“Appetites” by Anthony Bourdain: A Book Review

November 23, 2016

By Karen

Since Anthony Bourdain hit critical mass, turning whatever he touches to triumph, it’s unsurprising that Appetites: A Cookbook is hitting best seller lists and getting rave reviews.

It’s beautifully produced under his own Ecco imprint, with recipe titles in a font that must be called BourdainHand. Its many full-page photos include several of wife Ottavia and daughter Ariane (never full face; he explains it’s her decision on how public to go when she’s old enough). Ottavia’s grappling dummy and Eric Ripert even make appearances.

Overall, the photos and artwork are intended more to shock and awe than illustrate. Bourdain told a talk show host (one of the Jimmys) that bookstores are wrapping the book in paper because the cover art is disturbing. Inside are gratuitous animal parts and guts, including a pig bladder inflated to float like a balloon.

appetites

I’m surprised the photo of Tony (page 176) armed and barely recognizable in camo hasn’t been hijacked by the alt-right. He could be Donald Trump’s poster boy.

It’s probably the only cookbook you’ll ever own with the words fuck and shit sprinkled throughout like condiments.

It’s dedicated to Ariane and Jacques. No, not Pépin, but Ariane’s BFF, the son of her Filipino nanny (see page 246).

As a Bourdainiac, I was fascinated by his deconstructions of what we’ve seen him eat. The dishes reflect his constant globetrotting, and perhaps unintentionally drive home that someone else cooked and cleaned up later. The book’s a towering testament to how thoroughly out of touch he has become with how regular people eat.

He claims the recipes are from his childhood, his travels, and “food memories” he shares with his daughter. If that’s true, Tony and Ariane are the creepiest father-daughter duo since Gomez and Wednesday Addams because 9-year-old Ariane must be possessed of the presence of mind to ask, “Daddy, can I have a Roast Beef Po’ Boy?” two days before she wants to eat it, because that’s how long it takes to make one (page 81).

Many recipes have a two-day lead time, not including shopping at specialty stores or Amazon to assemble myriad ingredients you’ve probably never heard of. This makes them also very pricey and will leave you with a pantry full of slightly used shit you’ll have no idea what else to do with.

For example, Korean Fried Chicken (page 165) looked good until I realized I was fresh out of gochugaru, gochujama, and cheongju, not to mention four QUARTS of oil, and I needed two days to fry it twice.

His whole steamed chicken, “Poulet ‘en vessie,’” (page 168) seems reasonable enough until you need to grab four whole truffles and 4 oz. of foie gras out of the fridge.

With each recipe, he thoughtfully includes a list of any special equipment needed. This often consists of a plate “lined with newspapers” for draining.

REALLY??!! Does he ever gaze out over his adoring, hip young audiences during personal appearances and see people who would ever dream of buying an actual newspaper? Would they even recognize one if they saw it?

Otherwise his cooking instructions and advice are pretty spot-on, if snarky, with occasional lapses into Les Halles-speak. For example, as an alternative to tossing his Salad of Boston Lettuce with Radishes, Carrots, Apples, and Yogurt-Chive Dressing (page 29), he suggests leaving everything “segregated, as for salade composée.” Got that?

My current idol, Jacques Pépin, gets mentioned in the first two recipes involving eggs for his cracking and stirring techniques. But Bourdain reveals himself as the unPépin of home cooking. Where Jacques relies on ordinary ingredients and simple preparation, with an eye always on the budget, Bourdain’s recipes are the polar opposite.

I noticed Tony lifted one recipe, Linguine with White Clam Sauce (page 126) from Pépin, which was named after Pépin’s wife, “Gloria’s Linguine with Clam Sauce.” The only differences are that they prefer different types of clams, Bourdain throws in butter (he uses vats) and he doesn’t mention topping with parmesan cheese.

Appetites probably won’t be your go-to cookbook when you need a quick and tasty meal on the table. If your idea of what constitutes a good recipe matches mine…

  1. Is it straightforward and uncomplicated?
  2. Do I already have most of the ingredients?
  3. Can I make it without destroying the whole kitchen?
  4. Can it be done in one day?

