Cookbook review: Craft of cooking by Tom Colicchio Gramercy Tavern Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Craft of cooking by Tom Colicchio

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

Colicchio's goal at Craft is 'to make food taste great without fanfare or pretension'. What a wonderful goal!
This is exactly the feeling we got when we dined at his nearby Gramercy Tavern. There was no needless 'stacking' on the plate, no needless garnishes and no abstract art created with strange oils and syrups.
Instead there were clean pure dishes such as roast chicken. And now the book on the food at Craft carries on and extends the ideas that began at Gramercy.
The book is divided into seven main sections with the first three on meat, fish and vegetables taking up half of the pages. Mushrooms, potatoes, grains and desserts comprise the other sections.
The meat section is divided into three giving a hint as to where Colicchio's cooking preferences lie. The three sections describe the making of charcuterie, roasting meats and braising techniques.
The very first recipe is a simple technique for making duck ham which we have successfully tried on a number of occasions. He then moves on to the making of porchetta and a rabbit ballottine (ballotine).
A dish we fondly remember from Gramercy is the roast chicken. Here he recommends two pans - one to cook the breast and another for the thighs - to avoid drying out the breast meat which requires less cooking. And he specifically calls for skin-on and bone-in thighs - too often restaurants try to cater for the finicky habits of diners who don't care to deal with bones, thus sacrificing the important flavour that develops from this important ingredient.
In the fish sections there are some lovely recipes for cured fish with our favourite being the cured hamachi which is served with a lemon-coriander vinaigrette. The himachi is cured for three hours in a traditional sugar and salt mix enhanced with some lemon verbena and lemon thyme. Lemon verbena is a very strong herb that we love to use in infusions and it works particularly well in this cure. The lemon-coriander vinaigrette is bolstered with some of the lemon confit which finds its way into a number of recipes.
Scattered throughout the book are a number of essays (called ingredient portraits) on topics such as selection and preparation of scallops - we liked his use of the muscle of the scallops to create a jus to accompany roast scallops. Other mini-essays include one on soft-shell crabs, another on mushrooms, one on sea bass and another on lamb.
There is a long section on vegetables with many of the recipes using the same roasting and braising techniques described for the cooking of meat and fish.
In the potato section is his well-known recipe for gnocchi. While some argue against the use of egg in gnocchi his recipe seems to produce a very light result.
The final section on desserts range through pastries, custards, roast fruits, poached fruits, sorbets, compotes, confections and sauces. There are some wonderful dessert ideas contained within this section.
This is a great book for enthusiastic amateurs who want to try to re-create the flavours and textures they have enjoyed at Colicchio's restaurants or who have heard of his approach to food and want to emulate it in their home kitchens. The recipes are clear and concise and do not require complex techniques. They sometimes require time and patience - but that is no bad thing.
Some of our favourite recipes that we can recommend you try are:
Pan-roasted chicken with chicken jus, braised veal breast, cured himachi with lemon-coriander vinaigrette, pickled sardines, roasted sea scallops with scallop jus, pan-roasted skate, celery root remoulade, pureed parsnips, boulangère potatoes, lemon steamed pudding and the poached rhubarb.
Publisher: Clarkson Potter, New York
Year: 2003
ISBN: 0-609-61050-3
   - Independent commentary on the Web since 1996

Copyright | Disclaimer| Privacy Policy