Monday, April 9, 2012

Cookbook Review: Eleven Madison Park

Okay, we all have them.  Some monstrous coffee table food porn cookbook from some famous 'IT' restaurant.  This is one of those cookbooks.  In this case it is Eleven Madison Park.   Daniel Humm and Will Guidara are the authors but if you read enough of these books, you know that in reality there is a whole bunch of people behind the scenes that make these books tick.

First thing, the photography is gorgeous. Will I ever cook from this book?  No.  There are some notes suggesting that you can, as a home cook, do this things but don't attempt some of them if you do not have the proper equipment.  My immersion circulator is in the shop right now...  Anyways, these techniques will become more common place and I wouldn't be suprised to see circulators and anti-griddles show up some time in your local WalMart.  But for now, some of these recipes are not possible regardless of the prose suggesting otherwise.

So, what use are these books?  Well, the ideas that anyone can get from them is fairly personal, so I will give you what I took away from this book and maybe that will help you figure out if you would be interested.  The main tricks that I would like to try from this book as a concept are things like flavoured beurre blanc, quince and cocao as a flavour combination, gels and using acetate sheets with them, and making savoury and spicy dusts.

I have made beurre blanc and I don't know why I never thought to flavour them but I will start.  The acetate sheets are interesting, I usually use a silpat or a hard plastic surface when making an agar-agar jelly but I may try this.  I made apple and tomato dust a while back and liked how they turned out.  It allowed for a punch of taste without impacting the look of a dish too much or relying on reduction, reduction, reduction.  A good trick when wanting to add a texture or a lot of flavour to a traditionally bland dish like custard.

What really amazes me about this book is the length of work to make dishes looked organic or natural.  Kind of reminds me of the natural look that was advertised by cosmetic companies.  The amount of work to make something look that natural is, well, ...unnatural.

There is a lot of work in this book to explain and show what the restaurant is about.  I enjoyed reading about the conception of the restaurant and the plating of the food was helpful if you wanted to recreate the dishes at home.  There are also sections on a regular day in the life of the restaurant along with a diagram of the restaurant and each of the staff positions.  I feel that I gained some insight into how eleven madison park works.  That is the great conceit of this book and any other books of this ilk. You begin to see how much work is involved and begin to dream that you too could do this, even though you have just seen witnessed what goes into it.  Unfortunately, I already own too many of these books and I will return this one to the library.  If I find myself wistfully dreaming of these dishes then I may have to pony up the money and buy this book.

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