…for most of Bourdain’s dishes, the answers are no, no, no, and no.

I did like his tip on making a Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions (page 84). Instead of butter, he slathers the outside of the bread with mayonnaise for a nice brown crust. But then he blows it by recommending freaking Japanese milk bread, whatever the hell that is.

There’s no dessert chapter because Tony says he’s not a pastry chef and would rather have cheese.

Pépin, on the other hand, has many dessert recipes from his childhood that often call for a simple store-bought dough or cake, with fruit and preserves. They require no special skill, they’re quick, and they look tasty.

Bourdain’s chapter on Thanksgiving seems useful until he recommends roasting a small “stunt turkey” for looks and then a “business bird” you actually carve and eat — AND making stock with an additional 5-7 lbs. of wings and necks.

Blogger Treehugger totally went off on the stunt turkey, so I’ll let her handle that.

The book’s best, most usable chapter is Sides. I’d definitely try the Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame (page 241) because jazzing up cauliflower is a thing for me. And I’ve already tried Korean-Style Radish Pickles (page 251) because I had an abundance of radishes, although not the daikon he recommends.

It’s only been two days (he recommends three), but here they are. They look more like chopped hot dogs now, but they taste OK, slightly sweet, with a tad of bite.

pickledradishes

I consult my two Pépin cookbooks almost daily, Appetites isn’t meant to be like that. It’s more of a grand “Fuck you!” to the cookbook genre.

I’ll let it sit beside Tony’s also little-used Les Halles Cookbook and maybe ask for an autograph if he ever passes through Richmond again and forgives me for this review.

BONUS VIDEO: Tony recently stopped by to cook with Mario Batali on The Chew. They made Budae Jjigae, a Korean SPAM stew (page 58).

BONUS PLUS: Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week had an interesting take on Appetites, comparing it to Alton Brown’s new book, Everyday Cook, as spiritual autobiographies.


UnFoodie’s Secret Crush on Jacques Pepin

August 25, 2016

By Karen

Before Anthony Bourdain’s new cookbook, Appetites, comes out on October 25, I must confess une affaire du tube with Jacques Pépin. Ironically, Bourdain introduced us with a No Reservations segment where Jacques demonstrated proper egg-cracking technique. At the time, I thought he was cracked.

Then everything changed.

PBS has been rerunning three Pépin series: Essential Pepin, More Fast Food My Way, and Heart & Soul. After just a few episodes, I became obsessed and bought the DVDs and companion cookbooks for the latter two series, and all summer I’ve been studying Jacques like a culinary school groupie.

(Essential Pépin is good, but uses more mis en place and time-skipping, which minimize all that’s really involved. In the other two series, Jacques’ cooking is more down-to-earth. Heart & Soul is my favorite. Alas, it’s said to be his last for PBS.)

On weekends, my mother becomes my sous chef. I send her the recipe so she can shop, then I go over and we watch Jacques make it on DVD before we try it.

So far, every dish has turned out well and my parents enjoyed them.

Every time I see Jacques chop an onion, “poetry in motion” pops into my head. I even bought a good chef’s knife and keep it sharp, but I’ll never come close to his dexterity.

Also thanks to Jacques, I now use herbs de Provence.

Unfortunately, no photos, but here are a few dishes I’ve done. Many recipes are available online.

Poulet à la Crème (chicken thighs elevated)

Gloria’s Linguine with Clam Sauce (loved it!)

Corn Soufflé (practicing for a Thanksgiving side)

Asparagus Fans with Mustard Sauce (finally, green sticks get some personality)

Soda Bread (so quick and easy, I’ve made it perfectly twice)

Not only does Jacques explain what he’s doing, but tells how he economizes, appreciates ordinary ingredients (white button mushrooms, for example), and even uses canned goods without getting snarky about it.

