The dishes at Grant Achatz’s award-winning Chicago restaurant Alinea are entirely new, yet what diners taste often resurrects their most cherished food memories. Achatz has said that flavor is memory, and of all the ways in which Alinea appeals to the senses, it’s flavor that he has harnessed and reinvented in a kitchen that never rests on its laurels. (Although, Achatz has employed everything from smoking oak leaves to cinnamon torches to impart flavor, so who’s to say that laurel branches are out of the question?) For a menu as ambitious as Alinea’s, its cookbook incarnation is as clear a window into a chef’s creative process as you could hope for, buttressed by stunning photography and thoughtful essays from Achatz and food literati Michael Ruhlman and Jeffrey Steingarten, among others. This doesn’t mean necessarily that you’ll cook from Alinea often, or perhaps ever: the 600 recipes are composed precisely to show that any motivated cook can recreate Alinea’s dishes at home, but to do so may be missing the point. What makes Alinea remarkable–and unlike any other cookbook on the shelf–is its passionate insistence that there isn’t just one recipe for being a cook. –Anne Bartholomew
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Tags: Alinea Mosaic, Black Truffle Explosion, black truffle juice, bunch thyme, elephant garlic cloves, fresh bay leaf, fresh juniper berries, gelatin sheets, gellan gum, glucose powder, Granny Smith, Grant Achatz, grape seed oil, hot curry powder, kosher salt, licorice extract, Louis François, modified food starch, Murray River, National Starch, percent cacao, Simple Syrup, soy lecithin, star anise pods, steelhead roe, sweet curry powder, tapioca maltodextrin, The French Laundry, Thomas Keller, unsulfured dark molasses, yellow pectin, Yukon Gold, yuzu juice