Complexity is on the fall menu for ambitious home cooks
Scripps Howard News Service
Must credit the San Francisco Chronicle
By AMANDA GOLD
San Francisco Chronicle
For much of the past decade, we've seen a trend in cookbooks toward simplicity and ease. Chefs and authors have been catering to the harried home cook, to the weeknight chef who wants dinner on the table pronto.
But as an interest in all things culinary continues to grow, the tide might be starting to turn. Home cooks are being given the benefit of the doubt -- that is, that they're capable of getting their hands dirty, playing around with new techniques and spending more time than the length of a sitcom in the kitchen.
Many of these books expect more from their readers, providing multistep recipes, harder-to-find ingredients and suggestions for handmade garnishes that are worthy of professionals.
Still, the books are great fun to read, and the recipes seem to work. If you're up for the challenge -- or looking for a good gift -- you'll be rewarded with delicious results.
Here are a few favorites hitting shelves this fall.
"SPQR," by Shelley Lindgren and Matthew Accarrino with Kate Leahy (Ten Speed Press, 304 pages, $35)
Ever since chef Accarrino took over in the kitchen at this tiny San Francisco restaurant in 2009, he's been exciting diners with his unusual blend of Italian and global flavors. Owner Lindgren has taken an equally exciting path with hard-to-find wines from small Italian producers. But the book, with the restaurant's title, is much more than just a companion. It is, instead, a tour through some of Italy's lesser-known areas.
Chapters are divided accordingly, labeled as Roman roads that mark the region through which they run. Via Flaminia, for example, runs through Umbria to the coast; Via Aemilia through Emilia-Romagna.
Through Lindgren's hand, the book celebrates each region's wines, featuring the producers and the grapes that define the region. Accarrino follows up with intricate recipes inspired by his Italian travels.
Keep in mind, cooks, that this is not for the easily intimidated.
"Bouchon Bakery," by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books, 400 pages, $50)
We've pored over Keller's "French Laundry" book, and made his family favorites from the "Ad Hoc" tome. Now it's time to celebrate all things sweet. The "Bouchon Bakery" cookbook, written by Keller and executive pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel, looks much like the others -- as in, it might only live on your coffee table -- and provides readers with recipes from the Yountville, Calif., shop.
Throughout the 400 pages, there are chapters on everything from cookies to artisan breads, each with painstaking detail and many accompanied by step-by-step photos.
The book is perfect for the Keller collector, but also a nice addition to any baker's kitchen.
"The Great Meat Cookbook," by Bruce Aidells with Anne-Marie Ramo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 632 pages; $40)
In the decade-plus since Aidells released "The Complete Meat Cookbook," consumers and readers have become much more educated about where meat comes from. Less popular, less expensive cuts are being utilized over traditional ones, artisan butchers are all the rage and heirloom breeds aren't as tough to find as they once were.
This new book follows suit, plowing through the labels, newly appreciated cuts and trendier meats that consumers see today. His recipes are fairly approachable, but Aidells still expects the reader to have a curiosity about meat that goes beyond the grocery-store butcher counter.
BOLOGNESE WITH EGG NOODLES
A recipe for egg noodles appears in "SPQR," but you can serve this with any fresh egg noodle.
1 pound, 5 ounces ground pork shoulder
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle peppers en adobo
Pinch dried chile flakes
1-1/3 cups red wine
16 gratings nutmeg
Sachet with 2 thyme sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, 1 sage sprig and 10 cloves
1/2 cup soffritto (see instructions below)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Red wine vinegar, to taste (optional)
1 pound fresh egg noodles
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to garnish
Season ground pork with salt. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a thin film of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the ground pork and brown well, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pork and juices to a heatproof plate.
In the same pot, heat another film of olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. If the bottom of the pan begins to get too dark, add a splash of water to deglaze. Mix in the garlic; cook about 1 minute more. Stir in the tomato paste, chipotle peppers and chile flakes and cook until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 3 minutes.
Return the pork and juices to the pot, and pour in the wine. Bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid by about a third, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1-1/4 cups water and return to a simmer. Grate the nutmeg directly into the pot and submerge the sachet. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 1-1/2 hours. Meanwhile, make the soffrito (instructions below).
Uncover the pot and taste the Bolognese. The meat should be tender and the sauce noticeably thicker. Over low heat, stir in the 1/2 cup soffritto and the cream and simmer until the sauce has a velvety texture, 7 to 10 minutes. Taste; season with salt and pepper, if needed. If the sauce tastes flat, add a few drops of red wine vinegar. With a slotted spoon, remove the sachet, pressing on it to extract as much liquid as possible.
Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles according to package directions; drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Add noodles back to the pasta pot, and spoon sauce over, thinning with pasta water if it gets too dry. Add the unsalted butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top.
