True comfort food, accessible ingredients and recipes, but with an Iron Chef's twist!
Reviewed in the United States on 10 March 2018
There are a LOT of recipes in this book, and they're all about delicious home cooking, whether for weeknights or special occasions. Almost all ingredients are accessible to all and reasonable in cost. Unlike so many other "celebrity chef" cookbooks, Iron Chef Guarnascelli has neither given us a coffee table book nor dumbed it down: we're simply brought right into her family's kitchens and given the opportunity to learn how she cooks at home.
Although the author weaves in delightful recollections from her childhood and colorful anecdotes from her many years in professional kitchens, this is much more a recipe cookbook than a memoir. I loved the memoir moments, but the "just the recipes, please" reader will not be disappointed.
Every chapter has an informative introduction, and every recipe has a delightful headnote. Both just make me want to start cooking. There is also a good chapter on favorite equipment, plus ingredient and shopping tips, and another with clickable ingredient sources. Every recipe has a gorgeous color photo. In the Kindle edition, TOC and index are clickable.
Ingredients: the vast majority of the ingredients are accessible to me which, since I live in the middle of nowhere, in one of 7 states without a Whole Foods, means that they're most likely accessible to everyone. There is no ingredient snobbery here: the Iron Chef makes her cheeseburgers with slices of American cheese--and tells us why. She gives us brand names for her favorite mayo, cream cheese, sour cream, red wine vinegar, and more. She uses canned tuna in her Caesar salad, and white button mushrooms.
The ingredients are also, for the most part, budget friendly: there's no Wagyu beef or hamachi tuna here. "Roast beef" is top round. She uses hanger steak, an inexpensive cut that packs a big hit of flavor. Short ribs, brisket, pork chops, chicken, turkey. One exception, Porterhouse steak, is "a splurge and an indulgence." If you have a good butcher or a good supermarket, you should be able to special-order a leg of lamb, a rack of pork, or a Cornish game hen. One exception would be Long Island (Pekin) duck and its heart and liver (presumably fresh--she doesn't tell us whether frozen will work). This is not amazonable, but available online with overnight shipping, from a well-respected source, but it's complicated and expensive. However, perhaps your butcher will be able to special-order it for you, either fresh or frozen. The title of the book's fish chapter is "fish is easier to make than you think." She uses fresh clams, mussels, scallops, "American caviar or trout roe," wild striped bass, whole mackerel, and bluefish. However, although I'm in an inland state, I can obtain some of these ingredients by special order from my butcher; you may be able to special-order from your supermarket; and there are only 8 recipes in this chapter, so you're not missing many recipes if fresh fish isn't an option for you.
The recipes are just what the title promises: old-school comfort food, but with an Iron Chef's twists. An adventurous home cook may want to spend time exploring her "make it from scratch from the fridge door" chapter, in which she offers not only her recipe for home-made butter, but also her favorite marinades, pickles, vinaigrettes, and condiment sauces. Given that these are the go-to condiments from an Iron Chef, there is more here than meets the eye, particularly since the chapter begins with her proclamation of love for Hellman's Mayonnaise, Heinz Ketchup, and L&P Worcestershire. I've bookmarked several recipes, including some that I've made before, such as roasted garlic and homemade ricotta, but I want to try Chef Guarnascelli's way.
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