year at this time the holidays loom like a marathon. Iím going
to be cooking a succession of small meals and two or three
big fill-the-table events for family and friends. I look for
inspiration in the market, of course, as well as the traditions
that have accumulated so relentlessly, but I wouldnít find
fun in the kitchen without something new to try, so I also
look to the latest cookbooks for new directions. Itís easy
to get entrenched in a way of cooking something, so I count
on better chefs to pull me from my ruts.
ago, Thomas Kellerís French Laundry Cookbook offered
wonderful ideas on preparing and presenting food, albeit in
the rarefied manner of his acclaimed Napa Valley restaurant.
In last yearís Under Pressure, he redefined a temperature-controlled
method of cooking that, given patience and some costly equipment,
produces astonishing results. Now Keller has a cookbook for
the masses: Ad Hoc at Home (Artisan), inspired by his
comfort-foods restaurant but also offering a comprehensive
course in kitchen techniques. Every time I read his guides
I learn something. When I make my next round of burgers, for
instance, Iíll grind a mix of beef cuts, seasoning them before
they hit the grinder.
to design a Thanksgiving meal that would put the traditional
ingredients into new or rethought contexts, beginning with
a fresh turkey that will be brined before spending a few hours
in a 210-degree smoker.
Ad Hoc at Home I took the concept of turning sweet
into savory by putting leeks, one of my favorite flavorings,
into a bread pudding. Seasoned with thyme, nutmeg and Emmantaler
cheese, itís also a wonderfully aromatic dish that gives the
house a holiday scent.
another meat course, and turned to pasta as the vehicle. Four
years ago we finally got one of Italyís culinary bibles, The
Silver Spoon, in an English version. Donít dismiss this
yearís Silver Spoon Pasta (Phaidon Press) as a mere
spin-off: Many new recipes are included, with more great photography.
a little chicken liver to a meat sauce gives it a sneakily
different texture. If you donít identify whatís in there,
even the most ardent liver-hater wonít notice. Pappardelle
with meat sauce (al ragý misto) combines beef or pork
(Iím using both) with chicken livers and pancetta with carrots,
celery, red wine and tomatoes. And a pinch of nutmeg. Although
sage isnít called for, itíll be hard to resist adding a little.
passion is Thai food, which Iím learning to cook and thus
now stock lemongrass stalks, galangel and kaffir lime leaves.
Putting it all into a healthy context is the mission of The
Elements of Life by Su-Mei Yu (Wiley), who is chef-owner
of San Franciscoís Saffron restaurant. As she recounts in
the introduction, Thai cooks routinely use food as curatives
and provide a long-range balance of personal wellness by cooking
according to natureís elements of earth, water, fire and wind.
my menu on a healthful note, Iím presenting her version of
tom yum, a hot and sour soup filled with bite-sized
fish and a mixture of bamboo shoots, arugula leaves, squash,
cucumber, leeks and Chinese winter melon.
Noodle Bar is the East Village restaurant that put Korean-born
chef-owner David Chang on the map. Heís added three more NYC
eateries, and his book Momofuku (Clarkson Potter) offers
an engagingly written guide to his wide-ranging cooking philosophy.
I got my Brussels sprouts recipe from his book. He writes,
ďI remember walking through the Greenmarket one day after
we opened and thinking, ĎWhat the fuck would I do with Brussels
how to do it without the bacon and chestnuts he found on everybody
elseís sprouts. ďIt didnít take me long to come around to
the bacon thing,Ē he continues. ďI usually do.Ē He finishes
the dish with his own Napa cabbage kimchi and a garnish
of julienned carrots. Iíll keep the carrots, but Iím taking
the recipe in a slightly different direction, substituting
an apple cider glaze for the pickled cabbage. Thatís because
Iíll have cabbage in a slaw seasoned with lime, among other
things, which will resonate nicely with the lime in both the
tom yum and my cranberry sauce. ďWinter salads can
be just as vibrant as Juneís blowsy, lazy salads, if you use
a little creativity,Ē write Matt Lee and Ted Lee in The
Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern (Clarkson Potter). This
one uses a mix of red and white cabbage, shredded thin, with
baby spinach, roasted spinach, lime segments and flavors of
cumin and mustard.
Pensieroís Gigi Trattoria is a celebrated Rhinebeck restaurant;
her new book Hudson Valley Mediterranean (William Morrow)
celebrates our areaís ingredients with a season-by-season
approach, refining or reinventing classic and original recipes
to keep an eye on the health factor.
to try the restaurant soon; meanwhile, Iím using her recipe
for a mashed potato-rutabaga-turnip gratin to see if the flavors
meld as well as she promises. The trio is riced into a casserole
dish and baked with Grana Padano, thyme and nutmeg,
and the benefits of the root veggies within should be delivered
with an appealing flavor.
to Roast a Lamb (Little, Brown) is the incisive title
of Michael Psilakisís new book, but it turns out to be an
entire course in Greek cooking as practiced by the author
in his Manhattan restaurants, including Anthos and
Kefi. His cooking story is also an autobiography, a
celebration of family and friends where food is central. Iím
eager to roast a lamb according to his precepts.
Iím borrowing the skordalia portion of a dish that
also includes salt cod and pickled beets. Skordalia adds
a garlic-vinegar purťe to hot, riced potatoes, and Iím eager
to taste this alternative to slathering the spuds with butter.
Know How to Cook, proclaims the title of Ginette Mathiotís
classic French tome, a Gallic cross between The Joy of
Cooking and The Silver Spoon thatís been around
since 1932, but now itís been newly revised and translated
(Phaidon Press). No question that Iíd find a recipe there
for chocolate mousse. What surprised me, however, is that
it calls for no heavy cream. Itís the classic French version
of chocolate, egg whites and sugar, a simple and sweet way
to finish this polyglot meal.