Years ago I learned Chinese cooking from Wok with Yan with Stephen Yan (no, not Martin). I also liked Emeril, but can’t say I soaked up any technique or made his dishes.

And then there’s Bourdain. He was never a celebrity chef, though they keep calling him one. He wasn’t famous at Les Halles, and he quit that job when Kitchen Confidential took off. I’ve seen him cook only a handful of times.

That said, he remains my biggest culinary influence. Just watching what he eats and says about food has opened new worlds. I know what mis en place means. I cook more creatively. I ate squid with ink in Lisbon. And now I appreciate top-tier chefs like Eric Ripert and Jacques Pépin and learn technique from them.

I’ve pre-ordered Bourdain’s book Appetites with expectations it’s more user-friendly than his Les Halles Cookbook and will join my two Pépin cookbooks as favorites.

So, thank you, Tony, for putting Jacques Pépin on my radar. And thank you, Jacques, for enriching home cooks by sharing your amazing knowledge with such charm and generosity.

Pepin


Catching Up with Bourdain

May 26, 2015

By Karen

It’s impossible to “catch up” with Anthony Bourdain anymore. He’s always going at full steam in a dozen directions, but these are some noteworthy developments I’ve been tracking.

We’re mid-season with Parts Unknown on CNN. I particularly enjoyed Miami. I’ve been there a few dozen times, and did a double-take upon seeing our paths virtually cross for a split second when he flashed the Colony Hotel’s Art Deco façade. I stayed there in October.

Back in Tony’s Travel Channel days, you’d never imagine him becoming comedy fodder for the likes of Billy Crystal. But a recent episode of The Comedians on FX began with a parody called Unknown Parts, with Crystal strolling around in a silver wig, and then tasting several courses of human testicles, which all caused him to projectile vomit onto his co-star.

And then Tony popped up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in a shot of his younger self out in some wilderness, saying armadillo tastes like chicken.

Speaking of popping up, something that has pooped out is a fourth season of The Taste on ABC. Not even Bourdain’s Emmy nomination as best host could save it.

I’ve always said the premise of cramming one meal onto a spoon was ridiculous, and the dwindling audience apparently agreed. It was the culinary equivalent of Dancing with the Stars staging all routines in a phone booth, or forcing aspiring American Idols to sing into an empty mayonnaise jar instead of a mic.

If The Taste accomplished anything, it was to give Nigella Lawson refuge and camaraderie while she was going through a personal nightmare. And it spawned worldwide franchises that may very well keep it a nice income stream for years to come.

Coming up June 2, Bourdain will be inducted in the RealScreen Awards Hall of Fame in Santa Monica as Person of the Year. Parts Unknown is nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Reality Series, and Tony for Best Reality Series Host. A&E is supposed to broadcast the awards live May 31.

Boudain hits the road July 7 for a 10-city personal appearance tour called Close to the Bone. Unfortunately, he’s coming nowhere near these parts. (I’m waiting for Tony to get wind of Richmond’s growing reputation as the newest foodie utopia and drop by for a few bites.)

And then there’s literary Bourdain. Still no word on the novel, but October 20 he’s got a prequel to his graphic novel, Get Jiro!, coming out. It’s called, Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi.

In addition, he’s co-authoring with Lauri Woolover a new cookbook called Appetites to be published by Ecco imprint in fall 2016. It sounds more down-to-earth than the French recipes and techniques he covered in the Les Halles Cookbook.

Speaking of Les Halles (as in, the market in Paris), Bourdain’s vision of a vast American counterpart in New York City took another step toward reality, after many months of speculation.

Bourdain Market will reputedly occupy 100,000 square feet (double the size of Mario Batali’s Eataly) in a new facility being constructed in the Meatpacking District on the Upper West Side at West 15th Street, Pier 57, on the Hudson River.

Here’s an excerpt from the linked Commercial Observer article…

Stephen Werther, Mr. Bourdain’s business partner, said that the food hall will ‘include a farmers market with an oyster bar, bakery, tapas bar and much more,’ according to Eater. It will house 100 vendors – some permanent, some for a few weeks at a time – and will include a rooftop beer garden.

