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Bring Stephanie Izard, Marc Vetri, Mario Batali and more into the kitchen with new cookbooks

It's unlikely that a Top Chef champion is going to show up in your kitchen to whip up oil poached shrimp and soba noodles, but if you have Stephanie Izard's cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen, and an hour, that can be your dinner. The alternative is making your way to Chicago to eat at Izard's hot restaurant, Girl and the Goat.

Chefs are rock stars these days, and restaurants are tourist attractions. One of the most exciting elements of travel is eating the food of another region, but travel is expensive. A cookbook from a faraway restaurant is an easy and effective way of bringing a destination to you.

New cookbook releases of the past couple months have been heavy on the celebrity chef. Some of them are bringing their restaurant food to your house. Some of them are offering their take on home cooking. And some of them are just showing off.

It seems every chef known by the food obsessed released a book in the past couple of months. Today, we offer highlights from the season, with a look at what to expect from the book and who would appreciate it.

And if it isn't for you, cookbooks fit pretty neatly under the tree.

Unless you want to spring for a plane ticket.

The book for someone who has watched every season of "Top Chef"

Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats & Drinks

By Stephanie Izard Chronicle Books, 256 pages, $29.95

Fans of Stephanie Izard who are aware of her only as the winner of the fourth season of the competitive cooking show on Bravo are missing the best part of her story. She parlayed that win into a new restaurant in Chicago, Girl and the Goat, which has been buzzworthy since it opened in 2010. The book has more than 80 recipes, which translate her simple plates of interesting combinations to the home kitchen.

The book is strewn with tips on shopping, drink pairing and dish development. It's great information, though sometimes all the pieces make it difficult to concentrate on the dish at hand. Every bit of information in there is worth the effort it might take to find it.

The book for someone who wants dessert, but maybe not until tomorrow

Momofuku Milk Bar

By Christina Tosi Crown Publishing, 256 pages, $35

When having dessert at one of the Momofuku restaurants in New York City, it seems deceptively simple. Even without many elements, there are a million flavors. How do they do that? The answer is in this book. And it's actually pretty obvious.

They aren't simple at all.

The fun here is that classic flavors are replicated, reimagined and combined into desserts that are at the same time familiar and thoroughly unique. The book is composed of recipes for elements of desserts. Then a recipe for an actual dessert is mostly a list of the previous recipes — sometimes two, sometimes seven — combined in some way to delicious effect. Nothing is hard, few things are uncomplicated, everything is worth it.

The book for someone who knows the favorite chef of celebrity chefs

Rustic Italian Food

By Marc Vetri Ten Speed Press, 304 pages, $35

Philadelphia's Marc Vetri will unapologetically teach you the way Italian food has been made for centuries, but in doing so will apply modern sensibilities that make his food the favorite of chefs around the country. His book doesn't just show how to make old-school meatballs, but if you want to go all the way, you can learn to make the bread that will go in them. Another chapter is devoted to sausages and cured meats.

Not sure about making your own pasta? Start with the spinach and ricotta gnudi. They're simple and as sexy as they sound, assuming you know that the "g" is silent.

The book for someone who plates exclusively with tweezers

Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook

By Daniel Humm Little, Brown & Co., 384 pages, $50

Eleven Madison Park won the James Beard Award for best restaurant in the country this year. Its food is beautiful and sophisticated to a degree that isn't replicable at home. Or is it? Reading some of the recipes here, you might think you can tackle it. Or you might just sit back and stare longingly at the beautiful photos. And they are beautiful.

The book for someone who wants to make the pizza the stars eat

The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes from Los Angeles's Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria

By Nancy Silverton Knopf Doubleday, 368 pages, $35

The Mozzas in Los Angeles — Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza — are A-list hangouts, and pizza is the game here. Nancy Silverton is one of the country's most decorated bakers, and if you aspire to make pizza at home, you'd do well to start with her recipe for dough. The chapter on pizza then goes directly into a 20-point list of the do's and don'ts of piemaking.

The book for someone who cooks by the calendar

Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals From My Home to Yours

By Mario Batali HarperCollins, 336 pages, $29.99

It's sort of hard to believe every cookbook isn't arranged in this way. Instead of separating the book into chapters based on meat, vegetable, dessert, etc., Mario Batali breaks his latest down into 12 chapters, one based on what we should be cooking each month of the year. Each month gets some combination of an antipasto, pasta, entree, side and dessert that makes sense that month from traditional and seasonal points of view. And each month includes a five-dish menu that would be suitable for a family meal.

The polpettona ripiena — stuffed meatloaf — looks like a dish to try immediately. But it's on the March menu. Don't want to jump the gun.

The book for someone who wants to know the reason behind the rules

Twenty: 20 Techniques, 200 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto

By Michael Ruhlman Chronicle Books, 368 pages, $40

Michael Ruhlman is not a chef, but his books are likely to turn his readers into them. His new book concentrates on techniques — 20 of them— over recipes. The thinking is that after mastering the 20 basic concepts, you'll see ingredients, relate them to techniques and won't need recipes. This is not minimalist instruction, though. The book is weighty, with in-depth instruction and excellent, detailed photography to move you from step to step.

The book for recent devotees of the Food Network who actually like to cook

Cook Like a Rock Star: 125 Recipes, Lessons, and Culinary Secrets

By Anne Burrell Crown Publishing, 256 pages, $27.99

Before the Food Network changed its format to one in which every show either has people trying to outstack premade cakes for the chance at a $10,000 prize or features a doyenne spouting catch phrases and trying to outsimple the show before it, there were cooking shows. Shows where real chefs got in front of the camera and showed the audience how to make a dish, with all the whys and the hows.

