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Taming the Feast: Ben Ford's Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking Hardcover – May 6, 2014
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Andrew Zimmerman on Taming the Feast by Ben Ford
Photo Credit: The Travel Channel
Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels
Ben Ford’s Taming the Feast has been a long time coming. Ford is a true gem of the culinary world. He is a guy who is not on every TV show and not in every magazine article. He is not a media darling. He has just been quietly going about his business executing phenomenal food. Ford has a very serious point of view when it comes to food and so does this book.
Each of the nine chapters of Taming the Feast focuses on a theatrical and inspirational feast. If there is one thing I have learned from my travels, it is that food brings people together. My best memories all take place around the dinner table. Ford’s book creates a vehicle to help create those memorable moments.
Along with Carolyn Carreño, Ford has put together a blueprint for creating incredible meals. There are so many weekend hobbyists these days who are searching for this exact book. Its approach to cooking and entertaining makes it fun and adventurous.
Taming the Feast is a departure from your run-of-the-mill cookbook. I am not looking for another way to make a Caesar salad. I want to know how to make wood-fired paella and roast a whole pig. In typical Ben Ford fashion, it is way ahead of the curve.
Ford and Carreño did a fantastic job of making each feast accessible. At the top of each chapter is a timeline taking the guesswork of planning a huge meal out of the equation. The step-by-step guide takes the stress and fear out of cooking for a large group of people.
Each recipe is carefully laid out with beautiful photography and illustrations to demonstrate what might otherwise be challenging cooking techniques. The photos and diagrams make it simple to smoke brisket over indirect heat or hog-tie corn on the cob.
Along with each main dish is a plethora of side dishes, desserts and drinks. The menus go together beautifully, but each dish can stand on its own. The string bean and potato salad compliments a burger-and-bratwurst feast nicely, but it is also a compliment-worthy dish to bring to your next potluck.
Ford did not miss any details when writing this book. One of my favorite features is a recipe that accompanies each feast creating a brand-new dish with leftovers. No more worries about what to do with all of the food when the party is over and guests go home.
A true representation of how Ford thinks and feels about food, Taming the Feast delivers a strong message about utilizing all parts of an animal. Ford’s Filling Station in Los Angeles was groundbreaking when it began serving snout-to-tail cuisine. Ford’s belief in the holistic farm system led him to work with local farmers and raise his own whole animals.
When he discovered whole animals do not fit in most ovens, Ford began building his own equipment. Ford is a craftsman at heart, a trait passed down by his grandfather and his father, Harrison Ford, who was a carpenter before his acting career. Now Ford is passing on this do-it-yourself attitude through his book, which includes four DIY projects including building your own roasting box.
With the how-to guides and diagrams, Ford makes building your own cinder block pit easier than building an IKEA bookshelf. But if the thought of building your own cooking equipment sounds too daunting, there is no need to fear.
Each feast is incredibly scalable and perfect for how people entertain today. If you want to create the big feast, have fun this weekend. If you would like to feed four-to-six people, you can find out how here, too.
For every feast there is a tamed feast. If you do not want to build your own clambake barrel, learn how to do a clambake on the grill in your backyard to the same effect. From home cooks to culinary masters, anyone can pick up this book and feel confident in the food they are making.
Ford is a groundbreaker. The first time I saw a seriously devoted, capable, and passionate culinarian take whole hogs and confit them, it was Ben Ford. He turned Culver City from a culinary ghost town to a food destination. And now he has done it again and has broken new ground with Taming the Feast.
This book is a must for the home cook looking for something new. It is a must for the weekend DIYer. It is a must for the serious food geek. It is a must for anyone looking to bring people together around the dinner table. In other words, this book is for you.
