Restaurant cookbooks are a tricky thing. On one hand, a lot of food cooked in restaurants is simply more than a home cook can to tackle: more ingredients, more technique, more time, more expense. And that's one of the reasons we go to restaurants, right? So that they will cook all this amazing stuff for us so we don't have to. But on the other hand, restaurant food is very inspiring and often, if we're willing to put in a little time and effort, it's not so out of our reach. There's a great deal of satisfaction when we achieve something beyond our comfort zone. Which is why restaurant cookbooks like Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird just might be worth checking out.
• Who wrote it: Gabriel Rucker, Meredith Erickson, and Lauren and Andrew Fortgang
• Who published it: 10 Speed Press
• Number of recipes: 125
• Recipes for right now: Radicchio, Pears, Hazelnuts, Blue-Cheese Dressing; Tomatoes. Plums, Watercress; Simple Roasted Pigeon; Chicken-Fried Rabbit, Wild Mushroom Salad; Campfire Trout; Pork Tacos, Condiments; Beef Cheek Bourguignon; Cauliflower,Aged gouda, Mashed Potatoes; Apple Cheddar Crostada
• Other highlights: Gabriel Rucker is a two-time James Beard Award winner and co-owner/chef at Le Pigeon, a restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Lauren Fortgang is the restaurant's pastry chef, Andrew Fortgang is co-owner/GM and Meredith Erickson helps restaurant people to write cookbooks, like she did when she co-authored The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. The restaurant is very popular, and is often found on numerous Top 10 lists.
There's no way around it: this is one meat-centric book. For example, there is an entire chapter devoted to tongue of all sorts: lamb, pork, beef, and even elk. And this is followed by another chapter called Fat Liver which celebrates foie gras with 9 recipes. There's a Little Birds chapter, and a Rabbit chapter, and chapters dedicated to Pork, Lamb, and Small and Large Fish. And, of course, there's the Horns and Antler's chapter where you will find beef, venison, buffalo, and elk.
All this may seem A Bit Much except that there are also some really lovely salad, sides, vegetable and dessert chapters that help to balance things out some. The very first recipe in the book caught my appetite and attention: a thick slice of celery root is grilled with a Beaujolais BBQ sauce and served topped with a rich, melty cheese and a vinaigrette made with currants. Or later on, a bread pudding made with leeks and fennel sounded delicious and very doable.
Clearly this is a restaurant cookbook and you will not be throwing many of these recipes together at the last minute on a weeknight. But it does offer some interesting inspiration for weekend dinner party blow outs, including helpful wine paring suggestions from Andrew Fortgang and a handful of unusual desserts from pastry chef Lauren Fortgang. There's a foreword from Tom Colicchio, a history of the restaurant, several fun drawings and beautiful photographs, a pantry list, and an index. The book is well made, with a brown linen cover and a sturdy binding.
• Who would enjoy this book? Fans of the restaurant Pigeon will want to pick this up, as much for the way it captures the whole culture of the place as the recipes offered. Carnivores who like to cook nose-to-tail will obviously find a lot here, as well as cooks who want to a wide range of critters to explore and devour. But lovers of sides, salads, vegetables and desserts won't be left wanting, either!
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Le Pigeon by Gabriel Rucker, Meredith Erickson, and Lauren and Andrew Fortgang
• Visit the author's website: Gabriel Rucker, Meredith Erickson, and Lauren and Andrew Fortgang
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Dana Velden)