February 4, 2014

Cookbook Review: Classico e Moderno (& the Story of a Recipe Disaster)


Michael White, an executive chef who owns nine successful restaurants from New York to Hong Kong brings his trademark spin on Italian cuisine to Classico e Moderno. Stuffed full of delicious recipes, luscious photographs and helpful cooking tips, it will appeal to novice and veteran cooks alike.

The first half of the book--Classico--delves into White's Wisconsin upbringing and years of training in Italy, including his exploration of the variations in regional Italian cooking. He also shares more than 100 classic Italian recipes, ranging from bistecca alla fiorentina (steak Florentine) to gnocchi to pomodori gratinati (baked tomatoes with breadcrumbs).

The recipes follow a traditional Italian meal pattern--from appetizers to soup to pasta to meat courses to dessert--but are also flexible, inviting the home cook to expand upon and alter them to fit the ingredients on hand, just as an Italian cook would.

The second half of the book, Moderno, is more about White's vision of modern Italian cuisine, combining classic Italian ingredients with French techniques and American twists. These recipes are a bit more exotic, including sea urchin and lardo crostini, gazpacho with grilled mackerel, seaweed pesto with chive oil and venison medallions with quince purée and juniper sauce.

Whether enjoying a simple classico favorite or tackling a delicious moderno dish, Classico e Moderno: Essential Italian Cooking is sure to please cooks of all abilities and lovers of Italian food.

Let's face it, my picky tastebuds and I weren't going to make anything from the moderno half of the book. But I did make some fried bread from the first half (they were described as small, hot vehicles for transporting cured meats to your mouth, what's not to love?!). But they were a terrible, horrible flop. I wish I'd thought to take pictures.

My friend Meghan and I were completely bewildered by how little liquid there was in the recipe. A scant 1/4 cup of water was not enough to mix with all the flour plus fat and salt and baking soda! So we added extra water to make the dough cohesive, because there was no way to fry the crumbs we had before. But the extra water made them leaden, so they absorbed a ton of oil while frying, instead of floating to the top of the pan. Oh man, did that meal sit heavy in my stomach! I don't recommend it. Although the fried bread/ cured meat idea has still been hovering in my brain. I think we might adapt a sopapilla recipe next time around.

Anyway, I'm going to chalk that failure up to a recipe error since I got the uncorrected proof to review. But the pictures are gorgeous and the stories are nice, so you should go look for the real version of this cookbook!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure!

Had any recent kitchen disasters of your own?

I originally wrote most of this review for Shelf Awareness. And this post contains some of my affiliate links.