"Ben Ford has knocked the ball out of the park with Taming the Feast. It's the book that every real man needs. This ain't about molecular tweezer food. This is a book for the outdoor cooking enthusiast. Ben Ford is so generous with how to information and gutsy delicious recipes meant for large gatherings." (Chef John Besh, Besh Restaurant Group)
“Whether you are feeling adventurous, or have only a half hour to spare, you can find a great recipe in Ben’s first book. All his food has the same mission: treating fresh ingredients with lots of love and serving them with lively party-perfect presentations." (Daniel Boulud, Chef/Owner, The Dinex Group)
“Chef Ben Ford from the American family that defines adventure has created a cookbook that will turn our country favorite the backyard bbq into a safari of delicious flavors for the palate and for the senses. Don't forget your bull whip!” (Chef Art Smith, Bestselling Author, James Beard Award-winner)
“Wonderfully inventive, Ford’s unique approach to his craft is inspirational; his imagination and creativity know no limits. This highly engaging book will make you want to feast!” (Chef Kevin Thornton)
"Ben Ford's new book fires on all cylinders – it demystifies and makes plain how to cook a whole-beast feast. Ben’s clear-cut methodology is simple, fun and exciting. The fragrance of cooking and serving feast and beast exudes from this beautiful cookbook." (Jonathan Waxman)
"I have loved Bens food and have been inspired by it for years, and now he is finally going to share it with the world, along with the ability to cook it for large gatherings. This passionate book is a "must" for anyone who entertains in large groups. The book not only has delicious and fun recipes, it is extremely helpful and unique with its timelines and in constructing these large cooking projects. It's all in the details and he hasn't missed anything here." (Rick Tramonto)
"I have always been a huge fan of Ben's work but recently his style, cooking and organic way of treating ingredients is more infectious and desirable than ever! I just love how he presents each chapter of this book as a full menu, an experience if you will into his life in food that is truly so honest and in the moment. I cant wait to dig into each recipe as I turn every page." (Chef Michelle Bernstein)
"This is a book that shows even the most experienced griller some new methods and techniques. It is a literal feast of information on how to make yourself and a bunch of friends very happy with food. Replete with sketches, diagrams and blueprints, it is a chef's notebook of smart menus and thoughts. Ben is carving into new territory with Taming the Feast." (Chef Hugh Acheson)
"With Taming the Feast, Ben Ford teaches readers how to prepare his delicious recipes for a crowd. This is an epic book that delves into large format feasts, so if you've always wanted to throw the party of the century, go buy this book! Ben's instruction and recipes will make you the master of any outdoor cook-off." (April Bloomfield)
"Ben Ford is a special kind of chef. Quietly cooking way out ahead of the curve for the last decade, his fun and approachable, smart food is now front and center in Taming the Feast. Big flavor has always been a fall back for chefs that don't bring it any other way, but Ben marries technique and flavor in a way that is supremely keyed in to the way we cook at home today. For some chefs that's just book spin. Ben is a chef, father and a husband who happens to be a huge culinary talent as well. Cook, eat and read this book!" (Andrew Zimmern)
"I'm from LA but I moved away for a long time to find myself through cooking. When I moved back, the first thing I searched out was Ford's Filling Station. Ben was at the forefront of moving LA into a sustainable frame of mind in regards to cooking and eating and living, for that matter. Looking through this book I find traces of all of those philosophies; from being resourceful to using the whole animal or whole plant. I only wish I could throw a party like Ben." (Roy Choi, Kogi Truck)
"Taming The Feast is a welcome return to the roots of cooking, and celebrates one of the most pleasurable and rewarding of activities: Gathering around a fire, creating honest, rustic food, and sharing it with friends." (Alice Waters)
"As you will soon discover when you open its pages, this is no ordinary cookbook -- Where have you ever encountered a recipe that starts with “40 pounds ground beef”? Ben Ford thinks big. In this book he shares his highly personalized art of making feasts for many at once, a kind of family-style for the whole neighborhood. Skilled chef, carpenter and performance artist, Ben’s food is rooted in the values of sustainability, the use of live fire and time-tested methods and a generosity of spirit. Taming the Feast is full of lip-smacking side dishes to the central feast and much sound practical information. Most importantly, this book illustrates the fundamental tenet that great food, no matter the cuisine or the theme, is always simple food." (Paul Bertolli, Founder, Fra' Mani Handcrafted Foods)
