamon Rolls, Apricot-Cream Cheese Strudel, and Berry Pickin' Coffee Cake. I made a batch of Rosy Rhubarb Syrup last spring, and which was a delightful syrup for pancakes, and a delicious component for Rosy Margaritas and Porch Swing Lemonade. And it freezes beautifully to be enjoyed all year long.  Mindful of the seasons, you'll find an inspired Prairie Panzanella that takes advantage of summer's garden bounty, and a rich Butternut Squash, Morel, and Sage Brown Butter Lasagna for an elegant fall dinner party. HEARTLAND reminds us that America's culinary heart is right in the middle of the left and right coasts!

In 1993, the culinary world found it's best stand-up comedian/cookbook writer since Peg Bracken with the publication of Beat This! and two years later, Beat That!  Not only is Ann Hodgman funny, she's a brazen kitchen wizard who immodestly declares her recipes for apple pies, hot chocolate, macaroni & cheese, brownies, french toast, roast turkey and strawberry short cake are the best of the best! And dammit, she's right! Nearly twenty years later, it was time to give those recipes a second look. Some were dropped, others improved, as if gilding the lily were needed. In BEAT THIS! COOKBOOK: Absolutely Unbeatable Knock-'em-Dead Recipes for the Very Best Dishes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $14.95), Hodgman not only gussied up a collection that will brook no arguments she upped the ante by adding fifty new entries.  Now that's crust for you.   

When a writer comes up with a line like, "Might as well start liking goat cheese--it's not going to go away," I pay attention. That's funny.  Or the opening to World's Best Bread:  "I've stolen this recipe from myself; it first appeared in One Bite Won't Kill You (which she wrote)" I howled when I came across this confession:  The first time I dropped the poor thing (the lobster, I mean) into the steaming pot, I inadvertently shrieked out, 'God have mercy!'" And She knows a prime example of the emperor's new clothes: "Why are people always so proud of their brownie recipes?" she wonders.  "Katharine Hepburn, for example.  If there's anything I'm sick of--besides the way she always says she's a regular person and not an actress--it's reading about how sinful her brownies are. Actually, Hepburn's is the dullest brownie formula there is, and one of the most common." 

But amongst all the merriment, you'll find the skill of a master home cook.  Ann Hodman's Powerfully Better Than Any Other Pot Roast, is exactly that.  She uses first-cut beef brisket, because it is superior to such supermarket manicured cuts as "Yankee pot roast." In Perfect Fudge (If You're Lucky), she admits, "You do have a chance of screwing up this recipe, alas.  Because it has more chocolate and more butterfat than most fudges, its temperamental. Even with superfine sugar, which helps ward off crystallizing, it still might crystallize. But if you treat it very respectfully and don't overbeat it and don't make it on a damp day and don't let the chocolate scorch and don't scrape the pan when you're pouring the fudge and don't do all the other things that make fudge cranky, you'll find this fudge sublime (to use a food writerly-word)."  At least she gives you the bad news before you attempt it, unlike other books that insist in making it your fault by not warning you.  Make Ann's Pesto Torta (Best Cocktail Party Cheese Thing).  I made this recipe to get over a bad culinary memory.  I had bought a large wedge of something similar in name at Balducci's in New York years ago for a holiday party.  It was very expensive and tasted just awful.  Every ingredient in this oily, cheesy mess tasted way beyond its sell-by date.  But Ann's recipe is fresh, elegant and festive and proves that it's better homemade. No wonder she's so proprietary about it (you'll just have to read the book to know what I mean).  These recipes are not to be beat, and really, how many cookbooks do you know that have as many "best" recipes or great comedic one-liners as BEAT THIS!? This book could be your most inspired stocking stuffer yet.

Reading James Villas cookbooks takes me back to the culinary gods of my youth--Julia Child, James Beard, Marcella Hazan, Maida Heatter and Barbara Kafka.  These personalities wrote with such authority. They were masters, not to be argued with. The food and wine editor at Town & Country magazine for more than twenty five years, and author of many fine cookbooks, James Villas (who counted many of these personalities as friends) also combines craft, knowledge and conviction.  FROM THE GROUND UP: Hundreds of Amazing Recipes from Around the World for Ground Meats, including Beef, Chicken, Pork, Seafood, and More (Wiley; $22.99), should be the final word on this wide-ranging subject. Villas covers the ground meats from appetizers, canapés, and dips, soups and salads, patties, balls and dumplings, loaves, croquettes, and cakes, pies, quiches and soufflés, to casseroles and pastas, hashes and chilies, stuffed dishes and forcemeats, sausages, and sauces. I would have bought this book for his French Country Pate recipe alone.  The good news is there are more than 200 recipes in this divine collection, which goes far beyond meatloaf.  

