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Rocco's Real Life Recipes: Fast Flavor for Everyday Paperback – Bargain Price, November 6, 2007
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Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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About the Author
As an 11-year-old boy, Rocco DiSpirito began helping his mother, Nicolina, in her own kitchen-an experience that sparked his intense interest in food and cooking. Now one of today's most exciting chefs followed by millions, the Jamaica, Queens, native entered the Culinary Institute of America when he was 16. He graduated in 1986 and studied abroad at Jardin de Cygne in France with Dominique Cecillon and Gray Kunz. In 1990, DiSpirito earned a B.S. in business from Boston University. He worked at Adrienne in New York and as Chef de Partie at Aujourd'hui in Boston. DiSpirito then joined Lespinasse's opening team. In 1997, DiSpirito opened Union Pacific in New York City's Gramercy Park as chef and owner. Food & Wine named him its Best New Chef in 1999, and the following year, Gourmet magazine called him America's Most Exciting Young Chef. DiSpirito opened Rocco's 22nd Street in the summer of 2003, while cameras for NBC's The Restaurant watched and took notes. Later that summer more than 8 million viewers a week tuned in to see the ups and downs of DiSpirito's family-inspired eatery. The second installment of the series aired in spring 2004.
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Top customer reviews
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The brand-whoring was just obscene. Minute rice? Nobody needs a recipe for minute rice. One recipe in the book is literally just pairing a grilled pork chop with a Bertolli frozen pasta and shrimp dinner. Really? REALLY?! A frozen meal?! What kind of recipe book tells you to go out and buy an entire meal already made? >__<
If you have absolutely NO idea whatsoever what you're doing in a kitchen, and you are okay with blatant commercial advertising for products you don't need in your recipes, by all means, have a go.
If you have two brain-cells to rub together and are skilled a little beyond frozen dinners, minute rice and instant mashed potatoes, I'd give this one a miss.
Two stars for being a respected professional chef and still having the cajones to publish this piece of crap.
I usually sense a superior cookbook as I read the introduction. Rocco, unfortunately, starts out with a section describing an elaborate pantry. It is not a poor list. None of these lists are, if you happen to cook and bake at least four times a week for three or four people. If you do not cook regularly, or cook to a relatively limited palate, many of the items on Rocco's list will expire or spoil before you get to use them in a recipe. The very best `recipe' for pantry stocking came from Madhur Jaffrey, who said (I'm paraphrasing) `...find the recipes you like to make on a regular basis, and stock up on the staples needed by those recipes...'. My experience is that buying `on speculation' that someday I'll use curry paste or miso paste or mirin or instant polenta or roasted red peppers or `assorted cheeses' almost invariably leads to wasting my money.
Then we come to a set of ten (10) photographic tutorials on basic techniques, and my interest perks up, especially when I see a very nice piece of advice on how to heat oil. I consider learning about this little culinary skill to be one of the most important cooking tips I have ever learned. This section will never replace books on culinary techniques by Pepin or James Peterson, but it certainly adds value to this inexpensive book.
Then, we get to the recipes, and I now appreciate the special virtues of this book. The primary value is not in the fact that the recipes are fast. Rachael Ray has been doing that for years, and she is probably still the best in this genre. As in his earlier book, `Rocco's 5 Minute Flavor', you can probably only achieve Rocco's time estimates if you happen to be a professional chef and have made the recipe at several times already.
There are two aspects of the recipes which make this book a genuine winner. The first is that Rocco has organized his recipes in exactly the way in which you are likely to proceed when you are trying to pick a dish for the evening. Almost all chapters are organized around our favorite types of protein, beginning with beef, followed by poultry, pork, lamb, salmon, tuna, and shellfish. Perfect! The second is that each recipe is laid out neatly with one recipe per page, concise directions, a very well-written list of ingredients, a snappy head note, and, best of all, a list of tools and ingredients by type. This last feature is a total blessing for the casual cook who can never remember the difference between a skillet, a saucepan, a sauté pan, and a Dutch oven. This marginal guide actually pictures exactly the type of cookware needed. This goes even further than simply telling us to use a sauté, since most average American kitchens probably don't even have a true sauté pan (that round, shallow, straight-sided pan with a lid). This book may very possibly talk you into buying a decent nonstick sauté pan.
I compare this book favorably to Ted Allen's excellent `The Food You Want to Eat', who also did a fine job of presenting recipes we really like, with just the right amount of detailed instruction for the `necessary' cook. But Rocco has managed to do improve on Ted just a bit, by presenting simple recipes, but with surprising flavors, as when he combines sour cherries with a mustard glaze on his minute steak or marinades skirt steak with cinnamon or marinades flank steak with marmalade. Another very nice thing about most of Rocco's recipes is that they combine a protein with a vegetable side, and both (if you have the necessary knife skills and the like) can often be done well within an hour, even if Rocco estimates them at 15 or 30 minutes. Still another thing I found endearing about the book is the way in which a lot of culinary advice is passed on. We have neither the dry lessons of the professional culinary teacher nor the flip and hip language of Ms. RR. Rocco states them in a way that the lesson stays with you.
Rocco finishes with two flourishes. That is, with two especially useful chapters which also manage to break a few cookbook molds. The short chapter on wine is by far the best I've seen in a general cookbook. It reverses the usual approach of giving wine suggestions for each dish. Rather, it lists all Rocco's favorite wines, and the dishes they best complement. My only regret is that Rocco left off my favorite Riesling wines. The last recipes in the `Reserve' chapter are selected for those times when you want to do some serious entertaining and only a roast leg of lamb, roast duck, stuffed pork loin, or sizeable meatloaf will fill the bill. All these recipes take an hour or more, but only because roasting five pounds or more of protein simply cannot be done at less than about 15 minutes per pound.
My only concern is that Rocco does a lot of brand promotion in his ingredients, especially for Bertolli olive oil. About a dozen other brand name products are mentioned. Some, such as prepared potato products, I would be very reluctant to use. One wonders how much money Rocco is getting from companies such as Minute Rice or Sun-Maid for mentioning their products.