A few years ago, my parents got me Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, probably at the insistence of my brother, Kevin, who is a foodie himself. It's a beautifully designed book, full of color photos not only of delicious dishes like Onglet Gascon and Tournedos d'agneau with fig confit, but also of his kitchen crew corking wine bottles, firing dishes, and finishing orders. The jacket of the book is simple craft paper brown, the kind some restaurants use instead of tablecloths. While the book looks good, it's nothing compared to the writing. It's the only cookbook I've read cover to cover. And while it has inspired me to try all manner of complicated culinary techniques and dishes, it isn't exactly welcoming. Consider this entry on roasting a chicken:
"That's roast chicken, numbnuts! And if you can't properly roast a damn
chicken then you are one helpless, hopeless, sorry-ass bivalve in an apron.
Take that apron off, wrap it around your neck, and hang yourself. You do
not deserve to wear the proud garment of generations of hardworking,
dedicated cooks. Turn in those clogs, too."
The truth hurts. After some initial shock at how many of the recipes require veal stock (And Bourdain is diligent in his efforts to get us to make our own stocks), I set out to try a few of things. His steak au poivre was good, but too buttery for my taste. His rack of lamb, on the other hand, was delicious. I made it for Christmas dinner. And his French onion soup...Sweet Christ in a kick-line.
This week, I'm going to make cote de porc a la charcutiere. Basically, it's pork chops with a sauce of Dijon mustard, cornichons, parsley, white wine, and veal stock. Edan and I are having a friend over for dinner, so it will be the pork, a vegetable tian from Barefoot in Paris, the French cookbook from The Barefoot Contessa, and a chocolate devil's food cake from Tartine, one of the previous year's best cookbooks. The cake is covered in a dark chocolate ganache and toasted cake crumbs, and it looks as challenging as anything I've ever made (I'm still a novice baker. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm pretty much a novice cook, too). If I survive the cake, the rest of the week should be easy as...er, pie.