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The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Resturant Hardcover – September 17, 2002
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Judy Rodgers, chef-owner of San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, has produced a true classic with The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. This book gives the cook and the reader two accessible temptations: to read from cover to cover, and to cook from cover to cover. One of the great voices in food writing today, Judy Rodgers truly stands shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the master food writers who have preceded and influenced her. Her writing is as delicious as the famous Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, as simple and elegant as the Zuni Cafe Caesar Salad.
While firmly anchored in the food sentiments of California, Rodgers explores the honest cuisine généreuse of France, Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily, Catalonia, and Greece. Her chapter "Small Dishes to Start a Meal" runs to 65 pages! Look for her Lentil-Sweet Red Pepper Soup with Cumin and Black Pepper, her Citrus Risotto, and her Tomato Summer Pudding. Be sure to try Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale, and Rabbit with Marsala and Prune-Plums. Chapters are devoted to eggs, starchy dishes, sausage and charcuterie, and the cheese course; you'll also find all the basic chapters one might expect. Throughout, Gerald Asher provides insight into matching wines with foods.
Rodgers's natural instinct is to share and to teach, and the instructional material in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is like a deep-tissue massage, improving any cook's posture and performance. Rodgers's fine book invites both the novice and the experienced cook to delve deep into the heart of real food and real cooking. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
Rodgers, chef-owner of the Zuni Cafe, cooks like a dream and writes like one, too. Both an extended tutorial and an autobiography in recipes, the book opens with a fascinating account of her formative experiences as a 16-year-old in Roanne, France, where she spent a year at a three-star restaurant taking reams of notes and occasionally peeling vegetables. The introduction is followed by a series of brief, thoughtful essays on the practice of cooking. While readers in the market for a few quick supper ideas might greet so much preamble with impatience not until the eighth chapter does she get around to some recipes most will appreciate her insistence on principles like "What to Think About Before You Start" and "Finding Flavor and Balance." In stunning detail, she explains how to salt a cod and cure a rabbit and brine a fowl and stuff a sausage. One would not be surprised to turn a page and find a description of how to slaughter a sheep. The book includes the recipes that have made her reputation, such as the Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, plus other fare from appetizers through dessert like Oxtails Braised in Red Wine and Shrimp Cooked in Romesco with Wilted Spinach. Unlike many chefs who style themselves as creative forces, Rodgers has a deep sense of how, as she puts it, "the simplest dish can recall a community of ideas and people." Rodgers's cookbook embodies that ideal beautifully.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
“Refined Simplicity.” Does that phrase thrill you? I’ve never put the words together that way, but it’s everything I aspire to: getting to the core of whatever and manifesting it clearly and elegantly. It’s Orwell’s “prose like a windowpane,” Wittgenstein’s “Everything that can be said can be said clearly.” So although I had no idea who Judy Rodgers was — I’m not a foodie — I read her Times obituary.
Judy Rodgers, I learned, was major. As a kid, she was an exchange student in France, where she had the great good fortune to live with the Troisgros family, proprietors of the famous three-star restaurant Les Frères Troisgros. At Stanford, she studied art history. And might have done something with that if not for a second Hand of God moment: a meal at Chez Panisse. Soon, although she had no formal training, Alice Waters hired her as a lunch chef. A few restaurants later, she had her own kitchen at San Francisco’s Zuni Café.
Judy Rodgers didn’t do TV. Didn’t build an empire. Didn’t court fame at all, really. She just cooked. In 2003, Zuni Cafe won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in America in 2003. In 2004, she was named Outstanding Chef in America, beating Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, Alfred Portale, and Nobu Matsuhisa. And although it took her a decade, she wrote every word of the 500 recipe book.
That star-bound trajectory is the stuff of legend, but this is the line that grabbed me: "Ms. Rodgers tasted sauces, dressings and combinations until she found exactly what she had in mind. Then she stuck with it. Many preparations stayed on her menu for years."
And with that, I was in love. For this is my grail: one good thing, perfected.