"Ben Ford's Taming the Feast is a true celebration of what's right in the world of food; friends, family and good old fashioned ingenuity. Ben's exceptional approach to cooking lays the ground work for the party you've always dreamed of." (Chef Paul Kahan)
“Those with an appreciation for large get-togethers will have a field day with Ben Ford’s guide to toothsome feasts in this impressive…collection of epic dinners…Ford’s practical step-by-step instructions and timelines are clear and to the point.” (Publishers Weekly)
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Top customer reviews
Ever want to have an event and not just a get together? This book will walk you through preparing a feast for as few as 8 or as many as 60. Each menu starts with DIY instructions for building your own outdoor cooking equipment, a time line that includes every step to prepare the party and menus that contain both modern flavors and familiar classic tastes.Each menu includes a large scale and small scale party. So if you don't feel like inviting forty people over for dinner the menus are also scaled back to serve 8 to 10. The sides yield about 8 servings and so far I have been able to scale them back to 4 servings for weeknight dinners. The drinks recipes have all been fantastic. Each menu also includes what to do with the leftovers, something I wish more cookbooks would include.
I prepared the Rib Roast from the Sunday roast section for Christmas dinner, the horseradish sauce was the best I have ever made and every one at dinner said it was better than any prime rib they had in a restaurant.
The menus include a whole pig roast, a burgers and brats party, planked wild sturgeon, box roasted spring lamb, wood fired paella, Hill Country ( Texas)) barbeque, a Southland Barrel Clambake, Lakehouse fish fry and Sunday roast.
The DIY projects include instructions for building your own roasting shed, a cinder block pit, a roasting box and a clambake barrel.
This will limit the book's appeal, since not everyone enjoys getting their hands dirty, managing a hot fire, building their own cooking equipment, and turning out food for 50-100 people. Sensibly each chapter or feast includes a section about scaling things down and cooking for a small crowd (as well as recipes for things to do with the leftovers), so anyone who loves outdoor cooking will appreciate the wealth of suggestions here.
The recipes are varied and interesting, but the best part of the book is the wealth of techniques it illustrates: sandwiching a whole pig between two stainless steel racks and hanging it vertically in front of a fire, cooking on a grill, cooking sides of fish on a cedar plank over a cinder block pit, roasting whole lamb in a hot box or "cajun microwave," cooking paella in a pan on the coals, Texas barbecue in an offset smoker, a clambake in a hinged wine barrel (pure genius!), or a fish fry in a massive cauldron. The only thing I can think of that's missing is an outdoor wood-fired oven.
And in the final chapter, he shows you how you can make most of this cooking equipment yourself. I just wish there had been more about setting up for such feasts: what does he use for prep areas, for tables and benches, how does he set the table and serve the food, etc. Hopefully this won't be his last book!
I like how Ben Ford explains in detail how to cook large quantities of meat at a time (whole pig, whole lamb, many briskets), how to build the proper structure to cook them in, and then gives a smaller (tamed) version of each main course that feeds 8-10.
So far i have made the string bean potato salad and the dry rub. Both turned out to be crowd favorites. I plan on cooking the semi boneless leg of lamb and a few of the accompanying sides for an upcoming house warming party and am expecting similar results.
This cook book with be in rotation for years to come and i have already purchased it for two other buddies that are also into cooking over fire.
I have cooked many main and side dishes within the book and all have turned out well. However, I find that there a somewhat of a disconnect between the author and its general audience. Many of the ingredients are very difficult to find (e.g. lemon mosto, green garlic, etc), and no alternatives are suggested. This leaves readers visiting multiple stores in search of rare products.
I still strongly recommend this cookbook, but have deducted one star from my original review.