Book Review: Home Cooked by Anya Fernald

Home Cooked  by Anya Fernald is a beautiful and well written cookbook that provides stories, recipes and insight from her journey through the beginnings of the Italian slow food movement to opening of a full fledged animal and vegetable farm.

The bulk of the book is composed of an introduction, a building block chapter and three main sections, Welcome, Take a Seat, and Stay a While.  These three sections equate to the dynamics of having guests over for dinner and starting with a small snack and a cocktail, enjoying a main dish with well appointed sides and finishing with a hand made rustic dessert.

The introduction is well written and is quite an interesting read that details the life of the author beginning from a trip after college to the the present which includes running a farm, multiple restaurants, a meat processing plant and a resort in Belize.  At times it seems as if the author was blessed by obscenely good luck but the progression and evolution of her philosophy and career is important to understanding what is behind the recipes.

This cookbook is definitely written for those who like to READ cookbooks as well as cook from them.  Each recipe has a short paragraph talking about it, some extend to half a page.  I personally enjoy reading these but for some the amount of writing could be overwhelming.

Building blocks  is a chapter that is similar to chapters that have been appearing in many other modern cookbooks but this version offers mostly unique recipes including two types of chimichurri, barbadian hot sauce, lard, tallow and trotter broth.  The building block recipes are for simple items that you can make at home that can be used to elevate simple dishes.  The recipes are all fairly simple with the exception of canned tomatoes.  The recipes also include references to other recipes in the book that utilize what was just made.  It is nice that most of the building blocks are used multiple times throughout the book.

The snacks, starters and cocktails chapter contains 25 food recipes and eight beverage recipes.  The snack recipes range from simple like a fried mortadella sandwich to complex like Panzerotti (which look delicious).  It is a pleasant surprise that this section has recipes with meats, fish, vegetables and cheese.  It is extremely well balanced and makes it easy to choose one or two different things to make for a party.

The cocktail section is not entirely necessary in this book as most of the recipes are fairly common.  There are a couple of interesting variations on the Old Fashioned and two bitters variations that peaked my interest but I’m more likely to reference my dedicated cocktail books.  If you are not as into cocktails as I am I’m sure that the recipes provided will get you through a dinner party with no problem.

The Stay a While section is broken into three parts, pasta (ragu, risotto & eggs), vegetables and meat (including fish).  This section also includes her take on buying and cooking steaks, cooking over fire and cooking in cast iron pans.  I found the author’s writings enjoyable and was able to take some new information away from each.  
The pasta section includes recipes for lesser known pastas and use a variety of meats and vegetables including rabbit.   The meat section provides recipes for small cuts of meat and fish up to larger cuts like a braised brisket.  For some the cuts and meats used may be difficult to find or may not be something you’re willing to try but I always appreciate recipes for things such as tongue, tripe, heart, liver, squab, and quail.

The last section details a variety of desserts that all look rustic and delicious.  This section displays her love for buttermilk in two recipes and lard in another (pound cake).  Although the author professes to not be a dessert person I found this section to be just as great as the rest of the book.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and plan on cooking many recipes from it, starting with trying out the two chimichurris.  At first glance this book did seem overwhelming and complex but after diving into it I realized that the recipes are all fairly simple and I found myself reading it just to hear what the author had to say about each recipe.  The layout is clean and simple which fits perfect with the rustic yet chic vibe and the photographs are gorgeous throughout.  This is a book that I would definitely give as a gift to a friend that I really liked.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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