Reviewing the sophisticated and elegant recipes in this beautifully photographed volume show just how far Eleven Madison Park has come in the years since its inception as a "mere" upscale bistro, an evolution that is succinctly recounted in the accompanying text.
One of the most obvious truths that the reader will discover is that these dishes are uniformly beyond the amateur cook who will lack the ingredients, time and talent to prepare them. And anything one creates at home is unlikely to even remotely approach the professional perfection of the plates pictured here. (Though, if the truth be told, some of the arrangements are so frivolous as to appear almost ridiculous.)
However, a recipe is mostly an idea, amenable to any level of interpretation. In that spirit, it would be a very dull mind indeed that did not find much culinary inspiration from this work, even if only a desire to visit the restaurant. On that basis, I recommend it without reservation.
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I have worked in restaurants before and love the creative process that culinary arts brings to the table (pun intended). This cookbook has great recipes and amazing images, with narrative adequately juxtaposed in between "seasons". The one thing I will say (and the reason for my four star rating) is that the recipes call for generally expensive equipment. Daniel and Will do preface this in the book and say that not every part of a dish can be easily made at home, but as someone who has cooked numerous times from the Alinea book I had thought things would be a little easier. I am not disappointed in the book at all, just in the fact that I cannot make mozzarella ice-cream due to my lack of a Pacojet.
I will come out and say straight up that Eleven Madison Park cookbook is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. The book itself is laid-out in an artful but logical and easy-to-read format. Special mention should go to the "back-of-the-book" recipes, which are organized into sections such as [fluid] gels, purees, ice creams, jus, butter, etc. I have never seen a high-end restaurant cookbook with such a vast section of component recipes. It goes without saying that the food photography is world-class and I have yet to see any cookbook with better photography.
The recipes are obviously the heart of the book, and they will not dissapoint. This book features a collection of complex dishes, organized by season. Each dish generally features one or two star ingredients, along with a multitude of component recipes that serve to highlight that ingredient in very unique flavor combinations. For example, my favorite dish I've cooked so far out of this book was "Pork Belly with Mint, Peas, and Lettuce." Other combinations are even more inventive, such as "Foi gras terrine with plums and bitter almond."
A word of warning: these recipes are not for the novice home cook. Many of the recipes call out for specialized equipment such as dehydrators, sous vide equipment, professional blenders, and liquid nitrogen. I do applaud the authors for attempting to make the recipes *slightly* more accessible to home cooks by offering alternative preparation techniques when available. Most of the sous vide recipes also offer an oven-roasted alternative preparation. Similarly, many of the liquid nitrogen recipes (such as "almond milk snow" and "green apple snow") also offer options to prepare using a standard freezer.
I did take off one star for the use of volumetric measurements, which is a bit perplexing. It is pretty much the de-facto standard to use weight measurements in advanced cooking, but Humm has chosen to use volumetric measurements (cups) instead - which makes executing the recipes less precise. He still provides weight measurements (in grams) for some ingredients that require the extra precision, such as modernist ingredients (agar agar, xantham gum, etc). It is also worth mentioning that the recipes seem to be a bit salt-heavy across the board. I don't know if I'm just a bad cook, but I have more-or-less used half the amount of salt the recipes call for to achieve a reasonable saltiness.
Make no mistake about it - these recipes will take a lot of time to prepare (I would estimate between 3 and 8 hours per recipe) and will often call for hard-to-source ingredients (unless you don't mind going online). As such, this book is probably only appropriate for adventurous home cooks and restaurateurs. But for those who are interested in this sort of thing, it's the best offering this side of the Modernist Cuisine.
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I purchased this book as a gift for my daughter. It was recommended by a chef on his blog so thought it would suit her. She is passionate about food and restaurants. I couldn't have picked a better present!! just waiting for some samples now!!
Undoubtedly a masterpiece from one of the most creative upcoming chefs today. Daniel has perfectly captured the opportunities offered by America and New York in particular and will go a long way - possibly down the route of a little more simplicity which usually goes along with a little maturity. Now that he has shown the world the extreme sophistication he has achieved, the time will no doubt come to focus a little more on the simplicity of the raw product vs. the fireworks of appearance.
That answer is not my answer but the answer the authors give themselves. And it is definitely not a complaint on my part either: it is a very accurate appraisal of a beautiful book written with the kind of attention that goes into creating innovative epicurean delights. I heard about Eleven Madison Park through the New York Times review. I would love to go there for dinner but have not gotten to New York since reading about them. So my wife got me this cookbook for my birthday.
This book is about restaurant food -- high end restaurant food. The kind of food that is prepared with the help of a sous chef and specifically the kind of food that is prepared in a kitchen that uses all kinds of delicious house made ingredients (basil oil, lemon oil, crumbles, fresh mayonaise etc.) to create depth in the recipes. The recipes have not been streamlined to create "gourmet food in thirty minutes". Yes that does limit the utility of the book. But if it were not this way it would not do justice to food that most of us only dream of eating.
I have only made a few things from this book -- mostly salads and granolas (since we are vegetarians, many of the meat dishes will be left aside). Even a simple looking salad can create challenges (if you don't have the lemon oil made in advance). But, as the authors promise, if you do take the time to create these dishes, you will be rewarded. We have yet to have a dish from this book that was not stupendous.
I am using four stars to alert people that this is really not a home cookbook. If I were rating just the food, I would petition for the addition of a sixth star.
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