It sometimes seems that big name chefs like Alex Guarnaschelli spring onto our favorite food TV shows fully-formed, already successful and possessing some inherent and unwavering internal cooking compass. Not so. Alex Guarnaschelli, for instance, comes by her culinary chops through a combination of genetics (daughter of a cookbook editor) and sheer determination. Old-School Comfort Food takes a step back from the big smile we all recognize and shows us where this bright chef came from.
• Who wrote it: Alex Guarnaschelli
• Who published it: Clarkson Potter
• Number of recipes: About 100
• Recipes for right now: Chilled Cucumber Soup with Fiery Yogurt Sauce, Arugula and Strawberry Salad, Pea Salad with Tarragon and Pea Shoots, Spice-Rubbed Rack of Pork with a Side of Harissa, Cornish Hen on the Grill, Orange and Dark Chocolate Tart, Raspberry Doughnuts with Vanilla Dipping Sauce
• Other highlights: This cookbook has the feel of flipping through someone's journal — albeit a journal full of recipes. The handwritten notes and homey pictures of simple food definitely contribute to this feeling, but it's also in the very direct and honest way that Alex Guarnaschelli writes. It's like she's talking directly to you, hovering next to your elbow as you contemplate the whole roasted fish or head into the kitchen to make the tart.
This book will definitely satisfy any cravings you may have for old-school comfort foods like spaghetti and meatballs and green bean casserole, but rest assured, these are not your mama's canned-soup-filled dishes. Guarnaschelli gives these dishes her own personal take, which both gives us a further glimpse into her personal tastes and also gives these dishes some new life.
At times, however, I felt like her recipes got a little over-complicated in both concept and creation, veering a little too much into the restaurant realm — something that I imagine it's hard for a classically trained chef to ever fully get away from even when cooking at home. Recipes for things like fried duck hearts and pickled grapes in prosciutto detract from that personal, homey feeling the book works to create, delicious though these recipes may be.
• Who would enjoy this book? Fans of Alex Guarnaschelli, cooks wanting to class up their standby comfort foods and add some new ones to the mix
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Old-School Comfort Food by Alex Guarnaschelli
• Visit the author's website: Alex Guarnaschelli
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: Emma Christensen)