What do you get when you cross a coffee table book with a cookbook for home cooks? You get Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats, and Drinks by Stephanie Izard and Heather Shouse.
Publisher: Chronicle Books
NOTE: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you’ve read past book reviews, you’ll know that I don’t pull my punches when I believe they are warranted. I also try to provide balanced information so you can make your own decision to read or not read the book, even if you disagree with my opinion.
Summary of Girl in the Kitchen
Food & Wine’s Best New Chef of 2011, Stephanie Izard, has produced her first cookbook and it is a beautiful — and odd — combination of gourmet coffee table book and down-home, roll up your sleeves and learn some cookin’ cookbook.
What Worked for Me
When you pick it up, you’ll see that Girl in the Kitchen is a lovely, displayable book. The photographs by Dan Goldberg are rich, colorful and make each dish look wonderfully delicious. The book’s design makes the content easy to read and easy to peruse. Visually, this book is so beautiful you almost don’t want to use it in your kitchen for fear of getting it dirty with the occasional splatter of sauce or dribble of oil.
Despite the lavish design, this book was written to be used. Tips on how to improve your technique, as well as highlights of interesting ingredients are sprinkled throughout. Even if you read only through the Ingredient Spotlights, Technique 101s, and other quick tips you’ll end up a better cook, which will inspire you to unleash your Kitchen Creativity.
In addition, each recipe is prefaced by a mini-essay from Chef Izard, sharing how she was inspired to create the recipe in question, often with suggestions on how to modify it for your own tastes. It is these recipe introductions that give Girl in the Kitchen it’s own unique seasoning. Chef Izard’s personable, cheery personality shines through and inspires you to do some kitchen experiments yourself. And you know how much I encourage Kitchen Creativity!
For those who like to actually read cookbooks, this one has plenty to offer you: well-written, personality-driven introductions to every recipe, highlights of interesting ingredients spiced with Chef Izard’s personal experiences, and helpful tips on cooking techniques such as peeling chestnuts, sautéing cauliflower, and infusing butter.
And if that isn’t enough, every recipe comes with a wine or beer pairing suggestion, explaining what about that particular beverage makes it a good match, so you can find a substitute should the scenario arise.
What Didn’t Work for Me
The one flaw the book has is its duality. It wants to be a book for home cooks, featuring common, seasonal ingredients. And for the most part, it does this, but you have to read the recipes and ignore the fancy, gourmet names to discover this. And, yes, there is the occasional exotic ingredient — but always with tips on how to find it.
Basically, my recommendation is: Don’t let the high-quality photography and high-class restaurant recipe names intimidate you. This cookbook is approachable and inspirational for amateur home cooks.
Beyond her personality, Chef Izard’s fondness for seafood and asparagus are quite apparent. Every main chapter has at least one recipe featuring asparagus and there are a wide variety of recipes featuring shrimp, scallops, and fish. I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of asparagus, and I’m very finicky about seafood.
Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats, and Drinks is an excellent addition to the library of any home cook who enjoys reading about food as much as preparing it. It offers you the best of both worlds: good food writing and creative kitchen inspiration. Still worried about soiling the high-quality paper? Stash the dust jacket in another room, open the book to the page you want, and gently wrap it in plastic wrap!