Cookbooks with zest for life
Alan Rosen and Beth Allen
From 1964 to 1968, I studied art in Brooklyn. During freshman year, the school cafeteria provided meals from Monday through Saturday, but Sunday I was left to forage. With luck, I would take the Dekalb Avenue bus to Flatbush for dinner at Junior’s—Brooklyn’s legendary deli and home of one of the world’s best desserts. No hyperbole could overrate the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of Junior’s New York-style cheesecake.
Junior’s continues to feed hungry New Yorkers to this day. But, happily, I’ve found the recipes for those decadent bites in the pages of Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook, complete with recipes for Junior’s sponge cake, shortbread, all-butter tart and brownie shortbread crust. Alan Rosen is the third-generation co-owner of Junior’s, which his grandfather founded. He and co-author Beth Allen stick to the basics—just what you need to bake your own show stoppers. The pumpkin mousse, peaches and cream, and strawberry with macaroon crunch cheesecakes, among many others will transport you—into the upper reaches of cheesecake heaven, if not to Brooklyn. There are plenty of photos to inspire and make you drool. (The Taunton Press, hardcover, $22.00)
In this doorstop of a book, Molly O’Neill has captured history, geography, lifeways and recipes that more truly express today’s American population than any cookbook I’ve seen. In just under 900 pages, O’Neill gives us Homa Movagahi’s Persian noodle soup from McClean, Va.; Lisa Lawless’ smoked pheasant mole from Austin, Texas; Aggie Heija Geoghan’s chicken paprikash from Sea Cliff, N.Y.; Adrian Shimada’s raspberry sorbet from Seattle, Wash.; and 596 more.
The recipes represent food from native and immigrant families, fine restaurants to sustenance meals, old dishes to newly invented ones.
Both practical and charming, One Big Table is filled with memorabilia as well as sidebars on the cultural background of the recipes and their cooks. The author spent a decade and journeyed 300,000 miles interviewing cooks and gathering the material for the intriguing essays and recipes from which she extracted her final tome. This is a book that lives on my reading table. (Simon & Schuster, hardcover, $50; Kindle, $37.99)
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
Michael Ruhlman, author and trained chef, has a knack for finding talented allies in the world of food. In this volume, he’s teamed up with master of charcuterie Brian Polcyn to share the ancient art of preserving meat and wasting nothing. Polcyn holds court at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich., where he teaches butchery and charcuterie. He also is chef/owner of Five Lakes Grill in nearby Milford.
Charcuterie is a no-nonsense instruction book on how to salt-cure, dry-cure and smoke, and how to make your own sausages, confits, patés and terrines—then cook them up and serve them with style. The text contains diagrams and well-illustrated methods in black and white. I was surprised that, even in my small apartment, there are ways that I can make my own bacon and cured meats. And I can’t wait to try recipes such as duck, sage and roasted garlic sausage; salmon paté in basil cornmeal crust; and braised sweetbreads. There are plentiful recipes for sauces and condiments (not optional, according to the authors) to enhance the presentation of these classical charcuterie dishes. I look forward to summer and smoke. (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., hardcover, $35)