And speaking of James Villas, I thought he had written the definitive book on Pig in 2010 and Bacon in 2007.  As a writer, I am seldom careful with the word definitive and toss it around far too many times. It always comes around to bite me later on, as it did late this summer when THE WHOLE HOG COOKBOOK: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All that Great Stuff (Rizzoli; $30.00) arrived. Libbie Summers, who is currently the culinary producer for Paul Deen's network show and the senior food editor for Paul Deen Enterprises, produces here a stylish and totally complimentary cookbook to Villas's efforts.  The organization of this book is very appealing, with each part of the pig receiving it's own chapters. I'm one of those people who needs a picture or a diagram to locate or define details for me.  I now really understand the difference between baby back and spare ribs, or Boston shoulder and picnic shoulder.  I know now how to render leaf lard, wet-cure bacon or carve a fresh ham. And I have a new batch of terrific recipes. The first thing I made from the book was Grilled Tenderloin and Fingerling Potato Salad, which I've made at least twice since then. There's a crowd-pleasing Cuban Pork Roast with Sweet Cilantro Rice that can feed eight.  Spicy Meatballs and Simple Sunday Red Sauce could change the way you think about using pork instead of beef.  Porkovers and Bacon and Cheese Puffers make me want to have friends over for cocktails. Nothing is definitive. Lesson learned. 

I have come to the Claudia Roden party a bit late.  Arabesque is one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I've ever seen and the recipes are superb.  So are many of the other ten cookbooks she has authored, including The Book of Jewish Food and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Born in Cairo, she has long made the Middle East her culinary beat. But she has also written extensively about Mediterranean cuisine.  When I bought a copy of THE FOOD OF SPAIN (Ecco; $39.95), I thought Ms. Roden  had wandered off her usual path, but as she explains, her Grandmother was a descendant of Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, the year Columbus set sail for the Americas. So it makes much sense that Ms. Rodin would deliver an impressive survey of Spanish food by region in gorgeously illustrated cookbook that you shouldn't miss.  Spanish food has been hot, hot, hot for the past decade.  I'm sure to catch hell about this, but during my lone visit to Spain in 1999, I found myself very disappointed in most of the food I encountered in Madrid and Barcelona. It's not that I ate badly, nor did I think my usually good food radar was off. But overall, I found the bread to be flat. The food had a musty old-world feel to it and seemed to lack the creativity and variety of French and Italian cuisine. This was a few years before the country seemed to undergo a huge culinary reversal as Spain emerged from the repressive Franco era. Ms. Roden points out that San Sebastian, in the Basque Country, has become the culinary capital of Europe with "the greatest concentration of Michelin three-star restaurants in Spain." And who can ignore the intense food media focus on the work of Ferran Adria, the iconic master chef of molecular gastronomy who packed them in to his celebrated restaurant, El Bulli in the Catalonian city of Roses (now closed). Adria has influenced chefs globally, and he delivers the cover blur on front of the jacket cover. 

You won't find Adria's culinary thumbprint on this book. Ms. Roden notes "Throughout the country, there is a palpable feeling of nostalgia for the old rural life that was too quickly swept away by the booming tourist economy. It has translated into a new found passion for regional cooking and products," she continues.  Like Italy, Spain is made up of many different communities, each divided into provinces, and each has its own cooking traditions.  In the 200 recipes, Ms. Roden explores this diversity in rich detail.  Of course there are recipes for paella, the Spanish national dish, and Salsa De Romesco, which American chefs have recently rediscovered and re-popularized.  There are also many dishes that ought to be far better known such as Fried Goat Cheese with Honey and Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus and Shrimp from Andalusia, Angelita's Tuna Pie from Galicia, Mushroom Flan from Navarre. "Wrinkled" Potatoes with Red and Green Sauces from the Canary Islands, Roast Pork Belly with Baked Apples from Asturias, Orange Flan from Valencia and Murcia, Chocolate and Almond Cake from Catalonia, and Puff Pastry Filled with Almond Custard from Navarre and the Basque Country. Ms. Roden explores all these regions and more, while describing the food products each region is famous for .  There are detailed sidebars on Spanish kitchen utensils, discussions of olives and olive oil, cheese, various pimenton (paprika), Spains's celbrated cured hams, almonds, safron, and bacalao (dried codfish), which have given Spain its distinctive dishes, as well as profiles of food personalities and chefs she met during the research for this cookbook.  

THE FOOD OF SPAIN plunges the reader into the country's diverse culture of food, revealing its influences, and its richness. The 600 photographs will make you want to book a flight there as soon as possible. It is the book on Spanish cuisine and belongs in any serious cookbook collection. 

DESSERTS FROM THE FAMOUS LOVELESS CAFE: Simple Southern Pies, Puddings, Cakes and Cobblers from Nashville's Landmark Restaurant (Artisan; 24.95) will save you a lot of time and money by allowing you to bake your own desserts based on the beloved Nashville eatery.  The reason this book should get your attention is for its superb collection written by the co-author of Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes.  That amazing baking book was seriously overlooked by the food press when it was published two years ago.  People have been mobbing the Loveless Cafe since it opened its doors in 1951.  With the arrival of the dazzlingly talented Alisa Huntsman in 2004, the restaurant added desserts to the menu and the crowds have just gotten bigger.  A master baker, Huntsman was instructed to "come up with a banana pudding, a rice pudding, several assorted pies, and a cobbler--typical Southern staples," she relates in her Introduction. "Turns out I had some learning to do...That included ramping up the sweetness of her confections to match the Southern sweet tooth.  "So I tweaked the recipes gradually, notching up the sweetness to please our customers palates, yet not going overboard."  

