Last night on one of the current crop of cooking reality shows, Bravo's Top Chef, the contestants were divided into two teams. Both were charged with coming up with a restaurant concept. One chose cutting edge Spanish cuisine and the other--updated home style American cooking. Even if you didn't catch that episode, you probably won't be surprised to learn that the American concept won out in customer satisfaction. Comfort and familiarity resonates with American diners.
Keeping that in mind, it's no wonder that there seems to be a new American cookbook being published every other day. Not that that's a bad thing. For the most part they each have their merits, and like true Americans, they offer up unique twists and individual contributions. One of the latest in this genre is David Burke's New American Classics. Even the format of this book is unique. Each recipe is presented in a classic version, a contemporary treatment and a second day option. An example? Classic--Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Mousse and Corn Blini. Contemporary--Pastrami Salmon and Smoked Salmon with Potato Pancakes, Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette, and Apple Salad. Second day dish--Smoked Salmon Lollipops. Some of the innovations are really out there--like Meatloaf Bundt Cake (made with croissant dough) but I bet they taste great. If you'd like to check out a sample of a set of recipes, you can see his trio of doughnut recipes here.
The notes with each recipe serve as introductions, telling stories, like the story behind Cobb salad, and explaining unusual techniques like poaching a rack of lamb. Not a comprehensive cookbook, it provides insight as to how a chef approaches dishes and ingredients. If you are already a fan of David Burke's cooking or if you're looking for new takes on basics like Caesar salad, roast chicken, meatloaf and cheesecake this would make a nice addition to your cookbook collection.