Book Report: AFIELD

Home brewed guide to dismantling critters in the wild and making them tastylicious. Local point men Griffiths and Horton do it right, showing the ins and outs of being at the top of the food chain. Big fans of both these guys. Jesse has killed and cooked every tasty thing we have had here in the hill country. Jody has shot, edited and downloaded Jesse, us (and everyone else) while it was happening.

Good read, photo, recipes and stories. Lets not forget the unsung heroes: Morgan, Tamara, Tabitha, Morgan, Greg, Morgan… Excited to see high caliber cookbooks coming out of the Austin food scene.

Amazon: AFIELD

Book Report: Tartine Bread

First off, every bread book should have a puffy cover. This one does. Seriously, it’s puffy.. go ahead touch it. The author is Chad Robertson, owner operator of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco (which is a city in Northern California). He has been baking since he was young. I know this because I realized I have another book, published in 1999, that has a picture of him on the cover. Suffice to say, the guy has been covered in flour most of his life. That’s good news for us, because he knows how to make killer bread and he wrote a book telling us how to do it.

Step by step guide on how to make a basic loaf from starter, bread variations (bagels, pizza, baguettes) and recipes with bread (panzanella, raclette, bruschetta). Awesome book. The puffy cover is just a bonus.

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson

Cookbook Review: Hungry Town

I needed this. I have been struggling with food from the Crescent City. Show and tell cookbooks weren’t giving me any answers. I needed to get my arms around the food culture. Understand its guts. I have been searching for a conduit to show me the reason why the big N.O. is important. Give me a time line through menus, a history of natural disasters, culinary roadmap of influences, all bound in eggshell off-white paper. I’m not a hard guy to please. It’s true, I read at a fourth grade level. But, this book sings to me. Knowing a place’s history helps me understand it’s current focus and likely trajectory. It’s like the History Channel high on Truffles: Paul Prudhomme (Commanders Palace) begat Emeril Lagasse (Emeril’s), begat Susan Spicer (Bayona), begat Donald Link (Herbsaint). New Orleans has a storied culinary bloodline. Thanks to author Tom Fitzmorris for putting it down on paper.

Cookbook Review: Real Cajun

Lately, I’ve been struggling with the food of the great state of Louisiana. I love the idea of Cajun food. I love the history, the influences, the spices. But, apparently, I suck at making it. Just in time to give me a hand is the Donald Link book Real Cajun. It hits on the swamp classics (etouffee, gumbo, oysters and the like), with personal stories to back them up.

The James Beard Foundation recently gave Real Cajun top honors for the category of ‘American Cooking’. It also wins the Austin Food Journal award for ‘Kick-Assness’ due to its local ties. Chef McClung at Jeffrey’s cut his teeth at Link’s top notch New Orleans restaurant Herbsaint. And, it’s co-written by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Austinite Paula Disbrowe.

First out of the gate, Chicken Sauce Piquant (page 123). It is a spicy chicken, pepper and tomato stew. The dish starts out as fried chicken, with the sauce started in the same pan. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies are cooked down with chicken stock and herbs. Gutsy, rich, satisfying.

I may be getting over my fear of Cajun cooking. This book is a push in the right direction. Or, it could be the altar to Emeril Lagasse I set up in the pantry. Either way, I’m back on track.

Cookbook Review: Cooking (that’s the title)

Cooking by James Peterson

For the longest time, when someone would ask me “What’s a good first cookbook?”, I would recommend Julia Child’s The Way To Cook. Julia and I were having a thing in the 90’s and I want to help her out with book sales. As my personal interests shifted towards books more focused on technique, new recommendations emerged. Now, I’m a fan of Cooking, by James Peterson. It has the right balance. First, the basics: knife sharpening, boning fish, stocks, etc. Then, a wide variety of commonly prepared items: salads, salsas, roasts, pies and many more. Plus, it’s written in a comfortable tone, like your aunt dispensing a family recipe.

Cooking by James Peterson

Cooking by James PetersonWhat bugs me about many cookbooks is that they either don’t explain all you need to know to successfully pull off the item you are creating or they imply that some sort of magic is needed. Mr. Peterson gives you plain talk. Cooking for over 40 years, and teaching cooking for the bulk of it, has given him plenty of time to weed out what works and what doesn’t. “Cooking is based on doing lots of little things correctly without taking shortcuts.” That is about the clearest wisdom I have heard on the subject.

Slow Food Event: How To Smoke-Out Indoors

Austin Slow Food Session

There is nothing quite like the feeling of walking into a hotel conference room and being overwhelmed by the smell of frying bacon. Awesome. Marshall and Greg did a great job walking us through the basics of curing, drying, smoking, wet cures and pink salts. The pork was from Richardson Farms. (Did I hear they are milling their own flour now?) If you haven’t been to a Slow Food event in a while (or at all), you should check one out.

Charcuterie Book

Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie book seems to be the go-to text on the subject. This is a deep book that I haven’t begun to get deep into yet. Once you start hanging meat around your house, you just can’t go back (it also forces an awkward conversation with the kids, or cats, for that matter).

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and CuringBasic Dry Cure (from the book): yields 4.5 cups
1 pound kosher salt
8 oz sugar
2 oz pink salt (sodium nitrite salt)

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Store in a plastic container, keeps indefinitely. Use 1/4 cup for every 3 to 5 pounds of pork belly.