The new food court will cost between $20 million and $30 million to build, Eater indicated.

‘We will work with the tourism boards to create a complete experience of the place. Not just prepared food or packaged food but serving ware, cookware, cookbooks, cooking demos, everything to promote the area,’ Eater quotes Mr. Werther as saying.

It sounds like a place where you could easily lose yourself for a weekend.

And, finally, in spite of the utter contempt he’s always shown toward the James Beard Awards, Bourdain’s series, Mind of a Chef, won for Best On-Location Food Program for the 3rd straight year.

If there’s one thing nobody can ever accuse Anthony Bourdain of, it’s being lazy.


Bourdain’s Kitchen Basics: Session 3

February 2, 2011

By Karen

The grand finale of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking classes hosted by Sur La Table was all about protein:

  • Poulet Roti (roast chicken) with Herb Butter *
  • Steak au Poivre (seared steak with peppercorn pan sauce) *
  • Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stewed in red wine) *
  • Bourride (fish stew with aioli) *

(From Les Halles Cookbook, chicken page 181, herb butter 259, steak 130, bourguignon 202, bourride 114, aioli 257)

Interestingly enough, there was none of Bourdain’s favorite — pork.

Since we didn’t have time to complete all the dishes, our instructor, whom I’m calling Sue, had already started a pot of boeuf bourguignon and had 2 chickens roasting, although we replicated the recipes for practice.

Sue did her preliminary run-through and it was, as always, too much information. As I felt the now-familiar panic rising, I realized it wasn’t over my cooking skills, but a bad flashback to biology class. I had managed to dodge dissection duty in high school and switched to chemistry in college when I heard they were disassembling cats.

The dishes I wanted to avoid were the chicken and fish. If you’re a regular reader, you know I have a raw-chicken-skin phobia.

So my first choice was the bourguignon, but that group came together fast and I ended up on the fish stew crew.

It turned out to be the night’s gross-out dish on every level.

Sue had managed to snag us a sizable fish “frame,” which is every bit of the fish you would choke on, including the head, with its glassy, accusing stare.

The frame “sweated” in a Dutch oven while we chopped vegetables (fennel AGAIN). I diced carrots like a bumbling amateur and stuffed herbs into a little bag for the bouquet garni.

At our table, a newcomer had knife skills and other slick foodie moves. Then a woman whipped out a camera and snapped the poor fish skeleton staring up from the pot. Why?

While the frame boiled, the eyeballs turned into white balloons and camera girl ATE one. She said it had a hard center, so she must have chewed it, too.

Our lone male teammate cranked the food mill, a messy, pointless attempt to squeeze moisture from the frame. A pile of pulverized yuck ended up in the broth and had to be strained.

Feeling hungry yet?

Last week’s chicken stock reappeared, but I never saw it finished before it went into the peppercorn sauce.

The boeuf bourguignon was tasty, although a bowl of beef and carrots does nothing for me. The chicken was a little dry, but white meat does that. The steak was peppery, but pleasantly not overcooked.

Our fish stew was slightly overcooked globs of monkfish swimming in yellowish grease. That broth made a nasty, stinky mess for virtually no payoff. Sue told us it never goes over well.

For the first time, I realized that Sue seemed to measure the class’s success by how much we ate. Mistake, I think.

After I’ve slaved over a dish, the last thing I want to do is turn right around and eat it. And in none of these classes did we end up with any combination that constituted a “meal,” so I’d suspect anyone who cleaned the plate of having eating issues.

Tomorrow I’ll share conclusions about my attempt to learn kitchen basics from Anthony Bourdain and whether I’m turning into a foodie.


