Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dear Mr. Oliver, It's Time For A Cholesterol Check. . .

On Wednesday, December 9th, Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution, was put through a rigorous real-world kitchen test, in the first of our Warwick's staff cookbook-themed potlucks.  Mr. Oliver's new book is directed towards wholesome, hard-working folk that don't have a lot of time to cook but love anything with Bacon fat in it.  Sounds like the staff at Warwick's!  What better way for booksellers to get to know a cookbook than to take it for a test drive?  Unfortunately, like the Ford Edge, this one is getting mixed reviews.  Jamie, we still love you, but a 'lug' of olive oil?  Really?  And man, you've got to put down the stick of butter.  Still, no one left the building hungry and, despite a criticism here or there, dishes did not go untouched.  Here's a run down of what was made, with chef commentary and photos (which definitely do not do the food justice):

Adriana made Chicken Tikka Masala:

"Although tasty, the recipe as written was too watery, and needed doctoring.  Overall, I would recommend it if you want a tasty curry and don't have a lot of time."

Phoebe made Camembert Pasta:

"Cheese and pasta, my favorite.  Camembert, garlic, rosemary and olive oil, all melted and gooey.  Delicious.  Easy.  Will definitely make it again."

Kim made Mega Chocolate Fudge Cake:

"Could have done without the nuts.  Loved the 'Squidgyness' factor, but it definitely needed the vanilla ice cream."

James made Beef and Ale Stew:

"Leave it to Jamie to show me one more way to consume ale. I made his Beef and Ale Stew recipe even easier by using a slow cooker for 8 hours on low. However, the wonderful aromas made it hard to sleep."

John made the Creamy Leek Bake:

I decided to make the "baked creamy leeks" because I found the picture of it one of the more appealing pictures in "Jamie's Food Revolution." I mention this only because the photography in this book leaves much to be desired. It seems that in an effort to make this cookbook comfortable and friendly for ordinary folks, the producers of the book have made a series of design decisions that hinder cooking: lists presented in paragraph form, cluttered photographic presentation, and less intimidating (that is, less colorful) photographs. Add to this the decision to abandon, in several instances, standard measures in favor of quaint expressions like "a lug of olive oil" and "a pat of butter." It is genuinely a shame that a cookbook with so many good and simple recipes has to be encumbered by these bad production and editorial decisions. The quality of the recipes became most evident to me at our potluck where all of the food on offer proved quite yummy. The leek dish I prepared is a surefire crowd pleaser as long as that crowd does not contain vegetarians or people shying away from excessive calories. Heavy cream and cheese make a decadent backdrop to leeks seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme. The dish was easy to prepare. Do make sure you have the right size casserole or earthenware dish; the depth of the leek concoction (1 inch) is critical to the dish's success.

Scott made the Parsnip and Ginger Soup:

"It was not a terribly thrilling vegetable pureed soup, despite my hopes for something unique because of the ginger and parsnip.  The carrots, celery and onions just turned this into veggie soup with a hint of ginger, but most folks seemed to like it.  In a book of bad photos, this and the leek bake looked the best.  Jamie's soup chapter has a section of soup add-ons, like bacon, grated cheese, croutons, and other calorie bombs, and if I make this again I'll be backing the 'ol flavour truck up to the pot.  Honk, honk!"

Nancy Warwick made Carrots in a Bag and the Mini Shell Pasta with a Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce:

"I love to cook but, almost by instinct, I'm opposed to the "chef-centric" cookbooks. I don't like a provocative picture of the chef, instead of a beautiful picture of the dish, next to the recipe I'm trying to prepare. I'm all about the food.  Having said that, a few years back I found myself sneaking home a copy of Jamie Oliver's "Naked Chef". With cover hidden from my family, I tried out some of the recipes. I was delighted with the results. When we received the most recent Jamie Oliver cookbook, "Jamie's Food Revolution", we decided it was the perfect choice for a staff test potluck-- the collection of recipes are easy to prepare, diverse and utilize affordable ingredients. The result: A number of employees described it as our best potluck ever (and there have been many)!  The one drawback of the cookbook is that many of the recipes depend on a lot of butter and oil. I thought about my own eating habits, which is to eat lean and healthy most of the time, and then splurge on some extravagant dish at home or at a restaurant. Jamie's book reminded me that great comfort food can be as satisfying as the most complex and involved of culinary inventions."

So, that's a run down of Jamie-palooza 2009.  We might do this again, so any cookbook suggestions would be helpful.  And no, we did not hire a professional photographer for the food shots.  Of course, neither did Jamie.

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