APPETITES: A COOKBOOK by Anthony Bourdain

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with Laurie Woolever

As a long time Bourdain fan, both of his books – Kitchen Confidential is a classic and started a whole new trend in tell-all kitchen memoirs – and his TV shows, and even his mysteries, I was really curious to see what sort of cookbook he would put out. Would everything be Vietnamese or at least Asian inspired? Would I have to shop online for esoteric ingredients? Would I have to eat blazingly hot food studded with a variety of chiles? The answers: not all but certainly a strong Asian influence abounds, some esoteric ingredients, and occasional overuse of chiles, which appears to be an occupational hazard among celebrity chefs (not sure about local chefs.)

All that said, this is a terrific cookbook. The chapters:

Breakfast
Fight
Salads
Soups
Sandwiches
Party
Hamburger Rules
Pasta
Fish and Seafood
Birds
Thanksgiving
Meat
Side Dishes
Dessert
Stocks, Sauces and Dressings

Yes, there are definitely things I will never make, no matter how delicious Bourdain swears the food to be. I recently purchased gojuchang paste, a Korean red pepper paste, and there are a few recipes in this book that uses it. But nothing that also didn’t call for several other chiles or ingredients I didn’t have. I kept going back to one of the recipes, “Budae Jjigae,” a Korean army stew that Bourdain says is based on the legend that it is made from “scourged army PX canned goods during wartime.”  We are talking hot dogs, Spam, canned baked beans, packaged Ramen noodles – those are the easy ingredients – then other things like kombu, dried anchovies, godhugaru, cheongju etc. but frankly it was the Spam that put me off more than anything else.

All that said, there are a lot of good basic recipes, like scrambled eggs and omelets, and interesting salads like “Do Chua Salad with Herbs, Scallions, Sprouts, and Egg” that is sure to be a summer staple at my house. I loved several of the soup recipes, especially the Cream of Tomato, New England Clam Chowder and Black Bean Soup.

The recipe for Linguine with White Clam Sauce is amazing, the best I’ve ever made and pretty simple, relying on 5 dozen clams for unbelievable flavor. A quick work night dinner of Spaghetti with Garlic, Anchovies and Parsley is quick, easy and delicious.

Some of the side dishes are really good, classic dishes like Candied Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. The Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame is another really easy dish, flavored with tahini, white miso and toasted white sesame seeds, an unusual dish that I will be making often.

The Osso Bucco (yes, there are several Italian dishes represented) looks really good, I’m planning on making it for a special occasion quite soon. I made a variation of his Veal Milanese; instead of using cutlets I used veal rib chops pounded out and they were incredible – so simple and so good.

The Thanksgiving chapter is a revelation and definitely will be in use this November. This is lifechanging, from scheduling to turkeys to gravy and everything else.

Shall we talk desserts? Bourdain opens that chapter (and I use the term loosely) by saying, “Fuck dessert,” then recommending some cheeses. And that’s it.

Which brings me to the voice. Bourdain’s voice is so prevalent throughout this book I could hear him in my head as I read. Recipes, as is the fashion of the day, all have little introductory stories, one which caused me to wonder if he wrote it while dissolving his marriage or after (see Veal Milanese.)

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the photographs by Bobby Fisher. They are extraordinary, not just of the dishes and ingredients which are always, always interesting – none of the perfect fake food look here. But beyond the food there are pictures that made me laugh out loud – Bourdain blowdrying a chicken (really!) and Eric Ripert, sausage gravy dribbling down his face.

I love this book and hope you will, too.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

APPETITES: A COOKBOOK by Anthony Bourdain. Ecco; First edition (October 25, 2016). ISBN 978-0062409959. 304p.

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