10 Things We Learned from the Sea­son’s Best Books

SAVEUR - - Contents -

The ori­gins of kung pao chicken, the next hot wine re­gion, and more.

1. There’s more than one way to make a roux

It may seem that fat, flour, and some pa­tient stir­ring are all that go into this build­ing block of Louisiana cook­ing. But Justin Devil­lier, chef-owner of Mag­a­zine Street’s La Pe­tit Gro­cery, gives no fewer than three meth­ods in The New

Or­leans Kitchen. Devil­lier cooks clar­i­fied but­ter and flour for 10 to 12 min­utes to cre­ate a blond roux for soups and chow­ders. His brown roux—the ideal étouf­fée base—re­lies on peanut oil in­stead of but­ter, and a cook­ing time of 15 to 20 min­utes. He leaves that mix­ture on the heat about 10 min­utes longer to yield the dark roux gumbo re­quires. “No one else in the world uses dark roux,” Devil­lier says. “Mas­ter­ing its tech­nique is the mark of a true Louisiana cook.”

2. Play­ing with your food can be an art form

A few years back, Es­ther Choi, who holds a PH.D. in ar­chi­tec­ture from Prince­ton and writes for brainy pub­li­ca­tions like Art­fo­rum, be­gan host­ing a se­ries of din­ner par­ties themed around revered artists and de­sign­ers. She shares the punny re­sults in Le Cor­buf­fet, “con­cep­tual art in the form of a cook­book,” a com­pen­dium of recipes so ab­surd, they’re pro­found.

3. Kung Pao chicken is not an Amer­i­can Chi­ne­se­take­out in­ven­tion…

...though it’s more ac­cu­rately Ro­man­ized as “Gong Bao.” As Fuch­sia Dun­lop ex­plains in The Food of Sichuan (a re­fresh of 2003’s Land

of Plenty), the dish was named for 19th-cen­tury Sichuan gov­er­nor Ding Baozhen—an as­so­ci­a­tion toxic enough to re­quire re­brand­ing dur­ing the Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion. What­ever you call it, Dun­lop’s recipe on page 182 is a killer just-add-chicken week­night move once you have a few re­gional sta­ples on hand.

4. Where hush pup­pies come from

Toni Tip­ton-martin stud­ied hundreds of cook­books by Africaname­r­i­can au­thors to write 2015’s The

Jemima Code, which pushed back against the stereo­type of the un­trained black cook. For her fol­lowup, Ju­bilee, Tip­ton­martin has turned all that re­search into recipes, and her knowl­edge leaps off the page. Be­fore telling read­ers how to make Nige­rian frit­ters called akara, for ex­am­ple, she cites a group of 1970sera au­thors who ex­plored the connection­s be­tween West African and Africaname­r­i­can cui­sine— and their sug­ges­tion that the deep-fried black-eyed-pea balls gave rise to corn­meal­based hush pup­pies.

5. These are the el­e­ments of a su­perla­tive Ja­panese pantry

Among the fore­most English-lan­guage ex­perts on Ja­panese cui­sine—and a Saveur con­trib­u­tor—nancy Sin­gle­ton Hachisu has es­tab­lished deep, long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with chefs, grow­ers, and crafts­peo­ple through­out her adopted coun­try. In Food Ar­ti­sans of Ja­pan, she pro­files her culi­nary he­roes and shares their ex­act­ingly au­then­tic recipes. It won’t take much read­ing for you to re­al­ize your mass-mar­ket soy sauce will no longer cut it. Good thing, then, that Hachisu’s picks for miso, mirin, and more are now avail­able state­side.

A. Aguni-jima Salt

Since the Ja­panese govern­ment dereg­u­lated salt pro­duc­tion in the late 1990s, a num­ber of ar­ti­sanal op­tions have come on the mar­ket. This one, from the tiny is­land of Aguni, is cre­ated by drip­ping sea­wa­ter down bam­boo branches be­fore it evap­o­rates in enor­mous metal pans. $13 for 8.8 oz.; ama­zon.com

B. Mi­toku Mikawa Mirin

To judge the qual­ity of mirin, a nat­u­rally sweet cook­ing wine not un­like sake, sim­ply take a sip. The finest ex­am­ples—hachisu calls this one “in­dis­putably the best in Ja­pan”—go down like a liqueur. $8 for 10 oz.; nat­u­ralimport.com

C. Iio Jozo Rice Vine­gar

The cur­rent pres­i­dent of Iio Jozo rep­re­sents the fifth gen­er­a­tion of his fam­ily to op­er­ate this 126-year-old in­sti­tu­tion—and the third to in­sist on or­ganic rice pro­duc­tion. The brew­ery pro­cesses the grain in-house, then fer­ments the re­sult­ing sake into a vine­gar that re­tains a pro­nounced rice aroma. $16 for 16.9 oz.; the­japane­sep­a­ntry.com

D. Ya­maki Jozo Or­ganic Soy Sauce

Most soy sauce is made from de­fat­ted soy­bean grits— a byprod­uct of soy­bean oil pro­duc­tion—which are heated in or­der to com­plete fer­men­ta­tion within six months. Ya­maki Jozo, on the other hand, fer­ments whole, grown-in-ja­pan soy­beans for almost two years, yield­ing a mel­low and com­plex fi­nal prod­uct. $22 for 16.9 oz.; the­japane­sep­a­ntry.com

E. Oh­sawa Ya­maki Or­ganic Brown Rice Miso

Ya­maki Jozo also cre­ates miso worth seek­ing out, sourc­ing in­gre­di­ents lo­cally in­stead of re­ly­ing on Chi­nese soy­beans, as even many high-end or­ganic pro­duc­ers do. $10 for 9 oz.; gold­mi­ne­nat­u­ral­foods.com

Florence Knoll Rolls

Flan Flavin

Frida Kale-o Salad

Jack­son Pol­lock Pot Pie

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