Alton Brown’s latest book is chock full of treats
Alton Brown is well known as a host for popular television cooking shows such as Good Eats, Iron Chef America, Cutthroat Kitchen, and his occasional appearances on the show Mythbusters. He has also published over half a dozen cookbooks during his career, including his latest book, Alton Brown: EveryDayCook, which was published on Sept. 27, 2016.
Shortly after the book’s release, Mr. Brown traveled the country on a book signing tour, and, as it happens, the tour stopped by my local bookstore, Kepler’s Bookstore in Menlo Park, California, over fall break. I decided to go and learn a little bit more about the book so I could write a review of it for “Cooking Made Easy for College Students.”
The first thing that Alton Brown said during the Q & A was extremely important for understanding the context of the book. He stated that he was not a chef. He does not cook professionally, rather he is an everyday home cook, hence the book’s title, EveryDayCook. He continued to say that the recipes in the book are all recipes meant for a home cook that not only loves the art, but also has to juggle his or her schedule with work, family and other extracurricular activities. Another important aspect of the recipes is this many of these recipes were never really formalized, so to speak. He emphasized the fact that the majority of these recipes were at one time written on the inside of the cabinet doors of his kitchen and that over the years he has edited and refined them until their recent publication.
Another notable characteristic of the book is that all of the photos of food were taken with an iPhone from the hardest angle to photograph food: straight from above. He does mention this artistic choice in the beginning of the book, but when he spoke about it at the signing there was a real emphasis on the fact that Mr. Brown wants to let the food speak for itself, as it were, and prove that it is not necessarily the equipment that you have that makes something great, it is the time, skill and passion involved that turns something ordinary into something extraordinary. Now, enough of the technical stuff. What do I think about the book and its contents?
Overall, there are a total of 100 mouthwatering recipes in the book that are arranged brilliantly by mealtime. Alton Brown divided the day into seven categories: Morning, Coffee Break, Noon, Afternoon, Evening, Anytime, and Later. There is a really even balance of traditional recipes, such as Scrambled Eggs, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Fried Chicken, as well as less well known recipes like Breakfast Carbonara (yes, a pasta dish for breakfast), Blackened Catfish Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches, the Roast Broccoli Hero sandwich and the Midnight Mud Cake for 2. All of the recipes have easy to follow instructions, which are always appreciated, and the majority of them do not require any special ingredients or equipment. However, a caveat to this is that when a recipe does call for a specialized piece of equipment, such as a whipped cream siphon, smoker, or a pressure cooker, quality forms of the equipment are fairly expensive.
Of all the recipes detailed in the book, there are four that I cannot wait to try (once there s a break in tests and essays). The Breakfast Carbonara is the first. Initially I was uncertain about the idea of a pasta dish for breakfast, but I am curious how it would work out. The dish is essentially linguine, breakfast sausage and eggs, some simple herbs and a little orange zest. It sounds simple enough, and I hope it tastes as good as it looks.
The Barbeque Pork Butt also highly intrigues me. I like pork because it is so versatile, but the vast majority of the time I make it, it rarely involves barbeque, so I think that this recipe could provide something new and different, which would also provide a lovely challenge.
The Chicken Parmesan Balls are just something that I think are really innovative and come with an entertaining backstory as to how they were created. The recipe just seems like a great alternative to beef meatballs and I don’t think that there is much to go wrong in a seemingly simple recipe. This is also the one recipe that my sister has really expressed an interest in and would like me to try and make these next time I go home.
The Midnight Mud Cake for 2 is the last recipe and it is also the recipe that I will probably attempt first of these four, mostly because it is a “one mug” style recipe which makes it less of a production than most other recipes. Essentially this dessert is a rich, moist and creamy chocolate cake in a mug…so there really isn’t anything not to like about it.
If you do like to cook, I really recommend that you pick up Mr. Brown’s most recent book.
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