Alfred Portale is one of our foremost chefs. His cooking at Manhattan's Gotham Bar and Grill is widely acclaimed for its refined yet down-to-earth deliciousness. "When it comes to cooking," Portale says, "there are 12 seasons," a truth his 12 Seasons Cookbook explores in bountiful detail. Reflecting that each month embodies its own seasonal and psychological moment, and therefore makes its own demands in the kitchen, he presents more than 100 recipes matched to the culinary calendar. Though many of these require a cooking workout, a sufficient number are simple enough for most cooks to try when the mood strikes.
Portale characterizes the months. November means Thanksgiving and December Christmas, and for these he provides recipes like Pumpkin and Sweet Garlic Custards and Lamb Chops and Truffled Mashed Potatoes. The depths of February require a little "culinary sunshine" in the form of Lemon Risotto with Spot Prawns, among other dishes, while May is "the big bang of the culinary year," a rebirth celebrated with dishes including Grilled Soft-Shell Crabs with Asparagus, New Potatoes, and a Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette. July is "birthdays and barbecues"--Montauk Chowder salutes this height of summer--while September signals a return to school and work, demanding "recipes for busy times" such as Orichette with Chicken, Swiss Chard, and Reggiano Parmigiano. A wide range of dessert recipes, such as Coconut Panna Cotta, are also included. Throughout, Portale offers "flavor building" ideas for dressing up recipes, "thinking ahead" notes for staggering preparation, and dish variation suggestions. With 150 illustrations, thematic menus, what-to-drink advice, and a section on basics like stocks, the book presents a culinary calendar that works for year-round dining enjoyment. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Three years after his IACP Julia Child Award-winning Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, the influential New York chef offers a winning, personal take on seasonal cooking from a Northeastern perspective. Mirroring his restaurant menu's monthly changes, Portale presents recipes that pay close heed to what's fresh throughout the year as well as bring together bold flavors in unexpected ways, as in Seared Foie Gras with Poached Quince, Tangerine and Pomegranate Juice. While this restaurant cuisine can intimidate - many recipes require multiple building blocks - it is not beyond the reach of enthusiastic cooks. The directions are clearly presented, even for such challenging fare as Soupe de Poisson and Trout Wrapped in Bacon with Braised Escarole, Green Lentils, Sage and Sherry Vinaigrette. In addition, many recipes are simple, yet sublimely accented, such as Grilled Chicken Marinated in Cumin, Lemon and Garlic, Cauliflower Vichyssoise and Mango Sorbet. In addition, Portale indicates which components can be prepared ahead of time. Many steps involved in Brandade with Radish, Red Onion and Olive Salad, for example, can be completed well in advance of the final baking. Then there are such uncomplicated savories as Bruschetta of Cherry Tomatoes, Fava Beans and Pecorino Toscano; and Prosciutto, Pear, Arugula and Honey Mustard Sandwich. Expectedly, luxury is celebrated lustily with frequent appearances by lobsters, caviar and truffles, and there's a cameo role of an expensive condiment in Bosc Pear Carpaccio with Microgreens, Pecorino Romano and 25-Year-Old Balsamico Tradizionale. Portale's upscale inspiration is alluring throughout.
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