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Customer Review

33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really far more than recipes, September 14, 2002
This review is from: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Resturant (Hardcover)
This is one of the best cookbooks in my prodigious collection. It is so so true that she goes much further than the recipes and describes the how's and why's of what she is doing. Her writing has confirmed many of my own experiences I never found described elsewhere and has also taught me completely new twists on such fundamentals as making stock and dicing onions.
This is the woman who accidentally ended up living with the Troisgros brothers in France as a teenager and then ended up being the lunch chef at Chez Panisse instead of going to grad school. She was also a Stanford student. So you have genius and an unmatchable pedigree for California cuisine. That recipe cooks up a stellar cookbook...the surprise would be if it didn't.
Every preparation is paired with a specific wine and there is a fairly extensive section on cheese pairings. I mean, she's actually sharing the details here...including the crown jewel recipes of her franchise.
Although I live only two miles away I have never found occasion to go to her restaurant though I've always wanted to. I will go a few times now to see what the master's renditions of these remarkable plates come out like. You see, you share the recipes and everyone flocks to your restaurant. Why keep your skill a secret?
And I just ran and salted half of what I've got in the fridge!
OK, after a few months, an update:
I've been trying the pre-salting meat approach regularly, and pushing it. The results have been quite good, but there have been times when things have come out too salty. However, pushing it, and being forced to throw out some stuff, I have come up with the following safety guidelines so far.
I believe Ms. Rodgers is working with extremely fresh product in ideal circumstances, which most of us aren't able to duplicate in our supermarkets. Therefore her practices which she might find safe will not always be safe for us. While salt does act as a preservative for meat, in the small quantities used here (e.g. 3/4 tsp per pound) it's not enough to extend the life of the meat particularly long.
My rules of thumb for the most time you can salt, refrigerated (and after rinsing poultry and seafood thoroughly), the best consumer meat in San Francisco follow. If I was shopping at an average place, I wouldn't risk any delay in cooking at all.
Beef, Pork: 48 hours
Poultry, lamb: 24 hours
Seafood: 6 hours tops, less better
Note these probably aren't much different than you would have done prior.
Furthermore, she argues that you must let meat come to room temperature before cooking. For her parameters, this might work well, but I feel it is an unnecessary risk even with the "protection" of the salt. You can lengthen cooking with lower temperature to get the inside of a roast done as well if it's thick. So 15 mins tops at room temp.
Don't abandon common sense, or any other sense, when cooking. Trust your nose and eyes. The salt isn't a miracle worker. The times above are enough to let it do what it needs to to achieve the effect she wants I believe.
The recipes have been utterly fantastic however. I still strongly recommend the cookbook. It is unquestionably one of the best. I also strongly recommend, as I believe would she, that you take everything in it, ahem, with a little grain of salt.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 8, 2014, 11:22:10 PM PDT
sophocles says:
Personally I wouldn't worry about letting meats come to room temperature. It's particularly hard to sauté properly if the inside is cold.
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