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The Elote Cafe Cookbook Hardcover – September 1, 2016
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About the Author
Jeff Smedstad was originally drawn to the bold, deeply flavorful cooking of southern and interior Mexico. Over time his cuisine has become uniquely his own, constantly evolving through experiment and intuition, incorporating influences ranging from local foraged and organically grown foods to memories of his grandmothers kitchen. Jeff's culinary adventures began while cooking in the Coast Guard, after which he studied at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute then on to study in Oaxaca. For decades he has traveled the back roads, shopped the markets, tasted local fare from upscale to street side, and come to know the people of Mexico. Jeff's passionate, thoughtful and environmentally responsible cooking has been featured on television, in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Toronto Star and many other publications. The Elote Cafe Cookbook has been enjoyed by thousands since 2009. In 2017 Jeff was nominated for Best Chef Southwest by the James Beard Foundation.
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Now, about the cookbook: I give it 5 stars because the food is so delicious, but in truth, as cookbooks go it has a couple of (primarily editing) issues. I've noticed a few recipes where the instructions either need to be clarified or (in at least one case) leave out one or more ingredients that were listed. (Nothing glaring - something like leaving out a deglazing step when it's clear that that's the purpose for the half cup of wine that's included in the ingredients list right after the things that were just sauntered - like that.)
I've made the dishes that we ate at the Café and they were delicious at home too, though we don't have an endless supply of smoked chickens with which to make Elote stock... I've also branched out into a couple of other recipes that we did not try there, and they were similarly big hits with the family. The photography is attractive and appetizing; the instructions overall are clear; the commentary is written with humor and obvious passion for the food.
If I could make any suggestions for the next edition, my primary one would be to include a flavor profile and substitution suggestions for the ingredients that aren't so easily found outside the Southwest - the peppers particularly. I'm lucky to have been able to find, for instance, two out of three of the peppers one recipes required, but one just wasn't available here in the frozen midAtlantic, at least not in the time I was willing to devote to searching for it. So I know that I've changed the character of that recipe, and if I'd been more thorough (or if the cookbook had included suggestions for substitutions), I could have been more careful to substitute a pepper with a similar heat and flavor to the one I couldn't find - but instead I just doubled one of the others. And yes, I know that once you have a recipe perfected, substitutions are the last thing you want to suggest - but if I were marketing a Pennsylvania cookbook to the rest of the country, I'd probably feel a need to give my readers a clue about what might sit in for scrapple. (Not the best example!)