Somehow, Anne Burrell managed to sneak into the current lineup with that old-school premise. Her book reflects her supersized personality. The recipes are mostly slight twists on classics. And don't skip reading the glossary at the beginning of the book so you are ready when asked to "BTB, RTS." (Bring to boil, reduce to simmer.)

The book for someone who wants a challenge, and a payoff

Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes

By Jean-Georges Vongerichten Crown Publishing, 256 pages, $40

Jean-Georges built a global empire on a high-end fusion of French and Asian. That gets simplified here, without compromising flavors and intricate presentation. And there are distinct challenges. It is what Jean-Georges would make at home, so there are some not-to-be-found-at-the-megamart ingredients and advanced techniques, but nothing that a high-level home cook can't tackle.

The book for someone who wants to upscale down-home

My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking

By John Besh Andrews McMeel, 272 pages, $35

John Besh runs some of the most notable restaurants in New Orleans, and he celebrated those in his first book. But he calls this, his second book, "a passionate plea for home cooking." The organization is unique, with chapters including breakfast, brunch, cast iron cookery, barbecue, frying and goose(?!). It's easy to imagine starting a day with Besh's poached eggs and satsuma hollandaise over crab cakes, and ending it with his chicken fricassee.

Jim Webster can be reached at jwebster@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8746.

>>DIFFICULT

Candy Bar Pie

Chocolate Crust (see recipe below) *

Salty Caramel (see recipe below)

Peanut Butter Nougat (see recipe below)

8 mini pretzels

1 1/2 ounces chocolate

1 1/2 ounces white chocolate

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Make chocolate crust according to recipe below.

Add salty caramel to the pie crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Add peanut butter nougat to pie on top of caramel. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Put pretzels on a baking sheet and toast for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Put chocolates and oil in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, mixing in between, until the chocolate is melted.

Using a pastry brush, paint the top of the pie with melted chocolate. Place the pretzels evenly around the pie, and brush them with chocolate. Refrigerate pie for at least 15 minutes before serving. Pie can be wrapped in plastic and kept for three weeks in the refrigerator or two months in the freezer.

* A store-bought chocolate cookie crust can substitute for making your own. Won't be as good, but will work.

Serves 8.

Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar (Crown Publishing, $35) by Christina Tosi

>>easy

Chocolate Crust

2/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted, divided

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine flour, cornstarch, 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa powder and salt in stand mixer. With beater running, slowly add 6 tablespoons of melted butter. Spread clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Let cool.

Take about 2 cups of the crumbs and crush in a food processor. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and mix. Add 1 tablespoon of melted butter and mix again. If the mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon of melted butter.

Transfer crumbs into a 10-inch pie tin. Wearing plastic kitchen gloves, press crumbs firmly into the tin. Make sure the tin is covered evenly.

Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar (Crown Publishing, $35) by Christina Tosi

>>MODERATE

Salty Caramel

1 cup heavy cream, divided

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup glucose *

1 teaspoon gelatin

In medium bowl, add 1/2 cup cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Set aside.

In a medium pan over medium-high heat, melt sugar and glucose. Continuously mix with a heat-proof spatula until the mixture become dark amber, 3 to 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons of cold water. Set aside for 3 to 5 minutes.

When the caramel is ready, remove from heat and slowly add 1/2 cup of cream. It will bubble. Whisk until it is smooth. Reheat if necessary to dissolve.

Whisk the bloomed gelatin into the caramel. Strain the caramel mixture into the bowl with the cream and butter mixture. Let stand for 2 minutes, then whisk until homogenous.

* Glucose can be found at craft stores, in the cake decorating section. You can substitute 2 tablespoons corn syrup.

Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar (Crown Publishing, $35) by Christina Tosi

>>MODERATE

Peanut Butter Nougat

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

1/4 cup peanuts

1 egg white

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat.

Heat 1/2 cup sugar in a pan over medium-high heat. When it starts to melt, stir constantly with a heat-proof spatula. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until sugar reaches a dark amber. Remove from heat and stir in peanuts. Pour on mat. The brittle will set in minutes. Let cool completely. Put the brittle in a food processor and chop it into tiny bits.

In a stand mixer, beat egg white to soft peaks.

Heat two small pans over medium-high heat. In one pan, heat 2 tablespoons of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to 239 degrees. With mixer running, carefully pour into the egg whites. In the other pan, heat 3 tablespoons of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to 248 degrees. Add to mixing egg whites. Continue to whip until the mixture is cool. Add peanut butter, brittle and salt and mix until incorporated.

Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar (Crown Publishing, $35) by Christina Tosi

>>Moderate

Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

With Soba Noodles

12 jumbo shrimp

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon Sriracha, or other hot sauce

1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed

1/3 cup plus 5 teaspoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed

8 ounces soba noodles

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Rub the shrimp with half the garlic, ginger and Sriracha. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread asparagus on a baking sheet. Brush with 2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Roast 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees. Toss shiitakes with 2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Put the shrimp in a baking dish or oven-proof pan. Season with salt. Add 1/3 cup olive oil, arranging shrimp so that they are covered. Cover pot with foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove shrimp from oil. Allow oil to cool.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles to package directions. Rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces and the shiitake into strips. Toss with the noodles.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining garlic, ginger and Sriracha with the soy sauce, honey and mustard. Slowly whisk in the poaching oil. Pour dressing over noodles, toss to combine. Top with shrimp, green onion and sesame seeds.

Serves 4.

Adapted from Girl in the Kitchen (Chronicle Books, $29.95) by Stephanie Izard

Bring Stephanie Izard, Marc Vetri, Mario Batali and more into the kitchen with new cookbooks 12/13/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 15, 2011 11:41am]
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