DESSERTS FROM THE FAMOUS LOVELESS CAFE highlights the best of Southern confections. These are desserts dear to every American heart. From Blue-Ribbon Pies (Peekaboo Blueberry Pie, Muddy Fudge Pie, Tennessee Sweet Potato Pie), turnovers (Naked Berry Pies), and cakes (Big Momma's Blackberry Jam Cake, Southern-Style Coconut Cake, Root Beer Float Cake), to crisps, cobblers and shortcakes (Apple-Gingersnap Brown BettyPeach Cobbler, Fourth of July Berry Shortcakes with Buttermilk Biscuits), cookies, bars and cupcakes (Chocolate Cherry Cha-chas, One-bowl Brownie Drops, Lady Lemon Bars, Black Bottom Cupcakes), and old-fashioned puddings (Butterscotch, Tapioca and Brownie Bread Pudding).  The first thing I made was a fantastic and elegant Butterscotch Pudding.  This is the real deal--a pudding with old fashioned butterscotch flavor and a texture that is silken. The recipes are gathered into a nostalgic-looking, soft-focus package that make it feel vintage. The Red Velvet Cake on the book's jacket says it all.  This is dessert book to dip into all year long.  

(My apologies here to Ms. Huntsman--my Amazon link won't let me copy and paste her book for some strange reason).  DESSERTS FROM THE FAMOUS LOVELESS CAFE is available at,, and in bookstores nationwide).  

SUGARBABY: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar (Stewart, Tabori and Chang; $29.95) was my other favorite dessert collection.  Gesine Bullock-Prado's approach is to leave the oven (mostly) off and see what you can do with sugar on top of the stove. The sister of Sandra Bullock, Ms. Bullock-Prado has a showbiz personality that she's perfectly aligned with her inner-sweet tooth.  The result is a divine assortment of sweets that are organized by the degree on a candy thermometer. You can make your own Rock Candy, Bittersweet Pudding (Pops), Candied Citrus Peel, Candy Corn, Old-School Chocolate Fudge, Pecan Butter Crunch Tart, Gesine's Fruit Gummis, Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels, Buttery Almond Toffee, Parisian Macarons, Mango Moose Cake, Salted Dulce de Leche Cupcakes, and Cotton Candy.  The author's reassuring voice is light and humorous and instructions are crystal clear. 

The following books didn't make it into my list of best cookbooks of the year, but for various reasons (listed below) and because they make for great Christmas gifts, I couldn't resist talking about them. 

It figures the most beautiful cookbook of year is titled:  PLUM GORGEOUS: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard (Andrews McMeel Publishing; $25.00). Written by Romney Steele, the granddaughter of Bill and Lolly Fassett, the creators of the legendary Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur, this is a book that celebrates the sheer gorgeousness of fruit at its peak. The book is loaded with beautiful recipes from savory (Fig Relish and Ham Sandwiches (panini), Pear and Butternut Squash Soup and Marmalade Chicken) to sweet (Blueberry Lemon-Lime Gratin, Plum Blackberry Sorbet and Plum Gorgeous Almond Tart).  This is one cookbook that requires no gift wrap.  

The Cooking Channel unleashed the sui generis charms of Nadia G, and Bitchin Kitchen became a hit for the fledgling network.  Fusing a glam rocker/biker chick image with a Brooklynese accent and culinary school chops, Nadia G's shows are hilariously orginal. She says she's part Italian and she knows her Neapolitan dialect. Sounding like a feminine version of the Fonz, NADIA G'S BITCHIN KITCHEN COOKIN' FOR TROUBLE (Ballantine Books trade paperback; $22.00) delivers in her first sassy slice-of-life cookbook.  

Nadia G created her own culinary platform online and then took it to TV,  Decked out in bad girl couture, tatted, her long locks streaked eighty shades of blond and bedecked in jewelry of questionable taste, Nadia G attacks a kitchen in stiletto heels with menus for all the emotional ups and downs of a girl's life.  Her depression desserts may not cure you of your affliction, but while you're eating them, you'll be smiling.  Try Rebecca's Psycho PMS Chocolate Balls, or Inverted Lemon Meringue Pie.  Her advice is good too: "When life hands you lemons, make lemon custard." Actually when Nadia G isn't cooking, she's riffing. I cant' resist her recipes or her philosophizing. In her Bitchin' booty camp XTREME, Nadia G relates, "Let's face it, I'm ripped.  But it wasn't always this glass of wine used to cut it." Her creamy cream-less soups such as Carrot-Ginger, Spinach and Tomato-Pepper, might make you as sleep in a vinyl cat suit. Did someone mention kitten with a whip? Nadia G has put the fun back in cooking shows. No cupcake competitions or Iron Chef nonsense for this culinary dynamo.  

