Alice’s Favorite Recipes from PRIMAL CUTS

Tastes obviously are personal and mine are the product of my Chinese upbringing. Texture is as loved as flavor by the Chinese…it is why simmered chicken feet, tripe, and gelatinous pig’s feet are popular. Nothing bores me more than chicken breast, no matter how well cooked and sauced. I tested and tasted many recipes in PRIMAL CUTS and served to extended family and friends over the course of a few months. My diners raved about MANY recipes but here are MY top three personal picks:

Head Chef, Matt Palmerlee’s Pork Belly Confit:
from Olivia Sargeant of Farm 255

pork belly

I’ve never made confit. The length of time required was daunting, especially compared to my usual quick stir-frying dishes. But it actually couldn’t be easier and more convenient. The pork belly gently simmers in pork fat for hours but you do chores and ignore it while it does. Then it can be quickly heated up to make the exterior slightly crispy before serving. The combination of crispy skin, melting layer of fat, and firm meat on bottom in one perfect bite….yummm. The confit can be refrigerated and kept for weeks, if it lasts that long. I prepared it in advance to take it out to my in-laws for the weekend, but I will confess I cut pieces out several times over the week and fried it up. It literally called out to me repeatedly…I would be reading in bed thinking…hmmm maybe a midnight snack? I am sure how convenient it is to prepare in advance and how quickly it is cooked up before serving is why so many restaurants have it on their menu nowadays. (Another reason being the whole animal interest.) I actually ordered it at a trendy, fancy restaurant this weekend and the one I made was infinitely better. I think it was the pork belly I started with…purchased from Tom Mylan’s Meathook (he’s profiled in PRIMAL CUTS). MY pork belly confit had the perfect proportion of skin, fat, and meat. Start with a good piece of meat!

Jason Barwikowski’s Chicken Liver with Bacon Ragu:

chicken liver

I remember the pleading look from Juno, my miniature schnauzer, as I cooked up this dish. The dish smells and looks so good cooking up…it is almost enough of a sensory experience before you take a bite. Not knowing what to expect, I chose the pasta option rather than serving it on crusty bread. You should do the bread the first time you make this dish. I guarantee you will be standing over the skillet, torn pieces of bread in your hands, repeatedly scooping up the ragu. The rich paste of the chicker liver, salty firmness of the bacon, touch of savory sweetness of the tomato paste, gentle kick of the balsamic vinegar….food porn. Pour yourself a glass of red and live a little.

Berlin Reed’s Tea and Plum Roasted Rack of Lamb:

lamb chops

My father-in-law makes great lamb chops, simply marinated with a bit of olive oil and rosemary from his garden. I love lamb chops…they are relatively small and I usually cut off a lot of the meat for my kids and wind up happily working away at the tasty and grisly meat near the bones. I was little skeptical about the need to do anything more to the already flavorful lamb, until I tried Berlin’s recipe. The lamb marinates for a few hours in earl grey tea and five spice powder and is glazed with plum chutney while roasting. The result is something with more depth and interest. You have a layer of subtle sweet chutney before a hint of elegant Earl Grey before you reach the lamb-y goodness. As usual, I cut a lot of the meat off the chops for the kids and hoarded a plate full of the meaty bones for myself. Juno was insanely jealous.

insane jealousy...

—Alice Wong, Welcome Books Project Manager

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Genevieve on Cooking With Italian Grandmothers

Food is essentially intimate. It literally enters us and becomes part of our bodies. Our lives depend on its presence. No wonder, then, that the act of eating or preparing food with someone can be transformative. It’s the deeply communal nature of cooking that makes Cooking with Italian Grandmothers so wonderful. On some level, it is the commonest of trivialities to say that food brings us together. But in this book the truth of that tossed-off phrase emerges radiantly. In words and gorgeous photos, Jessica Theroux shows us that the food she discovers on her journey is inseparable from the people who make it, the places where they lead their lives, and the history of both. This is food that links people to the land and to one another. You’ll emerge from the book feeling that you too have traveled those roads, stepped into those kitchens, and chatted with twelve distinct personalities. It’s a journey well worth taking.

This book is as much a travelogue as it is a cookbook, and like the best travelogues it doesn’t stop at observing a place, but enters the homes and hearts of the people who live there. The food here isn’t just something that sits, glowing, on a white tablecloth, and the origin of these recipes is much more than a pleasant, vaguely exotic backdrop. On the contrary: whether it’s a rich rabbit pasta sauce in Tuscany or creamy ricotta in Ustica, each dish is rooted in its own patch of soil and piece of human life.

As you read Theroux writing about learning to cook from the old women she meets on her travels through Italy, it’s clear that the act of cooking together has fostered a great intimacy between her and them. Theroux comes to know these women through their cooking, and in these pages, so do we. From Usha, the yoga practitioner with a hidden talent for creating decadent pastries, to Carluccia, who knows the soil on her Calabrian farm so well that she prepares beans from separate patches in ways designed to bring out the unique flavors of each, the way these women cook is imbued with their personalities, places, and life histories. Their food keeps memories, and creates them. It carries the echoes of past hardships and rejoicing, of bad times and good. Cooking it leads to revelations, as Theroux and her teachers open up to one another.

And I can’t wait to try out their recipes—I’ve got my eye on the plum-almond tart, tomato-bread soup, and pesto lasagna, for starters.

—Genevieve Aoki, Welcome intern

Signing, by Thomas Sanders

Thomas Sanders, the photographer of The Last Good War, puts down his camera to sign a few bookplates…

In the mail yesterday I received 700 book plates to be signed and shipped back to Welcome Books!

I sat here this morning and signed all 700! The signed book plates go to anyone that buys directly from Welcome Books.

Hopefully, if you are reading this, you will get one of them. If not, I will be happy to sign a copy for you. My girlfriend said she had to take photos of me signing the plates, and I had to post them online. She said if I did not let her take photos of me and blog about it, I would have to clean the shower floor. I decided it would be a good idea to do what she said. Enjoy!

To check out more photos by Thomas Sanders visit:

www.tomsandersphoto.blogspot.com