Cranky’s all finished with his Christmas shopping, but this book wasn't on my list (and you can’t always trust Santa to be resourceful on Christmas Eve) — so I bought it for myself.
It was enthusiastically recommended by Michael Ruhlman on his blog, for one thing. Ruhlman is a maverick cook, a brash poet who can give Anthony Bourdain what for and get away with it… and the fact that he is good-looking had nothing at all to do with my falling under his spell.
No, it was just that I loved the idea of a book about Michel Richard’s clever techniques for the home cook. Like using Saran wrap to coax food into tube shapes — something I’d already done, with Jacques Pepin’s recipe for pork sausage – but in ever expanding possibilities: Spuddies, anybuddy? They’re sorta like Tater Tots. Cute. Doable.
Oh, and that recipe employs another technique I learned from “Happy in the Kitchen,” using gelatin to bind food, and then allowing the heat of cooking to melt it away.
Wait, one more technique from the Spuddies recipe: Whirling raw potatoes in the food processor with water, to create chunks instead of goo. (You drain them afterward.)
Anyway, probably too much information to digest here in a single post (and there's much more to talk about; it's not all fun tricks — there are serious recipes I want to attempt*), but I’m really excited about the book.
Imagine my chagrin, though, when I went to the bookstore and discovered it’s a “coffee-table book” — big and heavy, almost too big for the average kitchen counter, and filled with super photographs.
With a forward by Thomas Keller (whose French Laundry Cookbook still dazzles me, but I’ve never tried a single recipe from it — although I was tempted by those beautiful potato crisps with the chive spikes inside... Ah, who cares, I've got Spuddies).
I wavered for a moment.
Then I discovered this cartoon-y self portrait and Richard's autograph on the title page.
I had to have it.
*OK: Scrambled scallops. Onion pasta. Spinach "brownies." Fake caviar. Fun fun fun.