A Cookbook I Should Have Covered in 2010:

I think India may be the only other world cuisine that matches Chinese cooking in sheer variety and exotic splendor.  The works of Julie Sahni and Madhur Jaffrey have long dominated U.S. cookbook shelves when it comes to Indian cuisine. But lately they've been joined by 660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer's huge exploration  on that particular dish, and Suvir Saran's Indian Home Cooking and American Marsala. Good as those books are, they can't begin to define the enormous range and completeness of the INDIA COOKBOOK (Phaidon; November, 2010; $49.95). Pushpesh Pant, renowned Indian food expert and cookbook author has produced a rich immersion in this astonishingly varied and easy-to-master cuisine with 1,000 recipes.  The book is lavishly illustrated with 200 color photographs and is to India what Joy of Cooking is to the U.S. or The Silver Spoon is to Italy.

Vegetables in Indian cookery attain the level of genius and my eye immediately was struck by a recipe for Cauliflower with Oranges. I love cauliflower and I'm always looking for new ways to cook it.  Start here with this heady mix of cauliflower, potatoes, turmeric, bay leaf,  ground fresh ginger, onions, chili powder, cumin, green chilies and orange slices. Easy to put together and with plenty of simmering while you prepare other parts of your meal.  A good use for the popular home deep fryer would be Cauliflower Fritters (I'm purposely using the recipe titles in English).  With nine other cauliflower recipes, you begin to see the range of and creativity of Indian cookery for this single vegetable. But I'm digressing.

Open the INDIA COOKBOOK and get caught up in its encyclopedic charms. Professor Pant offers a history of Indian cooking by region with lots of fascinating details about feasts, food traditions, and spices and the vital role they play. If you have one Indian cookbook to buy this year, this one pretty much covers the whole field.  


I got hooked on Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs’ engaging website, the minute I heard about it.  Dedicated to the creativity, resourcefulness and taste of the home cook, the recipes, which come from their loyal followers, friends and professional colleagues, stay focused on the home cook.  It’s a classy website with elegantly simple graphics, how-to videos that encourage the viewer/reader to cook.  Hesser and Stubbs, share a winning vision.  They view recipes as a template and variation is encouraged.    Reading the community response to the recipes is infectious.  Hesser and Stubbs interview some of their swell culinary friends, demonstrate really useful techniques, and cut up like best friends.  Now as promised here is THE FOOD52 COOKBOOK: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks (HarperCollins; $35.00), the first in what I hope will be a series of books from them (a second volume is promised).  Amongst a flood of cookbooks this fall, this book is fun to read, has a truly wonderful range of recipes, and is easily my favorite book of the season.  

“Food 52 grew out of an insight we had while working on The Essential New York Times Cookbook: many of the best recipes come from home cooks,” Hesser and Stubbs write in their Introduction to THE FOOD52 COOKBOOK.  It occurred to us that home cooks are both practical and inventive, and these qualities tend to lead to great recipes.  At, we recognize talented home cooks by giving them a place to show off their work, a place where cooks of all levels come to be inspired and be part of a constructive and supportive community.”  Their calls for reader’s best recipes by categories resulted in superb recipes that I’ve cooked and have been received with enthusiasm and gusto.  Peter Steinberg’s Amagansett Corn Salad is the very essence of summer by combining sweet corn and cherry tomatoes with good quality balsamic vinegar—no oil.  Try it.  From Savour comes an astonishingly tasty Simple Summer Peach Cake. It is one of those recipes that earns standing ovations.  Almond flour, almond and vanilla extracts and nutmeg are joined with buttermilk, flour, butter, an egg, baking powder and soda with peaches (on my second go at this cake, I saved time by using nectarines and skipped the peeling process).  The simplicity of this cake cannot be underlined enough.  It’s a snap to put together. It tastes heavenly the day you make it, and if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, it’s amazing for breakfast. It’s a shame the tomato season is over, because Meredith Shanley’s BLT Panzanella has tomatoes, ciabatta, arugula and bacon and gets dressed with a creamy, lemony dressing that has a small amount of the bacon drippings, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard in it to add more flavor.  Just look at Dagny’s Zucchini Pancakes, and tell me you wouldn’t eat a pile of them if they were put in front of you.  “A little grated potato binds the cakes and gives them the crispness of latkes,” the authors write in their headnote to this superb recipe.  I recently made Monkeymom’s Wishbone Roast Chicken with Herb Butter.  One can never have enough recipes for roast chicken and this one has a great gimmick.  The chicken roasts “beer can style” on the center tube part of a tube pan, which allows the fat “to drip off the bird while it cooks, and we think it does a great job of helping to cook the chicken evenly.” The creator of this method has thought about the technique of her perfect recipe—shallots and butter go under the skin of the bird, and the prepared chicken gets an eight hour sit in the refrigerator to ensure crispy skin.  I made this for a friend who is impossible to cook for—fussy and limited in what he will eat.  I was delighted to see him sneak bits of chicken from the platter to his plate, even it if was only white meat (that’s okay, I prefer dark meat anyway). 

