Our June/July Cook the Books selection has been A Cook's Tour, Global Adventures in Extreme Cooking, aka In Search of the Perfect Meal, by Anthony Bourdain, and what an extreme tour it's been!
From the Publishers and other Reviews:'It works extremely well. In large part because Bourdain is a very funny writer; sharp, honest and with a beguiling mix of belligerence and sensitivity' Sunday Telegraph
'Brilliantly written up in a raw, stylish gonzo prose, with pitch-black humour and a devilish turn of phrase' Evening Standard
Anthony Bourdain, life-long line cook and bestselling author of Kitchen Confidential, sets off to eat his way around the world.
But being Anthony Bourdain, this was never going to be a conventional culinary tour. Bourdain heads out to Saigon where he eats the still-beating heart of a live cobra, and travels deep into landmined Khmer Rouge territory to find the rumoured Wild West of Cambodia (Pailin).
Other stops include dining with gangsters in Russia, a medieval pig slaughter and feast in northern Portugal, the Basque All Male Gastronomique Society in Saint Sebastian, rural Mexico with his Mexican sous-chef, a pilgrimage to the French Laundry in the Napa Valley and a return to his roots in the tiny fishing village of La Teste, where he first ate an oyster as a child.
Written with the inimitable machismo and humor that has made Tony Bourdain such a sensation, A Cook's Tour is an adventure story sure to give you indigestion."
He does indeed visit a number of countries, though he returns three times (in actual fact or only in the storyline, it was difficult to tell) to Vietnam. However, living in Hawaii as I do, as well as from our personal travels, the food of Southeast Asia is very familiar. So what really appealed as far as cooking inspiration was at the end of the tour, his visit and discourse on the fabulous Napa Valley French Laundry restaurant. I got Thomas Keller's book, The French Laundry Cookbook, checked out of the library and went from there.
Smoked Salmon with Potato Gnocchi and Balsamic Glaze
Most of the meals described sounded too involved, though quite delicious I'm sure. The one I picked, Smoked Salmon with Potato Gnocchi and Balsamic Glaze, looked a bit more doable, and was. Plus, the ingredients were mostly in the fridge and waiting on me. I did go out and buy some dill (not in the recipe) seeing that our garden dill was kaput but I like it with salmon. Also the micro greens for the accompanying garnish/salad, to which I also added cucumber, just because it seemed like a good idea. The whole concept of "tomato diamonds" and Brunoise is just silly (in my humble opinion). Wasting a perfectly good tomato for a few tiny pieces of the meat. If you have 10 or so sous chefs on hand those might both be pretty additions to the garnish I guess.
Overall, it turned out to be a marvelous combination of elements. Basically, you serve the meal warm, not hot. The salmon is just heated (not over 115F) in a pan of milk. The gnocchi is stirred up in another pan and browned on the bottoms in a little butter, then heated through with added chicken stock and a dash of vinegar, creating a bit of sauce. The salmon is plated over the gnocchi, then garnished with assorted baby greens, a line of Balsamic Glaze and of chive oil (I used Pesto). We both loved this experiment into the world of Haute Cuisine.
There is still time (until the 31st of July) if you'd like to join in the festivities. Just read the book and post your impressions with an inspired dish. New participants are always welcome. (Leave a comment here or check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.) We look forward to having you read and cook along with us in this selection period and beyond. Then be sure to visit the Round-up, which should be up a few days after August 1st. I'll also be linking up this post with Weekend Cooking, hosted by the Intrepid Reader, Marge.