Monday, December 8, 2014

Tyler Florence: Inside the Test Kitchen

Inside the Test Kitchen: 120 New Recipes Perfected by Tyler Florence

I hope to love every book that I have the chance to review, but in all honesty the new Tyler Florence cookbook isn't for me.  I can appreciate the time and effort that went into the exploration for the ideas and desire to perfect these recipes and I found the notebook-like binding and "handwritten" notes with scratched out letters and words kind of cool.  Upon opening it and seeing the "This book belongs to" page I laughed and thought I would be seeing a lot of quirky and fun bits about how the "120 perfected dishes" the cover mentions would burst into life in my home kitchen, but page after page, the same thought popped into my head over and over: "Ain't nobody got time for that".

There are "no stir" portions of a faster risotto recipe that he suggests you will probably want to stir.  There are hamburger buns that you can cook on the griddle right alongside your burger as long as you have 3 appropriately tall ring molds and 6 carbon dioxide chargers for your specialized whipped cream siphon gun (which are not the same chargers that come with the gun).  There are French fries that are absolute perfection as long as you simmer them in a vinegar solution, lightly fry them, cool them, freeze them and fry them again.  There are "deviled eggs" lovingly piped into small spears of Romaine with crumbled egg whites and anchovy "breadcrumbs" on top.  I don't know anyone who cooks this way.  If I tried to I have a great fear whatever I made would become the next "nailed it!" meme on Facebook.

I don't think I am difficult to please when it comes to cookbooks.  I like to see interesting recipes that are able to be reproduced without a lot of drama.  I like clear explanations for techniques I don't understand.  Although the recipes seem heavy on the dramatics and the "I couldn't do this in a million years - oh look, how cute his kid can do it - I am a loser of epic proportions" feels, they do have clear explanations.  There may be 24 steps to make French fries, but they are clear.

 Another thing I want to see in a cookbook are beautiful photographs that make me hungry for all of the food and inspire me to get in the kitchen and start whipping it up.  It is twenty minutes after nine and I have yet to eat anything resembling dinner.  I have zero appetite and I'm reviewing a cookbook.  Why?  Simply put: the photos look icky.

The pictures of the food in this book are heavily filtered and run through what the author refers to as "the $1.99 photo toaster app that made them look like a 1977 issue of GOURMET".  I don't get it.  It made everything take on unappealing grey, brown an mustard tones.  It made deliciously stringy cheese look like a surprise my Chihuahua left me.  Do you want to eat any of the burnt waffles, pancakes or grainy cookies in the photo above?  Really?  It may just be me, but the best way to sell me on the deliciousness of a hamburger mixture is not to display one of the test kitchen's fails.

If I can get over the photography and the pages of instructions there are one or two recipes in this book I'd try to tackle.  I don't have the ingredients to make them with on hand since xanthan gum, soda water, dried porcini mushrooms and extra fine corn flour aren't staples in my kitchen.  They scare me with their complexity, but if I cover up the photos the polenta gnocchi in Bolognese and fronion rings (which are onions that have been battered in frozen french fries) sound a lot better than they look.  Will I nail them?  Probably not.  But at least my friends can have fun laughing at my foibles.

This book was kindly provided to me by the good folks at Blogging for Books for review purposes.  Thank you for providing a wide range of book choices that make doing these reviews a joy.

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