March 10, 2015
MarkBernstein.org
 

Prune

Prune
Gabrielle Hamilton

(order)

(March 10, 2015)

This is impressive writing; in the guise of writing yet another restaurant recipe book. Hamilton has written an intelligent and sympathetic response to Kitchen Confidential, a delightful portrait of a chef masquerading as a cookbook. This looks like a collection of recipes, but the recipes are written (and the book designed) not as if they’re adapted for the home cook, but instead as if they’re odd sheets of instructions to be handed to new line cooks. There are lots of canny and charming words of warning and advice – including several mentions of shortcuts that we wouldn’t take if we were “a real restaurant.”

There’s an entire chapter on garbage: how to use up food that even professional kitchens would throw away. (Example: sardine heads and bones: season, deep fry, and send ’em out to guests who are chefs, line cooks, or other professionals who’ll understand. These are not to be wasted on mere VIPs.)

Cookbooks are usually meant to be instructive; here, we’re not always offering the instructions we’d expect. In prepping the paté for a bar snack sandwich, the recipe advises that for a half batch one should make a cardboard and foil partition so you can use half the paté pan, and if you don’t know how, you should “find me and we’ll do it together.” Yes, chef. In prepping a dish based on lamb-filled wontons, the recipe calls for grabbing any intern or trailer in the house that night, because the prep is such a bitch. You don’t get this stuff from Joy of Cooking.

Recipes are scaled for service — but that often works out conveniently to 8, which is to say a dinner party, and we all know division. There’s some reverse-snobbery at work here too: the “duck liver garbure” is made with foie gras (and, we’re warned, is not really a garbure so don’t call it that if you get a job someday in a real restaurant).