Amanda Hesser (left) and Merrill Stubbs, who always look like they are having fun at

As far as recipes I haven’t made, I love the addition of peas in Eric Liftin’s Daddy’s Carbonara, which looks to be an excellent American version of the Roman original with bacon instead of guanciale.  That’s okay.  My first version of this dish used bacon and it’s delicious (is there nothing bacon doesn’t enhance?). Abs’ Not Red Velvet Cake with Fudge Glaze will save you time, and is as impressive as the original it emulates. I’m dying to make Susan’s Jordan-based Fasoolya Khadra (Beef and Green Bean Stew).  “This is one of those recipes, like pot-au-feu, that seem to defy the laws of cooking by coaxing an intensely flavorful sauce from water rather than broth or wine.” Aliwaks Luciana’s Porchetta look so doable for a change, and is destined for one of my Saturday night dinner parties soon.

THE FOOD52 COOKBOOK has recipes for all courses with soups, appetizers (don’t forget Aliwaks’ toothsome Smoky Fried Chickpeas), loads of main courses and sides (Deensiebat’s intriguing One-Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf, with toasted pine nuts and soft crumbled goat cheese), pastas, bread, breakfast, cocktails and desserts all covered.

Here is the perfect book for the home cook.  There’s not a whiff of a chef’s touch in it, even if a chef created the recipe. When Hesser and Stubbs asked viewers for their best recipes for salads using beets and citrus, their best ragu/Bolognese sauce, or their best holiday cookies, they responded and THE FOOD52 COOKBOOK represents a year’s worth of recipes the authors selected, tested. Each contest had two final entrants from the Food52 community, who selected the winner. The book’s design is a model of simple, spare design with no jacket (I’m seeing a few more cookbooks without jackets these days). Organized by seasons, there is a helpful listing of recipes and their page location in each of the four groups (another trend I first spotted in Ms. Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook).

One of the best cookbooks I’ve read or reviewed all year long, it automatically will be included in my annual round-up of best cookbooks of the year.

One of the fastest-disappearing cakes I ever made!

Simple Summer Peach Cake
By Savour Serves 8

A&M: We had high hopes for this peach cake, and it didn’t let us down. Savour’s inspiration came from childhood. “On summer mornings my mother would fix me a bowl of cut-up peaches with milk, sprinkled with sugar and a dusting of nutmeg,” she wrote. “Although that’s a pretty sublime combination, the flavors translate well to cake form.” Indeed, they do. The cake is chock-full of juicy summer peaches, and the addition of ground almonds sets it apart from other simple butter cakes. It’s luscious and a bit custardy in the areas surrounding the peaches—a texture that works when the cake is either warm or at room temperature. Don’t be alarmed if the batter seems to curdle when you add the buttermilk, as it will come together again once you mix in the dry ingredients.

6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
3 ripe peaches
3 ⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon almond extract
1⁄2 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Turbinado sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
2. Cut the peaches into bite-size pieces. Toss the peaches with the nutmeg and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and remaining sugar with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the egg, buttermilk, and extracts, and stir to combine.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add this flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until smooth (some lumps may remain). Pour into the prepared pan.
5. Press the peaches into the top of the cake. They can be nicely arranged, but I like to cram as many peaches as possible into the cake. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the top.
6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 325°F and bake for an additional 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Tips and Techniques
PerrySt: “I would recommend using a springform pan if you have one.”

About the Cook
Kate Wheeler lives in Los Angeles and writes a food blog called Savour Fare ( and a home decor and design blog called Savour Home (www.savour -fare .com/ savour -home) .
Her favorite recipe from a cookbook: “I can always fall back on the chocolate chip cookie recipe from the 1963 edition of McCall’s Cookbook. This was my childhood cookie recipe, and I have it memorized.”

What the Community Said
Rhonda35: “Made this last night and threw in a good handful of blueberries along with the peaches. Delicious!”

Friday, October 14, 2011


In the space of less than six weeks, no more than four books on meat have arrived on my doorstep.  The usual theme of books published in the fall runs to lots of dessert cookbooks (and this year is no exception) or lavish cookbooks by today’s superstars in the culinary world. But meat is a big trend right now. Maybe it's because we’re in the fall season, but these new cookbooks have enormous appeal to the carnivore to me.  I’ve decided to talk about them as a group.  All four will become part of my permanent collection. All of them should be considered as Christmas gifts this season.

Let me start with I LOVE MEATBALLS! (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC; $19.95).  Who doesn’t love meatballs?  And who better to explore this single subject than Rick Rodgers, one of the best cooks, cookbook writers and teachers in the country.  Though I’ve never worked one of his many books, Rick is a friend and someone I enjoy talking shop with.  His culinary knowledge is encyclopedic and his personality shines in every book he writes. Long the master of the single-subject cookbook, I LOVE MEATBALLS! explores this wonderfully delicious and economic category. For a cocktail party, you could wow your guests with Fried Olive Meatballs, a divine combination of ground round and pork surrounding a fat, pimento stuffed olive. It is then coated with a crunchy breaded exterior.  Knowing me, I would embarrass myself by eating too many. Chafing Dish Meatballs magically evoke the retro glamor of my parents entertaining (now if only I can find my mother’s chafing dish). A soup course might include a Vietnamese Pho with Beef Meatballs.  I loved Vietnamese Banh Mi with Quick Pickled Vegetables, Asian flavored pork meatballs, in French baguette-style rolls, stuffed with pickled carrots and daikon with cilantro and cucumber for more vibrant flavor.  For dinner try the Moroccan Meatball Tagine on Couscous or the Beef Meatball Bourguignon.  Both dishes are ideal for entertaining.  Rodgers has plenty of meatball recipes using lamb (Lamb Meatballs in Green Curry Sauce), seafood (Grilled Salmon Meatballs with Iceberg Wedges and Green Goddess Sauce), and chicken (Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs).  His skill elevates the humble but seriously flavored Checkered Tablecloth Spaghetti and Meatballs.  I’m pretty sure his version is as good as any Sicilian grandmas!