For the soffritto: In a meat grinder or food processor, grind 1 chopped carrot, 1/2 chopped onion and 1-1/2 sliced celery stalks until the vegetables are chopped finely. Heat 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large, wide Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot over low heat. Stir in the ground vegetables and 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and gently cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft and the bottom of the pot is dry, about 45 minutes. Save extra for another use.
-- Adapted from "SPQR"
Makes 8 large sandwich cookies
Thomas Keller's Oreos are not overly sweet; the chocolate shortbread cookies are balanced with a nice saltiness.
4-1/2 ounces 35 percent white chocolate (Valrhona Ivoire 35 percent suggested)
1/2 ounce unsalted butter
1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon heavy cream
1-3/4 cups + 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder (Guittard Cocoa Noir suggested)
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces unsalted butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
For the filling: Melt chocolate and the butter together, stirring constantly. Meanwhile, bring the cream to just under a simmer. Pour the cream over the melted chocolate and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into a container, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to one day, until completely chilled.
For the shortbread: Place the flour in a medium bowl; sift in the cocoa and baking soda and whisk to combine.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn to medium-low speed and mix until smooth. Add the salt and mix for another 15-30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds after each, or until just combined, then mix until the dough begins to come together.
Mound the dough on the work surface and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together into a 6-inch-square block. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until firm. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two sheet pans with Silpat or parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough and place it between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough, working it from left to right, to begin to flatten it, then turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat (this will help prevent the dough from cracking when rolling). Roll out to a 1/8-inch-thick sheet. If the dough has softened, slide it (in the parchment) onto the back of a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm enough to cut.
Using a 3-inch cutter, fluted if possible, cut rounds from the dough. If necessary, push the trimmings together, refrigerate until firm, and reroll for a total of 16 rounds. (Any trimmings can be baked as is, cooled, and ground in the food processor to use as cookie crumbs over ice cream.) If dough softens, return to the refrigerator until the cookies are firm enough to transfer to the sheet pans. Arrange the rounds on the sheet pans, leaving about 3/4 inch between them. (The dough can be shaped in advance; see note.)
Bake for 15-17 minutes, turning the pans around halfway though baking, until the cookies are fragrant, with small cracks on the surface. Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
Assembly: Place the filling in the bowl of the mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat until smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 3/16-inch plain tip.
Turn the cookies over. Pipe 1/2-inch-long teardrops in a ring on each one, beginning 1/8-inch from the edges of the cookie, and then working toward the center, pipe concentric rings of teardrops to cover the cookie. Top each with a second cookie and press gently to sandwich the cookies.
The cookies are best the day they are baked, but they can be stored in a covered container at room temperature if unfilled, or refrigerated if filled, for up to 3 days.
Note: The shaped dough can be frozen on the sheet pan, wrapped in a few layers of plastic wrap, for up to 1 month. Transfer to a lined room-temperature sheet pan, and bake frozen.
-- "Bouchon Bakery"
MUSTARD & SAVORY-MARINATED PORK CHOPS WITH CORNICHON BUTTER
3 small garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons dry vermouth
1 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh summer savory or rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper + more for seasoning
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 1-1/2- to 2-inch-thick bone-in center-cut rib pork chops (see Note)
Cornichon butter (see instructions below)
Whisk together the garlic, vermouth, mustard, savory or rosemary, thyme, the 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and the 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Place marinade in a shallow dish, large enough to hold the chops snugly.
Pierce each pork chop over entire surface with a fork. Add chops to marinade and turn to coat on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.
Remove chops from the marinade, shaking off excess. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling. Season with salt and pepper.
Set up a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling.
Place the pork chops on the hot part of the grill and cook for 2 minutes. Flip over and grill the other side for another 2 minutes. Move chops to the part of the grill without heat, cover the grill, and cook for 10-15 minutes more, or until firm to the touch, with a faint pink color remaining; an instant-read thermometer should read 135-140 degrees close to the bone.
Remove from the grill and top each chop with 1 tablespoon cornichon butter. Let rest, loosely covered with aluminum foil, for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Note: You can also use blade-end chops, center-cut T-bone loin chops, boneless pork chops, veal rib chops, beef steaks or goat chops.
For the cornichon butter: Mix 2 tablespoons minced shallots and 1 tablespoon dry white wine or vermouth in a medium bowl and set aside to macerate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pulse 8 tablespoons (1 stick) softened butter and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard in a food processor until well combined. Transfer the butter mixture to the bowl with the shallots, add 3 tablespoons chopped cornichons, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and blend with a rubber spatula until well combined. Spread a 12-inch-long piece of plastic wrap on your work surface and scrape the butter onto the plastic wrap. Shape and roll the butter into a rough log, 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, leaving about 2 inches at either end of the wrap. Twist the ends to seal, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before use.
-- Adapted from "The Great Meat Cookbook"
This recipe makes a lot of extra cornichon butter, which you can refrigerate or freeze for later use.
(Amanda Gold is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email agold(at)sfchronicle.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)