There is such a glut of cookbooks on the market that it takes something special or unique to turn my head. It also helps to have sensuous photos and a decent recipe or two. Stanley Tucci's THE TUCCI TABLE has all of this in spades. A beautiful, chatty, unintimidating volume, it features recipes from a trio of cuisines: Italian, American, and, with a nod to his wife, British.
Each recipe has a chatty story, helpful hint, or bit of conversation to accompany it and most have mouthwatering photos. The photography goes well beyond a beautifully displayed picture of the end product to pictures depicting step-by-step tutorials of how to make the dish (very helpful in the case of the sausage rolls), as well as photos of the actor himself, hard at work in the kitchen, accompanied by his lovely wife and children.
For the most part the recipes are clear and concise. A tiny bit of guesswork (or experience) is needed in some cases where it would have been helpful to know how high to have the heat beneath the onions when sautéing, but this is a minor point.
The recipes are laid out as a meal would be served, beginning with soup and salad (I highly recommend the easy, but tasty, Tuscan Tomato Soup), followed by small plates (appetizers), main dishes, pasta, and dessert. Because the Tuccis don't serve many sweets in their young household, desserts in the book are given short shrift, but as there are plenty of “dessert only” cookbooks to turn to if need be, I'm fine with that.
This book has good, solid, doable, delicious recipes presented in an eye-catching way. Every one I tried turned out beautifully and received raves. The book is worth the price alone for the heavenly Carbonnade de Boeuf, the best use of stew meat known to man and easily company worthy.
Other nice aspects of the book include a list of necessary kitchen tools for those beginning to set up a cook's kitchen, as well as a section on making various stocks and sauces. Thank you Stanley and Felicity, well done!
Carbonnade de Boeuf
2-3 tablespoons Flour
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3 pounds Stewing Beef (cut into 2-inch cubes)
4-6 tablespoons Olive Oil or Goose or Pork Fat
1 1/2 pound Onions (2-3 large, thinly sliced)
4 Cloves Garlic (crushed)
1 1/4 pint Dark Beer (preferably Belgian)
2 cups Good Beef Stock
3 tablespoons Raw Cane Sugar (I used 1 T. granulated sugar)
Dash White Wine Vinegar
3 Bay Leaves
Few good sprigs Fresh Thyme
Small bunch Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Season the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the meat in the seasoned flour.
In a heavy-bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil or goose or pork fat. Add the meat in batches, browning it on all sides, adding in some more oil as you go, if necessary.
Remove the beef from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more. Add half the beer, stirring to deglaze the pan and scraping all the bits off the bottom. Return the meat to the pan and add the remaining beer, stock, sugar, vinegar, herbs - which you can tie together into a bouquet garni if you like - and the mustard. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cook for a good 5 minutes, then cover and transfer to the oven to bake for about 3 hours, until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced. Taste the sauce, adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and serve.
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