I don’t have a Friday any closer to the 4th July, so thought would use this Friday’s Five to look at some of the great food coming out of the US. It’s too easy to dismiss American cooking as all being about trashy, fast food, but there is so much going on that it is far too bigger generalisation. And, lets face it, sometimes a fabulously cooked burger is just what you need. Like anywhere, and anything, we shouldn’t damn all American cooking on the basis of McDonalds alone!
So, these are my favourites to sum up some of the great stuff I’ve come across on my trips, or have on lists for future trips (very hopefully in some cases).
Ad Hoc at Home: Family-Style Recipes by Thomas Keller – it was so hard to pick just one book by the man behind The French Laundry, but decided to go for something that I could hope to cook from, whilst I worked up to getting a reservation at the restaurant. Lets face it, I’m not going to replicate the restaurant home, and I’m possibly not going to get a reservation. But, a bit like the lottery, someone’s got to get in! I love that this book has a chapter entitled Lifesavers, which sounds fabulous.
How to Feed Friends and Influence People: The Carnegie Deli… A Giant Sandwich, a Little Deli, a Huge Success – trips to New York for me are not complete without one trip at least to the Carnegie. Some may have more film exposure, like Katz’s, some may be cooler but some are one-off, originals and this is my fave. I adore their corned beef hash, but it defeats me everytime! The cheesecake is to die for, and even if I had no idea before ordering what a cheese blintz was, I love them. Sort of cookbook meets business guide meets social history. Oh, and you get a coupon for a free slice of cheesecake!
Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook by Alice Waters – another of those drivers of modern US cuisine, and another of those restaurants still on my to do list. I’ve chosen the book of the cafe, for more informal dining choices, but still retaining her food philosophy. I mean, who wouldn’t want a Meyer Lemon Eclair or Wood Oven Baked Porcini Mushrooms? I think Alice is a truly American revolutionary, and hence why she is so well admired by so many of our top chefs.
The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant by Judy Rogers – two words: spaghetti fries. From that (naughty) moment on it was love at lunch, and somewhere I would head back to on a trip to San Francisco. Of course it’s not the newest, hippest restaurant on the San Francisco block, but I adore it, and I’m sure beloved by many.
Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook – I couldn’t do the US without Martha. I love Martha. I know she did wrong, she did her time, but I still love the life her books convey. I want to hold a clam bake on the beach on 4 July, I want to bake peach cobbler, and I want to have time to run up some pretty bunting with my other hand. Photography is always beautiful in Martha’s books and the recipes are America on a plate to me. Others may come along, but Martha was there first in my heart and no one else cooks and sews and crafts with such style. If only there were more time!
There’s such diversity across the US, that doing it justice in 5 books is really hard. I’ve featured some before, like cooking with the first ladies of Country and Western (some amazing titles in that selection) and could feature all sorts of things like BBQ and baking, raw food and burgers, so expect some more at some point. In the meantime, I think we all need a Long Island Iced Tea, or pink lemonade, and raise a toast to our cousins across the pond.
Great shot of getting ready for the clam bake at the beach, or at least in my imagination, by Laura Padgett over on Flickr.