Rick Rodgers (photo credit Brian Dobson)

I LOVE MEATBALLS! celebrates the art of ground meats shaped into those delightfully addictive rounds from every part of the globe. This delightfully slim volume would be a welcome hostess gift instead of wine or flowers the next time you’re invited to a friend’s home for dinner.

Fried Olive Meatballs
makes 6 to 8 servings

My first experience with fried meat-stuffed olives was in Tuscany, where they were served with pre-dinner glasses of Chianti. My first attempt at stuffing olives proved to be more frustrating than threading a needle without glasses. However, the reverse—stuffing meatballs with olives—was much easier, and just as tasty. These burst with flavor, so serve them with something equally hearty, such as . . . well, Chianti.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄3 cup minced yellow onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
4 ounces ground pork
4 ounces ground round (85 percent lean)
2 tablespoons dried plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg yolk
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
24 pimento-stuffed olives
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup dried plain bread crumbs
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
Wooden toothpicks, for serving

To make the meatballs, line a baking sheet with wax paper. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool.

Add the ground pork, ground round, bread crumbs, Parmesan, egg yolk, oregano, salt, and pepper to the onion and mix well. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the meat mixture into 24 equal small balls. One at a time, flatten a ball slightly in your palms and completely wrap an olive with the meat mixture. Transfer to the wax paper–lined baking sheet.

To fry the meatballs, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200°F. Place a second baking sheet lined with a brown paper bag near the stove. Pour enough oil into a large saucepan to come halfway up the sides. Heat to 350°F on a deepfrying thermometer.

Spread the flour in a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg, salt, and pepper in another bowl. Combine the bread crumbs and oregano in a third shallow bowl. Roll each meatball in the flour, then dip in the egg, and then coat with the bread crumbs. Return to the wax paper–lined baking sheet.

In batches, deep-fry the meatballs in the hot oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a wire spider or slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to the paper-lined baking sheet. Keep the meatballs warm in the oven while frying the remaining balls. Reheat the oil to 350°F between batches.

Transfer the meatballs to a platter and serve warm, with toothpicks for spearing. 

—From I Love Meatballs! by Rick Rodgers / Andrews McMeel Publishing

In FROM THE GROUND UP:  Hundreds of Amazing Recipes form Around the World for Ground Meats, Including Beef, Chicken, Pork, Seafood, and More (Wiley; $22.95t) the great James Villas explores the wide spectrum of ground, chopped, minced and pulled meat and seafood.  Villas’ is a worldview (with his beloved native American South a particularly potent inspiration) on the subject.  As he did in Pig and The Bacon Cookbook, Villas, who spent more than twenty-five years as Food and Wine Editor of Town & Country magazine, organizes his recipe by category from appetizers, canapés and dips, through soups, salads, sandwiches, and turnovers, patties, balls, and dumplings, to main course loaves, croquettes, cakes, pies, quiches, soufflés, casseroles, pastas, hashes, chilies and stuffed dishes.  There are chapters on sausages and sauces with detailed instructions on fundamental equipment for home grinding.

The thing I always enjoy about Villas’ work is his ability to combine highbrow and luxurious (French Duck Liver Terrine with Pistachios, California Lobster and Avocado Salad in Radicchio Cups) with modest and suburban (Coffee Shop Corned Beef Hash and especially Retro Tuna and Rice Casserole).  Of this dish, Villas unapologetically presents his agenda about this much-maligned dish.  “Over the years, the variations have been endless, some delicious, others pretty wretched.  My version features flavorful brown rice, green peas, pimentos, canned mushroom soup, and a sensuous cheese topping, and I stand solidly behind its integrity.”  I find his convictions to be endearing and his authority as admirable as it is unquestionable.

