Top positive review
169 people found this helpful
From Oscar Meyer to Galantine de Canard.
on June 14, 2006
Jane Grigson wrote the fundamental overview of charcuterie, and, under her influence, Fergus Henderson shared a handful of incredibly delicious recipes out of the charcuterie tradition. Filling the gap between them, as I see it, is Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie, an excellent, balanced, enthusiastic cookbook that steers home cooks into the fundamentals of meat preparations. The book is encouraging evidence that a significant number of Americans have awakened to the pleasures of well-prepared meat. This isn't a fringe publication: it is a beautifully-designed, well-written, premium production. And it's about time.
This book does something fundamentally right: it completely eschews the Joy of Cooking model of everything-under-one-roof cookbooks. It assumes that the reader has focused interests and is dedicated to food. It acknowledges that the food trades were [and sometimes still are] highly technical, and best performed by specialists. Though we might as well give up the possibility of becoming first-class charcutiers unless we're willing to give up our careers and pursue it full-time, we can find some real satisfaction in a book like this. It presents, in a clear, well-organized, concise format, the wisdom of a great charcutier, explained by a great writer. That wisdom, those years of experience, is evident in the clearest way once you begin using this book: the recipes are easy to follow, well-suited to the home kitchen, and, happily, result in meat products that are better than anything you can buy in an American supermarket. Far better. Even the more daunting preparations, the ones involving aging and cold-smoking, for example, prove to be remarkably accessible and easy. Some will take more space than you or I have in the kitchen, but there are many recipes that produce amazing food with surprisingly little effort. The beef Chicago-style hot dogs are pretty quick once you have everything lined up, and they are so much better than store-bought dogs that you will hardly believe the difference. Some other recipes require more elaborate set-ups, even dedicated smokers and dedicated meat grinders, but there is plenty here that's accessible to the average home cook with the average kitchen. The biggest challenge, as usual, is finding the right cuts of meat to do these recipes justice. Count on making substitutions, and hope that some young person finds this book in time to begin his apprenticeship to the likes of Brian Polcyn, and returns to open shop in your neighborhood. Have the cardiologist over to dinner. Live a little.
If you order this book, be sure to consider Jane Grigson's Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery and Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast, both of which I have reviewed for Amazon.