Category Archives: Cookbooks

5 Best Cookbooks of 2015

61o97hRaK8L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Tartine Bread (Chad Robertson – $40) – A bread-lovers dream, this cookbook is solely for those interested in the highest form of bread making (i.e. nursing a starter everywhere you go). Must-Try: Country Bread

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Momofuku Milk Bar (Christina Tosi — $35) The sweet side to David Chang’s empire is just that: very sweet. Pastry chef Christina Tosi brings a sort of outside-the-box inventiveness not often associated with basic desserts. Must-Try: Crack Pie, Compost Cookies

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The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook (Danny Bowien and Chris Ying – $35) – What sets Danny Bowien’s new book apart from the many other chef-driven cookbooks is not the recipes. Yes, the glorious shots of dishes like Mapo Tofu and Kung-Pao Pastrami are glorious. And yes, the pantry section in the back of the book will have you gearing up to head out to your local Asian market. But it’s the candid storytelling that weaves between the recipes to tell the story of Danny, from his childhood in Oklahoma to celebrity-chef status in New York. Must-Try: Mapo Tofu, Hand-Pulled Noodles
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Tacos: Recipes and Provocations (Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothmans – $32.50) – This encyclopedic book of tacos brings tortillas onto the level of pasta. No longer are tacos something to be wolfed down without much thought; with fillings ranging from blood sausage and fava bean mayo to inverted al pastor, Alex Stupak takes tacos to a level you never dreamed of. Must-Try: Al-Pastor Tacos, Corn Tortillas

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Roberta’s (Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parching, Katherine Wheelock – $35) – The Brooklyn restaurant turned Bushwhack into the “it” neighborhood with the place everyone wanted to go to. Fast-forward a few years and they also have a 12-seat tasting counter as well as an outpost in a Midtown food court. With the cookbook, you can make their pizzas, pastas, meats, and vegetables at home. Must-Try: Speckenwolf Pizza

Roberta’s Cookbook: Delicious, Even If You Don’t Live in Brooklyn

IMG_1139The day after Thanksgiving, a few years before 2008, some friends sat, eating at a pizzeria in New Haven. What struck them about the restaurant was the tone and feel of the place, something they didn’t encounter at other restaurants. They decided to open there own pizza place, even though they had little cooking experience. So began Roberta’s, one of the restaurants credited with the rise of the Brooklyn food scene. Ever since 2008, the restaurant has grown larger and larger. They’ve expanded their menu from pizzas and small dishes (cooked at the chef’s home, reheated in the restaurant’s toaster oven), to Coffee Roasted Beets, Wagyu Steak, and Orechettie with pig tail ragu. The restaurant was awarded two stars by the New York Times and chef Carlo Mirarachi opened another restaurant, Blanca, in his spare time. That restaurant, located a few blocks away, just so happens to have a couple of Michelin stars under its belt with its 27-or-so course tasting menu.IMG_1137

Chronicling it all is Roberta’s Cookbook which features recipes for some of the pizza, vegetables, pasta, meat, and seafood that have been served at the restaurant. After much anticipation over the book, I decided to plan a “big night” of sorts. The idea? Three pizzas and one side dish. To begin the preparation, I started the dough late Friday night which is later than book suggests. According to the cookbook, the dough should sit in the fridge for 24-48 hours. (I was close enough!)

The pizzas I chose from the book were a simple Margherita, the veggie-heavy Baby Sinclair, and the meaty Speckenwolf. My favorites would have to be the latter two, though I think I might have enjoyed the former more if I had followed the recipe exactly. I mistakingly bought crushed San Marzanos, instead of purchasing whole and then pureeing with an immersion blender. Nonetheless, it was still delicious. The Baby Sinclair, however, with it’s earthy maitake mushrooms from the R.I. Mushroom Company, is a joy to eat. While I couldn’t find the Lacinato, or Dinosaur Kale at the Farmer’s market, I did find it at Whole Foods and am certainly glad I did. Some of its leaves crisped up in the oven, while others remained delicately tender. Chiles added nice spice, though I couldn’t find the preferred Calabrian variety. Parmigiano and sharp cheddar added richness, to the otherwise deviously healthy pie.

