Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fork In The Road: Book Review

Last night when I decided to make jambalaya with some leftover hot links, I headed straight for Paul Prudhomme's cookbook, Fork In The Road as I always do. Some years back when low-fat was all the rage I purchased the book because I was interested in cooking Louisiana cajun style, something I knew nothing about. Prudhomme was a precursor to the "celebrity chefs" of today, truly larger than life, his restaurants and cooking were renowned then as they are today.

What I didn't expect from the book was that it would teach me not just new recipes such as jambalaya, red beans, and gumbo, but also new techniques. To add complexity to dishes, Prudhomme would add the same ingredient several times, sauteed, braised, even added at the last minute. This was such a revelation to me! Think of a bowl of chili with onions cooked in it, but also raw on top. Two different tastes, textures and flavors. Now imagine using onions, peppers and spices this way. He also was a big proponent of what he called "bronzing" and "caramelizing" meats and vegetables and using browned flour in place of a traditional roux.

I've heard people say if they get one or two good recipes out of a cookbook it is worth the price. I've gotten way more than that out of this book. I don't follow the recipes exactly anymore but I always refer to it when making certain dishes. While the book is long out of print, thanks to the internet you can find used copies very easily and inexpensively. I can't recommend it highly enough.