It takes a lot for a cookbook to piss me the f*ck off.
Chef Jamie Bissonnette’s The New Charcuterie Cookbook
managed to do just that.
It seems like such a harmless little thing, in its colorful, paperback, 1lb-and-4.6-oz way (yes, I weighed it out of curiosity).
The forward by Andrew Zimmern is funny and somewhat bromance-ely erotic in a way that matches the badass-sexy-teddy-bear thing Bissonnette has going on. The one-page introduction is rather comforting, with the saw-wielding guy in the photo opposite confessing he was a vegetarian as a teenager. The recipe headings are short and sweet, sharing an anecdote from a wild culinary exploration or a snippet of a dish’s history. The step-by-step photographs are stunning, with final dishes looking both executable and extremely eatable.
Yes, it’s a friendly little thing, this book. But it pisses me off.
Because if I want to make the Habanero and Maple Breakfast Sausages, or the Rabbit and Pork Liverwurst, or learn how to make my own chorizo like every good Portuguese woman should know how to do, I need a meat grinder. If I want to make pig tails or headcheese, I need to find a better butcher. If I want to make cockscombs, I need to find out what the hell they are. And if I want to make duck prosciutto or veal brains piccata, I need to clothe myself in another layer of moxy.
And the thing about this beautiful book is that it makes you think you can do all those things, and helps you realize you really want to.
The New Charcuterie Cookbook, on sale today, attacks these complex recipes for two reasons: first, we should eat these things because they utilize parts of animals we’d often otherwise throw away, and doing so sucks for everyone; second, we should cook those ears and heads and tails and hooves with these recipes because Jamie promises to make those things taste delicious. And, yes, we can trust him in making sure they do.
I interviewed the now-James Beard Award-winning chef when he first opened Toro in New York with his partner, Ken Oringer. As the two have several restaurants up in Boston, I wasn’t quite sure how long they’d stay around. But Jamie’s made himself a presence in New York and plenty have flocked to him, both for his extreme talent with savory things and for the honest passion and dedication that come through at his tables.
This book is no different. Absent of bullshit, it makes things we’d assume to be complicated and rather scary look possible, and insanely delicious. Without preaching for even a second, it reminds us why we should take the time to learn how to utilize more animal parts than breasts and shoulders and thighs. There’s no trace of Brooklyn hipsterism in it, as I’m sure several elitist snarks out there are looking for (I’ve got a thing against people belittling something as “Brooklyn hipster” because it involves curing, aging or making something complicated from scratch… and I’m neither a Brooklynite nor a hipster). And, despite being all about meat and teeming with pictures of the muscly, tattoo-blanketed man making it, there’s no trace of “Men, this book’s for you.” Which is a big bravo in my barbecuing, fish-fileting, meat-carving, nail-polishing book.
Grab it. If only to learn something simple, like how to render schmaltz for the Easiest Chicken Liver Mousse, which I allergy-adapted with permission today over at The Dusty Baker. Grab it if only to use as an introduction to animal parts you’ve been too nervous to order in a restaurant or too sheepish to ask a dining companion about. Or grab it if you’re ready to some serious tools, like that long thing that helps you stuff sausages.
I have a feeling I’ll be buying a meat grinder soon.
THE NEW CHARCUTERIE COOKBOOK
Exceptional Cured Meats to Make and Serve at Home
By Jamie Bissonnette
September 2014 / Page Street Publishing
$21.99 US; Paperback
Ebook also available.