The Book of Kells, one of the great illuminated manuscripts, sits in the library of Trinity College in Dublin, a new page daily revealed to the public. You could do much the same with Michael Bauer's The Secrets of Success Cookbook
in your kitchen, displaying a new and wonderful signature recipe from a San Francisco restaurant each day for 300 days. Imagine. You would start with Parmesan Budinis with Warm Asparagus and Pea Shoots from Acquerello, learning the secrets of baking a successful custard, and end with an Apple Galette from Zax wherein the secret of success consists of unsalted butter and chilled dough.
As a food and restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, Michael Bauer has had ample opportunity to take a note or two about the kinds of dishes that make one restaurant stand out from another, the so-called signature dish. It would be one thing to cajole Bay Area chefs into sharing their recipes and making certain those commercial recipes actually work in a home kitchen. But Bauer takes it one step farther: He ferrets out the successful technique behind each dish. Who in their right mind would go to all the time and trouble to preserve lemons for a dish like Moroccan Game Hens with Preserved Lemons and Olives as served at Kasbah? Well, it turns out that what normally takes a month can take a week if you freeze the lemons and add salt--so why not give it a try?
Bauer introduces each recipe with detailed notes about the chef and restaurant as well as baseline information about the actual dish. Recipe instructions have been pared down to the essentials. A Secrets of Success sidebar accompanies each recipe. The difficulty comes with page after page after page of deliciousness. Where to start? What to try next? Will you start with the Grand Café recipe for Polenta Soufflé with Mushroom Sauce? Or what about Bradley Ogden's Potato Skins with Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Crème Fraiche from the Lark Creek Inn? Baronda's Mixed Green Salad with Grapefruit and Warm Shrimp certainly looks good. So does the Seared Black Pepper Lavender Fillet of Beef from Café la Haye. The list is 300 recipes deep. One a day would take you through the better part of a year. And what a year that would be. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
The San Francisco Chronicle's longtime restaurant critic gives readers the ultimate tour of the Bay Area restaurant scene in this chatty cookbook, which presents more than 300 recipes from top chefs who divulge the "secrets" behind their signature dishes. Peppered with restaurant and chef trivia, each recipe's preface reads like a mini restaurant review. Avid restaurant-goers and foodies will appreciate Bauer's discriminating palate as he deconstructs his favorite dishes for "breakfast, cocktails and everything in between." For example, for Gabriel Fregoso's (Las Camelias) Tequila Marinated Cornish Hens: "The hens get an explosion of flavor from marinating 24 hours in a mixture of water, ginger, onion, garlic and tequila." Geared specifically to home cooks, these succinct, clearly written recipes reflect San Francisco's diverse influences and tastes, from the culturally nuanced Tamarind Guava Barbecue Spareribs, Thai-Style Fried Quail and Seared Black Pepper Lavender Fillet of Beef to refined American diner standards such as Buttermilk Pancakes, Banana Cream Pie and the Best Hamburger (the secret is to use 18% fat chuck and salt it). For those who enjoy cooking and want to better understand the processAwithout investing a lifetime in the kitchenAthis compendium of culinary Cliffs Notes provides a fine alternative. (Apr.)
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