In Big Small Plates
, Cindy Pawlcyn, chef at more than a dozen restaurants including Mustards Grill in the Napa Valley, offers 100-plus recipes for her signature small dishes, to be served as hors d'oeuvres, starters, or, when combined, as a meal. Strongly influenced by Mexican, South American, and Asian cooking, these include the tempting likes of Asparagus with Shiitake Spring Rolls, Mussels and Clams with Andouille Sausage in Tangerine Broth, Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Rémoulade, and Black Pepper and Garlic Chicken Wings. The book also offers a small selection of sweets, such as Ann's Chocolate Biscuits and Lemon-Buttermilk Pudding Cake with Chantilly Cream and Berries, plus useful tips and menus that help readers match the dishes for various occasions. Readers also learn that any recipe may be increased to serve as a meal centerpiece.
Pawlcyn excels at recipe writing, so readers will have no trouble reproducing the dishes at home; chatty notes also offer comprehensive dish context while providing a sense of Pawlcyn's rather astonishing professional journey that began in 1983 and is still going strong. Her commitment to good food and enjoyment of the cooking process, implicit throughout, should rub off on her readers. With lovely color photos, this is a personal cookbook of the very best and most instructive kind. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
In her newest (after Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook
), Pawlcyn explores her love of appetizers and small dishes, emphasizing foods from Spain, Mexico, and Central and South America and including recipes from the her restaurants, past and present. She breaks down chapters into playful categories: "Sticks, Picks, and with Fingers," for example, focuses on foods meant to be eaten by hand, Pawlcyn's admittedly favorite way to eat. Foods served on toast, tortillas or shells appear under "On a Raft," while "Bowls and Spoons" features soups and stews (such as Mussels and Clams with Andouille Sausage in Tangerine Broth). Throughout, Pawlcyn favors seasonal ingredients, be it a recipe for Grilled Radicchio and Scallions with Black Olives or Crispy Fried Rabbit with Dijon-Chervil Sauce. While some dishes, like Pan Roasted Hazelnuts and Chile Garlic Peanuts, are straightforward, others, such as Salt Cod Cakes with Garlic Aioli, require a bit of work. But Pawlcyn is unapologetic: "When it comes to cooking, the little extra you do makes a huge difference, so sweat the details." But the desserts (Baked Peach Crisps, Oranges and Smashed Cherries) are delightfully simple, and the menu suggestions at the end, categorized by season, will inspire any home cook. (Sept.)
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