Food Republic is about more than just cooking tips and killer recipes. That’s why we brought in Brett Fahlgren to talk style. Every week, maybe even more frequently, Brett will chime in with tips about how to make you The Man. First up, Brett will get your bookshelf stocked with 7 essential books about food. These aren’t necessarily new, but they’ve got the type of info that will make you a better cook, host, or maybe, if it’s what you’re after, a hot restaurateur.
Take it away, Brett:
- Jacques Pépin’s Complete Techniques
Why: This book has it all. Before cracking a cookbook and jumping into recipes, you should have a basic knowledge of proper technique.
Highlights: How to properly hold a knife, how to chop an onion (yes there is a smarter way), and how to prepare bone marrow.
The World According To Jacques: “An Apprentice Chef cannot graduate to the stove until he has mastered the basic techniques for correctly chopping, dicing, mincing and slicing vegetables, fruits or meats.”
BRETT’S TIPS: To get you started, pick up this all-around workhorse blade: Kyocera Kyotop Damascus 6” Chef’s Knife. $200. The black ceramic blade performs as good as it looks.
- The Red Cat Cookbook
Why: Comfort food at its best, with beautiful pictures and tasty recipes
Highlights: Chicken, the Red Cat Way (should be everyone’s way): Boned half chicken, fried in a skillet, then baked in the oven and layered over anything.
Baked Fontina with thyme: A simplified version of fondue. Impress your date with this romance-inducing dish.
BRETT’S TIPS: For an afternoon of culture and cuisine if you’re in NYC, stop in the Red Cat restaurant at 227 10th Avenue in Chelsea, then hit a few nearby galleries.
- The Frankie’s Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual
Why: Two guys who look like they belong on Harleys kill it in the kitchen.
Highlights: Meatballs: so much thought has gone into this recipe, including the size—listed as “handball”—and interesting ingredients like pine nuts and raisins, that make these meatballs stand out from the meatball crowd.
Frankies Lemonade: Now that it’s spring, learn this recipe. It works with just about every spirit, in case you were wondering.
BRETT’S TIPS: This book is worth the price alone for the cool-looking calendar graphic that looks more like a map, which shows how talented chefs view the changing seasons.
- The Balthazar Cookbook
Why: Keith McNally. Period.
Highlights: The illusive double-fry technique for french fries that’s easier than it sounds.
A telling foreword written by Robert Hughes that discusses in detail the psychology and genius of McNally’s approach to creating the landmark restaurant. Who else for instance would have made the decision to cover Balthazar’s massive windows on Crosby Street with large antique treated mirrors to “keep the energy focused inward?”
BRETT’S TIPS: Next time you’re in NYC and stop in at Balthazar, sit at the bar and focus on the woodwork and detailing. Two large sculptures of women were commissioned and made to look like antiques, as McNally puts it, “creating history without history.” Also, copies of the cookbook bought at the bar are typically signed by McNally himself.
- The Lobster Roll [And other pleasures of summer by the beach]
Why: Spring is here, summer around the corner. Change out your cookbooks from time to time, not just your heavy suits.
Highlights: All American, summer beach food at its best, including Apple Pie, New Potato Salad with Eggs, Onions and Peppers, and of course, the lobster roll.
The inside of the book jacket features hilarious “reviews” like this gem: “Love Ya!—Mariah Carey.”
BRETT’S TIPS: Well worth the trip, head east from NYC to Long Island and just keep going. After two and a half hours you’ll notice a giant “Lunch” sign on the right and you’ve arrived.
The young bustling summer staff and wide open vibe is more reminiscent of a 1950’s era diner in Maine, and not one of the wealthiest resort towns in the country, Amagansett.
- Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin
Why: With our cultural obsession with food celebrities, Kenny Shopsin is a welcome, albeit very cranky, relief. Shopsin shuns the media and sets firm rules for his small diner in NYC’s Essex Street Market.
Highlights: An often humorous look at the evolution of the famed diner, plus a 12-page reproduction of his unusual menu that features over 900 items.
BRETT’S TIPS: For a closer look at Shopsin’s, check out the documentary I Like Killing Flies, directed by Matt Mahurin.
- The Da Silvano Cookbook
Why: Give the kids a reason to stay home.
Highlights: Fried Zucchini Blossoms, or fiori di zucca fritti.
One of our favorite basic tomato sauces, sugo di pomodoro, beautiful in its simplicity.
Chicken cooked in beer, or pollo alla birra. Step it up on game day, don’t just serve nachos and wings.
BRETT’S TIPS: It’s all about the ingredients. Here are three top purveyors that supply Da Silvano:
Butcher: Ottomanelli & Sons. Arguably the best butcher in NYC.
Fresh cut pasta: Raffetto’s. Step into history in this classic little shop. A handful of beautiful, fresh cut pasta will run you $2. Once you have it, dry boxed pasta never tastes the same.
Bread: Sullivan Street Bakery. That bread you can’t stop eating? It comes from the Sullivan Street Bakery.