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ISO The Holy Grail of Cookbooks


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Home Cooking 12

ISO The Holy Grail of Cookbooks

lunchbox | Sep 25, 2006 08:09 PM

First a bit of a story:
Last year, I was working as a salesman for a gourmet foods purveyor. About this time in 2005, we participated in a Fancy Foods show. My shop decided to strut its stuff a bit and had me (the former chef) prepare some bison rib-eye that we would be carving at our booth over the course of the day. Our warehouse did not have kitchen facilities, so we went to one of our customer's kitchens- the excellent Callihan Catering in Chicago- to do the butchering and the cooking. Chef Dave, while I was waiting for the 15lbs of bison to reach the oh-so-delectible 130, let me browse his cookbooks.

I was paging through his signed El Buili copy (OMG WOW!!!) when he said, "If you liked that one, you'll appreciate this..." and placed before me the best cookbook I have ever seen.

First of all, it was big- the size of a huge textbook- if I had to guess through the veil of time, maybe 11-12 inches by 10, between 600 and 800 pages. Its design was simple and elegant- white cover w/photo, glossy pages- I would suspect it was published sometime in the last 5 years. The contents were arranged alphabetically by chief ingredient, and each recipe had a photograph of the finished dish. The chef mentioned the book was quite expensive $300+

Each recipe, however, was about 2 pages long- not because they were absurdly complex (they were) or because they were extremely descriptive (they were), or because they were technically difficult (they were)- but because unlike many modern cookbooks, they weren't trying to make the recipes easy. I recall a roast duck recipe that involved a sauce that went through 5 distinct strengthening and reduction processes. There was an asparagus recipe that the prep took 3 hours. It seemed to me like a modern Larousse Gastronomique- the recipes were classic and modern, but the techniques were timeless.

The tragedy: I had to leave the book almost untouched while I prepared the rest of our presentation and never had the chance to get down the bibliographical info. I have since moved on from that job, and don't have a direct way to get ahold of the chef. Does anybody out there in the CHOWsphere have anyidea what this book could be?

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