Food pro Al­ton Brown gets per­sonal in new tome

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FOOD - By Michelle Mills

Con­ser­va­tively dressed and straight­for­ward with a lit­tle sparkle of hu­mor, Al­ton Brown has be­come the culi­nary ex­pert Amer­ica trusts, host­ing tele­vi­sion shows, such as “Good Eats” and “Cut­throat Kitchen,” and the pod­cast “The Al­ton Brown cast.”

He also has penned a num­ber of books, but none are as in­ti­mate as his lat­est work, “Ev­ery Day Cook: This Time It’s Per­sonal” (Ballantine Books, $35).

“My other seven books all were either com­pan­ions to tele­vi­sion shows or they were specif­i­cally try­ing to serve a pur­pose of teach­ing cer­tain prin­ci­ples of a cer­tain kind of tenet of cook­ing, and the recipes were al­most like math­e­mat­i­cal proofs that rep­re­sented the lessons that were be­ing pre­sented,” Brown said.

“This book is strictly a per­sonal cook­book. It is a look at my per­sonal food, what I eat, what I cook at home, so it’s re­ally more of a self-por­trait than a sci­ence les­son.

Brown has trav­eled the coun­try in sup­port of his book.

“The nice thing about (the book tour) is that I get to sign peo­ple’s stuff and ac­tu­ally talk to in­di­vid­u­als, which is not some­thing I do when I’m do­ing my road show. It’s al­ways nice to get close to the fans and talk to the fans,” Brown said.

Un­usual cook­book

The Ge­or­gia res­i­dent’s new work is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than most cook­books. “Ev­ery Day Cook” boasts 101 recipes or­ga­nized by time of day, from early morn­ing to late night, and some of the dishes ap­pear odd, such as pasta for break­fast and a stuffed sand­wich based on roasted broc­coli. The ways the dishes are cre­ated may also be un­usual, like smok­ing pota­toes as part of the prepa­ra­tion for mak­ing bar­be­cued potato chips.

“Al­though some of these things look on the sur­face to be com­plex, they’re ac­tu­ally not. This is a book de­signed for ev­ery­day cook­ing use. I’m an ev­ery­day cook, I be­lieve in cook­ing ev­ery day, and the recipes are def­i­nitely ev­ery­day recipes. There’s noth­ing that fancy, noth­ing hard, noth­ing com­pli­cated about how they’re put to­gether, al­though tech­nique, as is typ­i­cal in most of my work, tech­nique does mat­ter. I try to be very clear about that so peo­ple have suc­cess with the recipes,” Brown said.

The recipes also re­flect Brown’s evolv­ing diet.

“There’s some in­ter­est­ing grains that have be­come part of my daily sta­ple. There’s some cook­ies for in­stance that are made with amaranth, which I think are highly habit­form­ing and yet healthy at the same time. One of my fa­vorite recipes in the book is for chicken Parme­san meat­balls that shows a dif­fer­ent way of bak­ing meat­balls,” Brown said.

iPhone pho­tos

Brown was orig­i­nally a

cin­e­matog­ra­pher be­fore he found him­self dis­ap­pointed with the qual­ity of cook­ing shows on tele­vi­sion, at­tended the New Eng­land Culi­nary In­sti­tute and forged a new ca­reer. So it’s a lit­tle sur­pris­ing that he took all of the pho­to­graphs in “Ev­ery Day Cook” with an iPhone di­rectly over­head each dish.

“It’s tech­ni­cally re­ally sim­ple, but I wanted to ap­proach the pho­tog­ra­phy in a dif­fer­ent way. When you’ve got cam­eras with 26 bil­lion pix­els and you’ve got 50 lenses, you can get over­whelmed with the cre­ative choices that you have,” Brown said. “I

wanted to use a very sim­ple de­vice, one an­gle and try to put all of the cre­ativ­ity in front of the cam­era so the plat­ing is very un­usual. There’s one dish that is plated in a ‘74 Mer­cury hub­cap be­cause that’s just the stuff I do.”

Com­mon cook­ing er­ror

Brown said that the most com­mon cook­ing mis­take is heat man­age­ment. It is a hard thing to teach and is best learned through ex­pe­ri­ence. It is very dif­fi­cult to be a good cook if you don’t know how to get a pan hot enough.

The sec­ond big­gest prob­lem for peo­ple is the abil­ity to prop­erly use salt.

Many cook­ing is­sues can be eas­ily re­solved with a lit­tle prepa­ra­tion, Brown ad­vised.

“The No. 1 thing if you’re go­ing to cook fol­low­ing recipes is that you sit down and thor­oughly, thor­oughly read the recipe be­fore you touch any­thing. Lit­er­ally sit down and make some notes and make sure you un­der­stand the pro­ce­dure, be sure you have all the tools that it asks for, re­ally un­der­stand what the in­gre­di­ents are,” Brown said.

A lot of peo­ple who have fail­ures dive right into cook­ing and re­al­ize half­way through that they made a mis­take or don’t have an in­gre­di­ent. They blame the recipe, but they should have stud­ied it be­fore they be­gan, Brown said.

So what dish does Brown avoid?

“I’m an om­ni­vore. I eat al­most ev­ery­thing on planet Earth ex­cept for beef liver,” Brown said.

“Eat Your Sci­ence,” Brown’s culi­nary va­ri­ety show, will be on Broad­way Thanks­giv­ing week for eight per­for­mances.

PHOTO COUR­TESY AL­TON BROWN

Culi­nary ex­pert Al­ton Brown’s new book, “EveryDayCook: This Time It’s Per­sonal,” boasts 101 recipes or­ga­nized by time of day.

PHOTO COUR­TESY AL­TON BROWN

Al­ton Brown

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