103 of 104 people found the following review helpful
Fabulous book for serious cooks. I'm in love with it.,
This review is from: The River Cottage Meat Book (Hardcover)
I've had my eye on this book for a couple of years, but acquiring it meant getting it from the UK. Finally, it's available in an American edition -- complete with American measurements. Most of the text is the same as in the UK (so he's referring to British resources, not the least of which is the availability of grouse and venison) but an afterward adds details for us Yanks.
This is, without a doubt, among the most authoritative cookbooks I have encountered. It's less a collection of recipes than it is the "theory and philosophy of meat," except that description sounds dreadfully dull. And Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is never, never dull. His text is engaging and entertaining as well as educational. He teaches you how to _think_ about cooking meat successfully -- the steps and the scientific reasons behind them -- so that you can cook well without recipes.
Roasting, for example, is a three step process: the half hour sizzle at high heat, the cooking (at 325-350), and the time in which you let the meat rest. This is not a 3-page vague arm wave. It's 19 pages plus pictures, and not a word is pedantic.
The first section of the book -- 200 pages -- is called "Understanding Meat," and it begins with a remarkably thoughtful philosophical examination of the ethics of eating it. Fearnley-Whittingstall is a firm believer in treating animals well, and the health reasons we must do so; as a result, you'll be convinced to buy organic and farm-raised meat rather than mass produced stuff. If you aren't already. Anyway, he has chapters on beef and veal; lamb and mutton; pork and bacon; poultry; game; and offal. Each explains how to shop for the stuff, what the different cuts are, relevant instruction (how to joint a chicken or skin a rabbit -- the latter a necessity if your supplier is the local hunter), and so on. There's more than you'd find in most cookbooks: poultry isn't just chicken, but also turkey, duck, geese, guinea fowl, and quail.
Part Two is about cooking the meat, and chapters are devoted to each method: roasting, slow cooking, fast cooking (such as frying), barbecuing, preserving and processing (curing, sausages, etc.), and "meat thrift," which tells you how to make stock and soup and to use leftovers. Each of those chapters goes into wonderfully exhaustive detail... and then there are the recipes.
I'm sure the recipes are chosen largely to illuminate some part of his instruction, but heck, you could ignore all the rest and just pay attention to the recipes... and the photos, which make me think, "Heck yeah, we need to have a party, so I can serve this 'serves 20 or more' 'Aromatic shoulder of pork Donnie Brasco'!" (a whole shoulder of pork slow-cooked with garlic, five spice powder, chile, and soy sauce). I have my eye on his Oxtail-and-Tongue braise with rich red wine sauce. I'm screwing up my courage to try his deviled kidneys (if anything could convince me, this would be it). And when I'm ready to roast a full roast beef, these are the instructions I'll turn to.
Awesome book. I'm in love. You'll pry it out of my cold, dead hands.
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Initial post: Apr 30, 2015 11:21:05 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 30, 2015 11:22:12 AM PDT
Thank you for this highly informative, insightful, and very helpful (and fun!) review. I truly appreciate the time you took in conveying your thoughts regarding this remarkable book. Your review 'slam-dunked' my decision to purchase this :). Thank you!
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