Bourdain’s Kitchen Basics: Session 2

January 26, 2011

By Karen

Things were looking up with stocks, soups, and sauces, featuring:

  • Rich Chicken Stock
  • Fish Stock
  • Mushroom Soup *
  • Mussels Steamed in White Wine (Moules à la Grecque) *
  • Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Béarnaise Sauce

* (From Les Halles Cookbook, soup page 47, mussels page 84. Contrary to Sur La Table’s handout, the béarnaise recipe was significantly modified.)

Fish stock got postponed until next week. Fish heads were too hard to come by.

Our instructor, whom I’m calling Sue, gave us an overview of stocks and explained how roasting bones makes them richer. Then as she quickly ran through all the recipes, panic set in. The myriad details of stock, soup, mussels, and béarnaise reeled off at once made me feel as if I’d jumped into the deep end and couldn’t swim.

My partner and I tackled the chicken stock, which no one else had any interest in. We weren’t given a recipe, but everything we needed was assembled on a tray.

With a big knife (that felt no sharper than my own Henckels) I chopped, unsupervised and without peeling, some dried-out carrots and an onion. If Bourdain actually has any knife instruction in his curriculum, it hasn’t trickled down yet.

Our stock also got some brownish celery with wilted leaves, 10 peppercorns (exactly), thyme and rosemary (I think) with stems, store-cooked rotisserie chicken bones, and water.

We also threw in the onion skin. I’m sorry, but nothing will convince me that was called for. I’ve never made anything that started out looking like floating compost and had it turn out well.

While writing this post, I saw that Bourdain specifically says to peels carrots and onions and not to use celery leaves, stems, or other junk (page 38). And it was included in the section of Sur La Table’s handout that we didn’t have time to read.

Our stock simmered all through class, but was nothing special when we tasted it. It’s supposed to spend more hours on the stove, and next week we’ll skim off the fat.

The béarnaise was tag-teamed, with one person stirring and one person dribbling in the butter.

The mussel recipe called for fennel (again with the fennel!) and other spices. This time, the fennel contributed to the dish and the mussels were great.

Someone pounded the chicken and pan-fried it in butter, but it overcooked in the oven waiting to be served. I could have seen that coming.

While we took a break, Sue puréed the mushroom soup, which turned out absolutely delicious. It was easy and I’d definitely make that myself.

Even after sitting around for 15 or 20 minutes, the béarnaise sauce was perfect. They succeeded with smoothness where I failed on my first attempt. But it wasn’t the cookbook recipe. This version added sherry, lemon juice, and water, and substituted white wine or tarragon vinegars for sherry or red wine vinegar.

So what did I learn this week?

That commercial chicken stock/broth is not created equal. Let Top Chef be Swanson’s whore. I’ll never buy it again. We sampled a brand called Kitchen Basics that made Swanson taste like swill in a box.

That if you have to let chicken sit around, don’t cook it beyond medium rare.

That it takes more than 2 hands to make good béarnaise.

That you test a partially-opened mussel’s freshness by tapping it on the table. If it reacts and closes up, it’s alive and ripe for killing. If it doesn’t, and smells like the bottom of a bait bucket, toss it.

Speaking of which, as I was driving home, I started feeling queasy and thought, “Oh, no, the mussels!”

By the time I got home, I could have thrown up, but I’d left the TV on for the cats, and Tony was in Provence, which distracted my stomach. I drank some peppermint tea and took a Pepcid Complete before bed and woke up fine, so who knows?

Next week, we have the fish stock and meat grand finale.


Is Bourdain Stalked by a Tattooed Freak?

April 26, 2010

By Karen

On April 24, Cats Working reader Adele (human, not feline) met Anthony Bourdain after his appearance in Chicago. She promises to tell us all about it, but in the meantime, last week wrapped Season 6 of No Reservations and proved extremely full.

April 19 was the Bourdains’ wedding anniversary. Tonic.com reported on the April 20 Can-Do Awards Dinner to benefit the NYC Food Bank  they attended. Emeril Lagasse was the special honoree and the event raised $1.4 million for hunger relief.

