The cookbook from the sadly departed Chanterelle restaurant is tucked away neatly with my pristine copies of similar cerebral feasts like the French Laundry, Alinea, Michel Bras and Ferran Adria tomes. They're stunning, inspirational and unfathomably far above my cooking level. They feed my eyes and brain, but rarely my mouth.
Staff Meals is the polar opposite of that. A key point of a restaurant "family meal" is that it feeds and fuels a crowd cheaply, so I grab it from from the shelf knowing I'll likely have a good deal of the ingredients in stock, be able to execute and have enough leftovers to feed an army. The brownies, in particular, are a prime example of an easily accessible recipe, with a little bit of chef magic (in this case, black pepper) thrown in to elevate it. There's also bacon in (and on) just about everything.
7. Charleston Receipts - The Junior League of Charleston
- Damage: Otranto Club Punch stains
Perhaps there are people who can manage to make punch neatly. Bless their hearts. Without even sampling as I'm going, it's impossible for me to craft a high-proof punch like this, in the vast quantities that I tend to (for parties - not just personal consumption) without sloshing a little out on the counter. I consider it a gift to the party gods - if those gods happen to have names like Mrs. C. C. Calhoun and Mrs. Thomas A. Huguenin and possess a fondness for scuppernong grapes, apricot brandy and turtle meat.
8. Pie - Angela Boggiano
- Damage: caked-on lard, butter and flour
You can't craft a proper British meat pie without getting a little bit of lard on everything. I grew up reading British kid lit with endless references to sturdy, soul-warming meat pies bringing joy to orphans and ragamuffins. There was no way I wasn't going to try for myself when Angela Boggiano's book showed up on my desk. I've crafted her pork jelly-laden Melton Mowbray pie and rich, raisin-studded, sugar-crusted Eccles cakes, and spent a shocking quantity of free time and psychic energy on mastering her puff pastry technique (to little avail).
None of it's been pretty. Much of it has been delicious. All of it has been smeared across every surface in my kitchen - including this book.