In Tapas, a collection of 100-plus recipes for Spain's savory small dishes, chef José Andrés writes of journeying during his military service to Cádiz, in southern Spain, where he was "able to see the wonders of frying first hand." The passion that would lead an on-leave soldier to investigate a cooking technique infuses the book, which is something new under the sun. In chapters based on characteristic ingredients, such as fish, rice, and eggs, readers are introduced to authentic yet reproducible tapas of great and flavorful immediacy; these simple dishes, which include the likes of Tomato Toast with Spanish Ham, Pan-Fried Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp, Slow-Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Cabrales Cheese, and Spring Leeks with Mushrooms, are instantly inviting. They'll also fit into a wide range of menu slots, as hors d'oeuvres, brunch and supper fare, or as side dishes. In well-written notes, Andrés provides context and something more--a sense of a living culinary tradition, which he loves, deftly presented to best advantage. Writing, for example, of the poor quality of most stuffed olives, a favorite tapa, he exhorts readers to make their own. "Simple ingredients prepared in a simple way--that's the best way to take your everyday cooking to a higher level," he says. Amen, and an invitation to cook--and understand--wonderful food. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Although Andrés, a protégé of modern Spanish culinary padre Ferran Adria, stresses the importance of "sticking to the basics," each recipe in his debut collection of tapas (small-plate dishes) is stunningly standout. From Lobster with Clementines and Grapefruit in Saffron Oil to Slow-Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Cabrales (a knock-your-socks-off Asturian blue cheese), each dish, matched with a Spanish wine, strikes the right balance of being unusual but not too out there. Recipes are introduced with an anecdote, helpful hints and simple variations, and traditional Spanish dishes that typically take hours to prepare have been updated to accommodate modern cooks' schedules (among them, a Catalonian classic slow-roasted chicken, stewed with dried apricots, hazelnuts and prunes, ready in under 30 minutes). Though Andrés omits desserts (with the exception of flan, courtesy of mamá), he more than makes up for it with entire chapters dedicated to mushrooms, tomatoes and even garlic. Andrés showcases the bounty and vibrancy of Spanish cuisine without alienating readers, explaining through his precise and charming philosophy that "tapas are for eating at home or with friends." 260 color photos. (Nov.)
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