On April 21, Tony visited Borders’ HQ in Ann Arbor, Michigan, talking to Merchandising about his upcoming book, Medium Raw. Makes me wonder if there’s extensive book tour in the works.

In advance of his April 23 appearance in Minneapolis, Pioneer Press got an advance phone interview.

Star Tribune also talked to Bourdain in an interview titled, “Bad boy and mellow fellow.” Seems Tony has changed his mind about his last meal.

City Pages provides a run-down on what Bourdain discussed in Minneapolis, and mentioned the heavily-tattooed possible stalker who joined him on stage and dropped his pants.

Chicago Tribune got an excellent interview with Bourdain before his appearance there April 24. Tony admits he’s “burnt out” on 20-course menus and intriguingly mentions his future Vietnam book as just a “hope.”

Personally, I’d advise him to go sooner rather than later for Ariane’s sake. My parents uprooted me at ages 10, 14, 15, and 17 and it was rough. Let Ariane help Dad satisfy his yen for Southeast Asia by middle school so she can find friendships that will last through high school and beyond. Losing that opportunity can be a real bitch later in life.

Chicago Business got another interview.

Saint Tigerlily loves Bourdain, but Les Halles Cookbook, not so much. She made his coq au vin and meticulously details what went wrong.

And while we’re ripping Bourdain a new one, NY Restaurant Examiner Howard Portnoy takes serious issue with Tony’s very existence and his views on food bloggers.

The Little Things invokes Bourdain in discussing the new Scripps Cooking Channel, set to debut May 31. The Stir has just the opposite opinion.

Tony’s take on the new network was mostly positive, as reported in the Washington Examiner: “What’s worse, another network about food, or another network filled with steroid-jacked reality freakazoids?”

Eater.com again collected Tony’s best one-liners from the Food Porn 2 finale.


Bourdain Turns Teacher

April 5, 2010

By Karen

Leafing through Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, I realized the only thing I’m competent to attempt is red-wine vinaigrette, so I’m eager for tonight’s new “Techniques” special. Tony and guests will demonstrate how to make an omelet, roast a chicken, make pasta with red sauce, prepare a hamburger, wield a knife, and make Boeuf Bourguignon, among other things.

I’ve been playing catch-up since my LG DVD recorder trashed China and “Obsessed,” but finally recaptured them both On Demand (48 minutes each with limited commercials — and NO Chase).

Speaking of Chase, boy, I spoke too soon last week. In China, Bourdain says, “Thank you. I got this,” and whips out the blue plastic, and then does it again with, “Lunch is on me!” like some big spender in Vietnam.

NOTE TO CHASE: You seemed to heed criticism about the stunt hand and fake card, now making Tony hold a card on camera. But it doesn’t help. Your tacky, gratuitous intrusions are cheap shots.

Readers, please use the comments to let those rat-bastards at Chase know what you think.

Speaking of rats, also in Vietnam, Bourdain revealed his culinary Achilles heel — tail. When faced with the Java-Mouse Deer, he said, “If it has a long tail, I just can’t handle it.”

On Friday, April 9, daughter Ariane turns 3, and Ottavia tweeted that a party is in the works. I don’t know of any appearances for Tony until April 20 (his wedding anniversary??!! — but it’s Scripps gig in NYC), so I assume he’ll be front and center to watch Ariane blow out the candles.

Here’s an interesting post from Word of Mouth about the genre Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential inspired, and a Winnipeg pizza chef who got fired for participating in a similar restaurant tell-all.

Tony wrote in his own blog that his new book, Medium Raw, is meaner than he intended. But I assume he’s pleased overall with the finished product, to be released June 8, because he titled the post “Cloud Nine.”

And finally…

Blogger Corrin’s sister was on Bourdain’s flight to Austin for his April 1 appearance. She reported that Tony seemed annoyed by children on the plane (who isn’t?), and they got a few pictures.

Pacer Fox snapped another candid shot of Bourdain flying home from Austin. Tony was reading a magazine. Imagine that.

Advice to Tony: Never pick your nose in public.


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