What kind of food would a French-trained Manhattan chef, born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, produce? The unique food of Aquavit, the Scandinavian restaurant whose refined, contemporary cooking Marcus Samuelsson presents in his eponymous debut cookbook. Samulesson's cuisine reflects the Swedish love of seafood, game, and pickled and preserved dishes, enlivened by Indian spices (brought to Sweden in the 17th century), plus other approaches. Thus Aquavit offers reborn Scandinavian favorites like Gravlax with Mustard Sauce and Swedish Roast Chicken with Spiced Apple Rice plus delights like Tandoori-Smoked Salmon with Goat Cheese Parfait, Hot-Smoked Char with Lemon Broth, and Glazed Salmon with Wasabi Sabayon. Though the book includes among its 150-plus recipes fare that's definitely friendly to the home cook--like Barbecued Boneless "Ribs" (made with boneless pork shoulder) and Slow Roasted Turkey Wings--this is fundamentally a chef's collection, and will probably be pored through more readily than cooked from. Nonetheless, for readers interested in the food of singular talent, presented in an oversized format as lovely as the cooking itself, the Aquavit is essential.
Chapters cover the basic menu stops, including soups, salads and sides, plus the likes of Steamed Crab Rolls from "Bites, Snacks and Little Plates"; Blueberry Bread from "Crackers and Breads"; and Lamb Sausage Wrap from "Sandwiches." Chapters on dessert offer such treats as Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Whipped Cream and Chocolate "Blini"; and a drinks section includes the unusual and very palatable likes of Lemon, Pepper, and Dill Aquavit and Yellow Mary Mix, a yellow-tomato bloody mary descendant. Illustrated with ravishing color photos that reiterate the sleek pleasures of the food, Aquavit is as special as its innovative and very worldly author. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
When he became executive chef at New York City's swank Aquavit at the tender age of 24, Samuelsson began educating Americans about his native Swedish cuisine, but he also received an education in return. And it's that exchange that elevates this book beyond traditional Swedish cooking to an expression of one chef's unique viewpoint. There are certainly traditional Swedish dishes represented, such as Gravlax with Mustard Sauce, Swedish Meatballs, and Prune-Stuffed Pork Roast, but they stand side-by-side with successful experiments like Pickled Herring Sushi-Style, with slices of herring served on tiny mashed potato logs that resemble rice, and Warm Beef Carpaccio in Mushroom Tea, inspired by a trip to Japan. Every cross-cultural gambit, from a Tuna Burger with Cabbage Tzatziki to a Gravlax Club Sandwich with guacamole, sounds fabulous (with photos by Shimon & Tammar, which are as beautifully clear and crisp as the recipes). Samuelsson unabashedly confesses to a fascination with "junk food culture" that dates back to a time before he knew what the words meant and results in wonderful finger foods such as Crispy Potatoes dredged in corn flakes and panko bread crumbs and fried twice. Desserts exhibit the same combination of adherence to tradition and thoughtful experimentation and range from Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Whipped Cream to Black Pepper Cheesecake with blanched peppercorns. Samuelsson is one of our great chefs, and a warm-hearted and generous writer to boot.
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