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