In The Kitchen Sessions, chef and restaurateur Charlie Trotter makes his unique way with food available to home cooks in dishes somewhat less esoteric than those in his other cookbooks.
Trotter compares his cooking with jazz improvisation. His Portobello Mushroom Vinaigrette, for example, bursts from the Salsify and Pickled Mushroom Salad like a high, clear note that lingers, then falls back into other flavors in this riff on salad. Like good jazz, his dishes offer original contrasts and harmonies. As with music, they speak to the intellect and the spirit as well as the senses.
This book offers more recipes than the TV version of The Kitchen Sessions. Here, you get six dishes under each topic of the 13-show series, while Trotter demonstrated only two on camera, in episodes dedicated to soups, salads, salmon, pasta, pork, poultry, and more. A simple choice would be Indian Curry-Braised Catfish. It involves a caramelized sauté of onions, ginger, apple, pepper, and Indian spices, all combined with an Apricot Curry sauce. The fish is simmered in this mixture and served over basmati rice.
Cooks with a reasonable degree of skill can follow even the most involved recipes, because the individual steps and ingredients required are familiar. With some patience, it's easy enough to re-create Trotter's Bing Cherry Brown Sundae with Bittersweet Chocolate-Kona Coffee Sauce, baking the cherry-studded brownies and the ultrarich ice cream, simmering the three sauces, and whipping fresh cream with cinnamon, then poaching fresh cherries in one of the sauces. Timewise, it's a project, but oh, the results!
Color photos and pencil sketches help you understand and construct many dishes. A glossary helps you understand culinary terms like chiffonade--herbs or greens cut into fine ribbons. All that's missing is the fun of seeing Trotter come out and perform a handstand, as he sometimes does at his Chicago restaurant. Cook from this book, and your lucky guests will feel that's what you have done for them. --Dana Jacobi [via]