The Speckenwolf, one of the restaurants most acclaimed pizzas, was a study in the wonder of Italian cured meats. Speck, which I had never had before, was paired perfectly with creminis, oregano, mozzarella, and red onion. The speck, like the kale, grew crisp while it’s fat oozed onto the dough. Amazing, to put it mildly.unnamed-11

For a side dish, I chose the intriguing Cabbage dish. With a Japanese flavor profile, the dish was by far the most adventurous of anything I cooked from the book. Using three kinds of cabbage, bok choy, turnips, apple, a compound bonito butter, and a torahs dressing; the recipe was by-far the most involved. The butter used way too much water, while the dressing was overly spicy and acidic. In the end the dish was good and stunningly beautiful, but I would be interested to cook a smaller batch to experiment (I increased the proportions by four).IMG_1142

The only real problem I encountered were the ingredients. In the introduction to the food section, you are told that the better ingredients you have the easier and more fun it will be to cook. To enforce this ideal,  little to no substitutes are given. Finding a smoked ricotta from a specific Brooklyn purveyor is pretty hard if you don’t live in, well, Brooklyn. But I’ll tell you what the book doesn’t: With a few shortcuts, you can still  have a great time cooking from this splendid book.

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Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook: Challenging, While Pure Fun

unnamed-7I love David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku cookbook. Although I haven’t cooked many of the dishes, it’s inspired me in countless ways. Obsessively reading the recipes for how to make ramen broth that will simmer for days to fresh steamed bun dough, has taught me many techniques essential to Asian cuisine. Eating at the Momofuku restaurants only made me more exhilarated about the book. So, when I realized their sister bakery, Momofuku Milk Bar, had a cookbook…Well, I had to get my hands on it. Ever since a year ago I’ve been furiously checking it in and out of the library, mentally drooling over the pages and fantasizing long days of mixing cookie dough and straining cereal milk. A few months ago, I cooked the highly sought-after Compost Cookies along with the infamous Ceral Milk. For my contribution to the Thanksgiving table, I spent an afternoon tackling the incredible cultish Crack Pie. But it wasn’t till a few days ago that I went all out, tackling three recipes in one day. Hence my first cookbook review…

Christina Tosi, the mastermind behind Milk Bar, has brought us an incredible book. In it you’ll find ten master recipes (from liquid cheesecake to cereal milk) which you will, in a perfect world, make and then be able to cook the sub recipes. Essentially, with these master recipes on hand, you can make everything from Kimchi and Blue Cheese Croissants to Chocolate Chip Layer Cake. The wide range of fantastically original recipes are gloriously wacky and fueled on pure fun.unnamed-5

The amusing delight in the recipes isn’t enough to carry the entire book, however. The book’s major pitfall is that in adapting these recipes for home cooks, Tosi and her team haven’t quite succeeded. The Compost Cookies, while ultimately incredibly delicious, didn’t end up exactly like the real thing. The recipes calls for 18 minutes in a 375 degree oven, which led to an impossibly thin and slightly overly browned cookie. That being said, who doesn’t love a thin, crispy cookie? Still, the Bagel Bombs were slightly under-baked when I pulled them out of the oven 25 minutes into the 20-30 minute suggested bake time. (Some of the blame for this could certainly go to my own oven whose temperature fluctuates inaccurately. After all, every oven and home bakers equipment are not the same.)unnamed-6

Despite a few faulty details, what really prevails is the execution and spirit of the book. Asides from it’s freewheeling spirit, the book features incredibly in-depth writing from Tosi. Her account of everything from the very beginnings of Milk Bar to its current status as NYC tourist attraction are equally fascinating. Gabriele Stabile was brought in for the Momofuku cookbook and returns here. Stabile uses his experience as a documentary photographer to turn out some stunning photographs. He shoots the food in a different light than one might expect; it’s by no means over-lit, flashy  shots of cookies on plates, but instead the dough being lined up on baking sheets.

Plus, the Ceral Milk tasted like the milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl…Except the balance of sweet and salty has been amped up a few notches. The Bagel Bombs are an ingenious invention. You make a mother dough which is somehow versatile enough to be a croissant, focaccia, or a bagel. Cut the dough into eight pieces and fold it around a whipped cream cheese with scallions and bacon (or whatever you have on hand). Wash it with an egg wash, sprinkle with an everything bagel spice mix, and you have a bagel in the form of a dinner roll that oozes with blisteringly hot cream cheese.unnamed-8

If you’re looking for a challenging, yet engrossing cookbook, one that will both stimulate your curiosity and dare you to try a little harder in the kitchen than you might be used to, Momofuku Milk Bar is the book for you. If you’re a slice-and-bake kind of person, you’ll want to stay away from the book. But for who this book is aiming at, it really works. While planning ahead to make dough which must cold ferment, cream cheese which must be frozen, and egg yolks which must be separated from their whites is certainly difficult, the book has become my favorite resource for an adventurous, challenging baked good.