I learned more. Judy Rodgers was pencil-thin. She cooked in a uniform of her own: a sweater, a long skirt. She wore her hair piled on her head, anchored with #2 pencils. She was graceful, a dancer at the stove: “Good cooks have smooth motions. They have economy of movement, no wasted hand work.” Her ego was smaller than a truffle: “I’ve never thought of myself as having invented a single solitary dish. I’m just sort of the thing through which this food gets made.” And, again, she had total focus: “My guideline at this restaurant has always been I want only things here that I would love to have and the way I’d love to have them. If it doesn’t make me happy, then it’s false.”
Among the things she loved were Caesar salad, Bloody Marys, polenta, chocolate pot de crème and hamburger, freshly ground, served on a focaccia bun. But most of all, she was the queen of Roast Chicken. It was what you ordered the first time you went to Zuni. And then? “I have probably been to Zuni at least 25 or 30 times since Rodgers took over the formerly Southwestern restaurant in 1987,” a critic wrote, “and I have failed to order the chicken only twice.
What’s special about Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken? Rodgers only served small, organic, antibiotic-free chickens. (“It has to be small, so you have a high degree of skin-and-fat ratio to the lean muscle, and you can cook it hot and fast. With really big chickens, you don’t have the experience of the crispy skin in every bite.”) She sprinkled the bird with ¾ of a teaspoon of sea salt per pound of chicken and ground tellicherry black pepper. Then — plan ahead, home cooks! — she let the chicken cure for up to three days in the refrigerator. Finally, she cooked the chicken in an unusually hot oven, so it would begin to brown quickly. And about twenty minutes into the roasting process, she flipped the chicken. Complicated? Hardly.
The restaurant survives her. Her cookbook is a classic; every word reads true. How I wish she could read this.
Zuni's Roast Chicken with Bread Salad has become legendary and is included as one of many such dishes in this book. One of the things I enjoy most about the book is the level of detail, not only in the instructions but in the paragraphs that come before. I feel as though all of the lessons she learned are being passed down within each recipe.
The Zuni Caesar Salad recipe, for example, starts out by explaining the popularity of the dish at the Cafe followed by the disclaimer that there is nothing special about the recipe itself, but that the success of the salad lies within the ingredients. She then explains the details so vividly that you are ready to run to the kitchen and make the best Caesar Salad you've ever had. The instructions are longer than what you will find with most Caesar salads, but only because they are written with a level of detail that is normally not found in most cookbooks.
---- From the Caesar recipe:
"Taste the dressing, first by itself and then on a leaf of lettuce, and adjust any of the seasonings to taste. If the romaine is very sweet, the dressing may already taste balanced and excellent - if it is mineraly, extra lemon or garlic may improve the flavor."
---- From a seemingly simple recipe for Grilled Radicchio:
"The leaves will tend to fan out as the radicchio cooks. The wedges will become pliable - but don't fuss with them, or you will compact the steaming inner leaves and crumble the fragile outer ones. Left alone, the outer leaves will grill to a nice slightly charred delicacy, with a sweet, pipe tobacco-y aroma and taste. The protected inner leaves will be warm and tender. The flavor dances from smoky-bacon to grapefruit bitter."
I don't know about you, but that's the sort of thing that makes me want to try every recipe this woman has written!
Rodgers is always mindful of the possibilities within each ingredient and is always reminding the reader of the need to be mindful as well. In doing so, she ensures that each recipe will be a success. Every recipe is a cooking lesson in and of itself, and if I were to cook my way through any cookbook from beginning to end, it would probably be this one.
James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year-IACP Cookbook Award-James Beard Foundation Outstanding Restaurant Award-James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef Award.
If I were to keep only one cookbook, it would be this book. The author, Judy Rodgers put all her cooking knowledge and her heart into this book. I urge anyone who picks up this book to read it from cover to cover first, then select a recipe to try.
Tragically, Ms. Rodgers passed away much too soon. Ms. Rodgers left behind for all of us a most precious gift with her book and I am grateful to her for it.
The recipes are straight forward and most ingredients not difficult to find. Many of her recipes require chicken stock and there are clear instructions how to make this stock in Ms. Rodgers book. Once you've made her stock, you will never buy that junk in a box ever again.