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Caution: Title is extremely deceptive! Very few pork recipes here!
on June 12, 2012
You would think that a cook book titled "A Girl and Her Pig", together with a cover picture of a beautiful, pig carcass worn proudly around the neck of the book's author, would imply that the book would provide plenty of information on handling, choosing and preparing--what else?--PORK! Totally, terribly, WRONG thinking!
I bought the book before the "Look Inside" feature was enabled. What a shock I received when I saw that there were only a few pork recipes in the entire book: Cabbage and Bacon, Sausage-Stuffed Onions, Cassoulet, hand-made Simple Sausage, Fried Pig's Ear Salad and a Suckling Pig. There are several recipes that use bacon, ham, pancetta or prosciutto as flavoring agents. Oh, and the master chicken broth recipes contains pig feet. That's it! I feel I've been duped! Had! The title of the book and what is implied by the cover are totally deceptive. I'm very disappointed.
I was so angry about being deceived that I really felt like giving this book a one-star rating, but I sure didn't want to get mixed in with those reviewers who are ranting and raving about killing and eating swine. Because I do love pork, and I look for cook books that give me advice and hints on how to deal with all parts of the pig. (Hey, I try to be well-rounded--I don't only pursue pork recipes....You can check my Profile Page to confirm.)
So, I gave myself some time (a month) to settle down and try some of these recipes. I suggest that you fully read the information currently provided on the product page: It tells it exactly as it is. The "Look Inside" feature will also clue you in to the exact recipes that are included in this book. There are stories scattered in with the recipes, but don't look for pig info in those stories--because it's not there either!
You can keep on reading the rest of review, but I'll sum it up here: I think most of these recipes are not suited for weeknight meals--they need too much TLC and too much prep work. I think the recipes are slanted towards ingredients available around New York City and the Northeast. There is also a British flair to many of the recipes, not necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer Delia Smith's style. Many of the recipes here are from the author's childhood--and she's just tweaked them. I see this as a half-hearted effort by one more big city star restaurant chef. My rating is hovering between two and three stars. I've swayed towards three stars because of an octopus recipe and one for a roasted lamb head: Those two recipes are unusual, unique, quirky and tasty--something to experiment with over a leisurely weekend.
On average the recipes I've tried are not bad. They are not complicated and the author does provide adequate instructions. But you will be spending a lot of time in the kitchen: There's a succotash recipes that will cause you to use three pans before you're done, for instance. You will be blanching and peeling tomatoes and grinding meat and suet.
You'll be looking for guinea fowl, cipollini onions and figs for one recipe--not all that difficult to find, but in my area the onions and figs are not in season at the same time There's a recipe for veal breast and one for a whole veal shank (neither to be found easily outside of dairy country)....So, another observation that I've made is that these recipes are better suited for cooks along the Northeast Coast--after all, the author's restaurants are in New York. Because of the ingredient lists, extensive prep work and clean up work, it is also apparent that these recipes had their beginnings in restaurants.
Some of the recipes are so basic, that I feel they are included just to take up space in the book: Chard with olive oil, baked eggs with anchovies, rib eye steak, lamb chops, fried veggies with a corn starch batter, just to name a few.
A few words on the pictures: Yes, there are plenty, but they are not spectacular in any way. Plus, I'm getting tired of looking at cook book pictures with a very limited depth of field. Lately, I've seen quite a few like this. I wonder if it's a new trend. If so, I don't care for it.
I've never been to the author's restaurants, so I'm not swayed by how good everything tastes in her establishments or how impressive this author's rise to fame is, or how great her personality is. I'm rating this book strictly on its content--exactly what a cook book should be rated on.