So jump right in here and start cooking.  I have always loved French Rillettes of Pork. This is classic and economical spread for a party and this version is well within the abilities of any home cook. Smoked Salmon Stuffed Eggs or Charleston Shrimp Paste will also get any party started.  Sticking the South, Villas presents Congealed Ham and Beet Salad. The word congealed has never been appetizing to me. “The American South has always been known for the great array of congealed salads that appear on birthday, wedding, graduation and bereavement buffets,” says Villas. “I’ve always perceived this shredded ham and beet example to be one of the most elegant, colorful and unusual.”  I agree. A recipe for Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes immediately follows Steak Tartare Sandwiches. There are hamburgers from the USA, Sweden, France and Turkey.  Variety informs the meatball section from Portuguese Gingered Codfish Balls and Jewish Gefilte Fish, to Greek Minted Meatballs.  Croquettes, which, are enjoying a revival of culinary interest and I can’t wait to make Curried Chicken Croquettes. Villas prefers a free form meatloaf so that as much of the surface is crusty.  American Meat Loaf Deluxe is a prime example with its tasty combination of ground round, pork and ground veal and bulk pork sausage.  Sherried Turkey Hash Cakes could be the solution to this Thanksgiving’s leftovers.  I remember Mexican Tamale Pie in my California youth, and how great to see some of these iconic recipes re-thought and updated for today’s young cooks. 

I can go on and on about the many really swell recipes here.  I sat down and read this book from cover to cover (excellent head notes for every recipe), and some lucky diners will be treated to any number of Villas’ excellent efforts at my table this fall and winter.

(Makes 8-10 servings)

French pork rillettes are one of the most glorious appetizers ever conceived, and I’ve never served a crock or ramekin that wasn’t wiped clean by guests.  Traditionally, rillettes are made by shredding the cooked, tender, unctuous meats, with two forks, but so long as you don’t’ over-grind, they can be prepared quickly in a food processor. Packed into small ramekins, the rillettes could be served as individual appetizers, but I prefer to simply to place a large crock with a big basket of toasted French bread rounds in the middle of the table and let guests help themselves. Do try to make the rillettes a day in advance and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld.

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
¾ pound fresh pork fat
1 medium onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Herb bouquet (1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 2 bay leaves, 3 whole cloves and 2 parsley springs tied in cheesecloth)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine

Trim off any skin on the pork shoulder and cut the meat and fat into 2-inch chunks.  Place the meat, fat, onion, garlic, herb bouquet, and salt and pepper in a casserole or large saucepan. Add the broth, wine, and enough water to cover by 1-inch, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer till the meat is very tender, about 3 hours, skimming from time to time. Uncover the casserole and continue simmering till the liquid has evaporated and the meat is cooking in the fat, about 1 hour.

Transfer the meat to a heavy bowl and let the fat cool to room temperature in the casserole.  Shred the meat with two heavy forks (or grind coarsely in a food processor), add the cooled fat, and continue working with the fork till the mixture is smooth and silky—almost a heavy paste. Taste for salt and pepper, pack the rillettes in small ramekins or a large crock, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Serve with small rounds of toasted French bread. 

From:  From the Ground Up/Wiley

THE WHOLE HOG COOKBOOK: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All That Good Stuff (Rizzoli; $30.00) is such an appealing cookbook.  Libbie Summers, who is the culinary producer for Paula Dean’s network TV shows as well as senior food editor for Paul Dean Enterprises, has produced a very special cookbook devoted to everything pig. Having learned how to butcher hogs as a young girl visiting her grandfather’s hog farm, Libbie knows her way around every part of a pig.  That’s important because the handsome design and arrangement of this marvelous book makes the most logical case for understanding the various sections and cuts available.  Each chapter is arranged by each part of the hog and within the category, she breaks down the various cuts available.  Let’s start with the priciest part of the hog--he loin.  Blade chop, butterfly chop, loin chop, rib chop, country style ribs, sirloin. Back ribs, top loin roast, tenderloin, blade loin, center loin sirloin cutlet and porterhouse are all cut from here.  Libbie’s precise instructions are a joy to follow. 

The first thing I made was so easy, yet to impressive:  Grilled Tenderloin and Fingerling Potato Salad tastes great in the summer, but would also work during a busy weeknight in the winter when you want something delicious that is not heavy or too filling.  Boil the potatoes while you grill (indoors or out) a simply seasoned tenderloin.  Make your vinaigrette (in this case, honey and rice vinegar are added to olive oil and mustard).  Slice the tenderloin when rested a few minutes and toss into a large bowl with the potatoes, watercress and capers.  Add the vinaigrette.  It’s that simple and it tastes superb. I’ve made it twice now. A photo of Goat Stuffed Pig had me salivating.  It’s actually a butterflied tenderloin stuffed with goat cheese, toasted pecans, pears, pear brandy, apple cider, thyme, heavy cream and butter.  Impressive but also easy to prepare. The Boston Shoulder has four cuts, including a superb Cuban Pork Roast and Pulled Pork Spring Rolls.  Bacon provides the means for Pork Belly Gyros and Bacon and Cheese Puffers, are a delicious variation on the classic French Gougeres, and Pan-Fried Brussels Sprout Leaves are given a flavor boost with pancetta, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes and freshly grated Parmesan.  That dish is going on my Thanksgiving table. Mustard Barbecue Sauce poured over South Cakalacky Spare Ribs, sounds like pure pig heaven to me.  Pork Osso Buco will make you forget you ever spent a month’s mortgage payment on veal shanks.  Spicy Meatballs and Simple Sunday Red Sauce is bound to start a new family tradition.  Those meatballs are a heady combination of ground veal, ground chuck and hot Italians sausage.

