This season I’m overjoyed that I’m able to wholeheartedly recommend a couple of books by two friends from Toronto with nary a hint of cronyism, both this particular book and Volcanic Wines : Salt, Grit and Power by John Szabo.
What with small water circulators having fallen drastically in price recently (one can pick up a pretty decent one for as little as $200), Chris McDonald’s first cookbook could not have come at a more opportune moment. Some two years in the making, this book reflects the attention to detail upon which McDonald built his enviable reputation as one of Canada’s most formidable and knowledgeable Chefs.
Before I cracked the spine I was a little concerned that an overzealous Editor would strip much of McDonald’s gloriously eccentric personality in order to make the book more palatable for a general audience, but my fears turned out to be unfounded. Even within the confines of the opening chapter The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook is pure, unadulterated Chris McDonald, leaving no stone unturned, no detail or reference overlooked, in his quest to teach the reader the mastery of the sous vide process, as well as a plethora of fascinating side quests.
Indeed it is these side quests, these sidebars, these nuggets of well-researched additional/explanatory material that make this book so appealing to me. Meticulously cross-referenced, many of the recipes expand into succinct and persuasive studies of particular areas of food culture, kitchen nomenclature or culinary history. It could be said that often the recipes feel like a conversation about a dish with McDonald himself, and this no bad thing ; I should know as I have had a fair number of them over the years.
The recipes range from the easily accessible to some complex beasts that are undeniably more “Chef level”. Whilst the latter can certainly be multi-layered and time consuming, they give the reader a valuable insight into the fastidious work that goes into the execution of restaurant-quality dishes, and how, with focused application, these can be replicated at home.
Despite the many stages involved in some dishes, McDonald sets out every set of steps in a manner that shouldn’t intimidate the ambitious home cook too much. A word of advice though : read your chosen recipe through very carefully before you begin (or go shopping for that matter!), as many are Russian Dolls that contain adjunct recipes within that may require you to set aside a little more time or pick up a few additional ingredients to complete a dish to McDonald’s exacting specifications.
As the back of the book says “Enjoy Restaurant-Quality Food At Home With The Simple Press Of A Button”. Over the past two weeks I have worked through around six of McDonald’s recipes, and the results have been nothing less than outstanding.
A highly recommended addition to your kitchen library, and along with an immersion circulator it is the perfect Xmas gift for someone interested in exploring this wholly different approach to cooking.
(Five apples out of a possible five)
P.S. In our first issue of GFR of 2017 I’ll be reviewing the aforementioned Sansaire Immersion Circulator.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s really enjoying this cookbook.