This week’s cookbook is probably my absolute favorite of the moment. Although it’s one of the more complex books in my library, and not really meant for college students, I still wholeheartedly recommend it.
My Mom and I, to change pace, decided to spend Christmas at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise. The Post Hotel is part of the Relais & Chateaux properties – world class luxury hotels. Our stay was absolutely amazing and breath taking. But the highlight of the trip, of course, was the outstanding food. Christmas day dinner I ordered their miso and sake marinated black cod with an orange tamarind sauce. This was by far the best meal I’d had all year – and that’s saying something. Back in our room there were this set of two books: 85 Inspirational Chefs and Chefs at Home. I took a look at the two of them and to my delight the black cod recipe was included in the 85 Inspirational Chefs book. The Chefs at Home book was filled with pretty amazing recipes too, I opted to pass on that one due to the fact that most of the recipes I had in other books somewhere and I was familiar with most of their executions. I knew that the front desk was selling the two books independently as well as in a set and I bought the 85 Inspirational Chefs for myself the day we left.
This cookbook is filled with recipes from different Relais & Chateau properties from around North America, the Carriebean and Mexico. It is full of phenomenal recipes. From a prawn roulade, to lamb ratatouille, to the miso and sake marinated black cod. Each property included in the book wrote 2 or more recipes each. Most include an appetizer, a main and a dessert. I’ve only experimented with a fraction of the recipes in the book and none have disappointed.
All that praise being said this book is not for the faint of heart. Each recipe is extremely involved. Many of these recipes aren’t for everyday use unless you like spending hours in the kitchen each night. Most of them are multi-step processes and include some complicated (for the average person) cooking terms and processes.
So why am I choosing to include this book as a cookbook of the week if it is so complicated? Because the recipes are worth slaving over. If you’re like me and love planning out complex dinner parties to impress and wow your friends then you won’t blink when using this book. If you love going out for 5 star meals and have always wanted to attempt to make them yourselves then this book is for you too. If you’re adventurous and love trying new things… All you really need to decode this book is a good food dictionary. Granted there are a few recipes in this book that involve tools that I don’t have [not for lack of dreaming – I’m looking at you sous-vide!], complicated processes that even I don’t want to go through the effort of trying and ingredients that are can be very difficult to find. Sadly, there will always be some recipes in this book that will go untested.
Not to fear! A lot of the recipes are very simple and straight forward. There’s a nice balance of complex and simple. The miso and sake marinated black cod that I raved about earlier is actually one of the more simple recipes – if you omit the foam that the recipe includes. (The recipe doesn’t have the intoxicating orange tamarind sauce that I experienced at Christmas though, it’s an older recipe but the basics of the fish are there.) The black cod recipes mainly involves marinating the fish for 4+ hours then placing it on a baking sheet and letting it bake for 15 minutes. It’s super straight forward and filled with flavour. I cook this dish probably one a month right now. I’ve experimented with all kinds of fish as black cod is not readily available in the Prairies. I’ve fallen in love with marinating rock fish, but any hearty, strong fish like cod or halibut would hold up against the flavours.
If you live in a big city, or a town filled with ethnic grocers, most of the ingredients are fairly easy to find. Granted you usually have to go grocery shop hopping from ethnic market to ethnic market but, again, the recipes in the end are very worth it. The flavours that develop from slaving over a hot stove and oven for hours are complex and well worth it.
I kid you not, this book is amazing if you’re looking to expand your cooking horizons and attempt some more out-there recipes. If you’re still shy of trying complicated recipes this book will make an excellent coffee table book until you’re ready to give them a go.