I found the chapter on hog offal comprising jowl, head, feet, ears, fatback, clear plate, tail organ meats (intestines, stomach, skin and liver) fascinating.  Guanciale, the dried spice-rubbed jowls of the pig, is an essential ingredient in Spaghetti Carbonara, the classic Roman pasta dish.  Old #7 Pate  is a spread made from pork liver. And collagen-rich Pickled Pigs Feet, could help you age more gracefully.  As Libbie says, “I’m counting on my love of pig’s feet to help forty be the new thirty.” 

THE WHOLE HOG COOKBOOK provides clear instructions for making sausage, trimming and assembling a Crown Roast of Pork (which will save money), how-to photos clarify the best way to carve a ham, split pigs feet for pickling, how to render leaf lard for making pie dough.  There’s even a photo tutorial on how to make and decorate Marzipan Three Little Pigs.  Reading this charming book made me smile.  Cooking form it made me swoon. 

(Serves four)

1 pound pork tenderloin
7 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 cups watercress or arugula, stemmed

Rub the tenderloin with 1 tablespoon of the oil and liberally season it with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, put the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to high. Grill the seasoned tenderloin for 8 minutes per side, turning only once. Remove the tenderloin from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice the meat and place the slices in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, garlic, and honey. While whisking, gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a slow, steady stream, until the vinaigrette sauce begins to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste.

Halve the potatoes and add them to the pork tenderloin slices. Pour the vinaigrette over, add the capers and watercress, toss to coat, and serve immediately.

From The Whole Hog Cookbook/Rizzoli

My friend Jon serves his brisket with pride every Rosh Shoshanna, and it’s always delicious.  He’s given tons of thought to this dish, something I gather from THE BRISKET BOOK:  A Love Story with Recipes by Stephanie Pierson, others have pondered as well. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a bad brisket. This new book is all about brisket passion and is surely the first tribute cookbook to the joys and pleasures of this flavorful cut of beef. Brisket is “so simple and forgiving that even the worst cook can make a good one,” quips Ms. Pierson in the Introduction to THE BRISKET BOOK.  “Every country, every community, every culture, every family seems to have a brisket recipe,” she continues.  “But while there are millions of brisket recipes and thousands of reasons they came to be, there are essentially only three cooking techniques.  You can braise a brisket, barbecue it, or brine it so it becomes corned beef.  It’s that simple.”  You will find in this lavishly illustrated and profusely anecdotal tribute, a poem to brisket, “50 Things About Brisket That People Can Disagree About” (I’m not kidding), a brisket joke, sixteen ways to order brisket in a foreign language (in Italian it is punta de petto di bovino), a Brisket Etymology, a butcher’s perspective, a basic training chapter on making brisket, a Haiku for Braising Brisket, a barbecue Q&A on brisket, and then brisket nirvana—recipes from pros such as Nach Waxman, the legendary owner of the definitive culinary bookstore in New York City, Kitchen Arts & Letters; Joan Nathan, cookbook author and doyenne of Jewish cooking; New Orleans-based super chef, John Besh, Simon Hopkinson--English chef and author of Simon Hopkinson’s Second Helpings of Roast Chicken, Cook’s Illusrtated’s Onion-Braised Beef Brisket, and much more. There are suggestions for side dishes to accompany brisket, suggestions for Brisket leftovers (Brisket Tamales, anyone?), “What to Drink with Brisket.”  Well—you get the point.  The only disappointment was not having the recipe for Fatty Cue’s award-winning brisket sandwich.  It is cruelly photographed in all its mouth-watering glory on page 58. I deeply regret leaving New York without tucking into that insanely overstuffed creation. 

Nach Waxman's beef brisket

Stephanie Pierson has created the ultimate single-subject cookbook, and if you’re a brisket lover, you’re sure to want to make room in your collection for this delightful volume. 

I’ve chosen the recipe for Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket by Tom Perini because it is insanely easy, contains lots of spices and flavorings that I love, and is roasted then braised in the same pan for hours—during which time you can do other things instead of hovering over your brisket. 

Adapted from a recipe by Tom Perini, Perini Ranch, Buffalo Gap, Texas
(Serves 8)

With a lightly spiced browned crust and mega Texas-size smokehouse flavor, cowboy/cook Tom Perini comes up with a knockout recipe that lets you oven roast your way to brisket bliss. Just rub, roast, braise—done. Paula Den loves Perini’s cooking, too: check out The Food Network to see a video of Perini showing Paula his skills.

2    tablespoons chili powder
2    tablespoons salt
1    tablespoon garlic powder
1    tablespoon onion powder
1    tablespoon ground black pepper
1    tablespoon sugar
2    teaspoons dry mustard
1    bay leaf, crushed
1    (4-pound) beef brisket, trimmed
1½  cups beef stock

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, make a dry rub by combining the chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf. Season the brisket all over with the rub. Place the brisket in a roasting pan and roast in the oven, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add the beef stock and enough water to yield about ½ inch of liquid in the roasting pan, then tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F and continue cooking until the brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board, trim any excess fat, and thinly slice the meat against the grain. Serve with the pan juices.

—From The Brisket Book/ Andrews McMeel Publishing