Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Making of a Cookbook

All About RoastingPeople sometimes ask me how long it takes to write a cookbook, and the best answer I can give is “it all depends”. It depends on what else I’ve got going on (both personally and professionally), and it also depends on how I measure time. For instance, I am just finishing my new book, All About Roasting, and, to be honest, this book took anywhere from five years to a lifetime depending on how I look at it. From a purely chronological standpoint, I first wrote the outline in the late winter of 2006, which means it took me 5 years from start to finish. But from a developmental point of view, this is a book that I’ve been writing my whole life.

Let me try to explain. When I set out to write a book on roasting, I approached it the way I would undertake any big project. I began by establishing a clear understanding of the technique that would form the central theme of the book. From there, I planned to develop recipes that fell into that rubric. The trouble, I soon discovered, was that the harder I looked at the definition of roasting (cooking food uncovered by dry heat), the more my vision of a strong central theme began to unravel. The standard definition was too vague to really be useful. As a result, my early efforts at organizing my recipes into a book were all over the place, which meant I had no book.

So, I did something that I never would have attempted when I was younger and more bullheaded; I took a step back and asked myself what roasting means to me. To find the answer, I turned to my kitchen and to my appetite. As I roasted and ate, I let my mind travel beyond the technicalities of the stark textbook definition, and I began to understand that it wasn’t so much the technique that mattered, but it was the goodness of the results. It was the aesthetic of seared surfaces, caramelized pan drippings, and crispy end bits that I was after.

Sure, roasting involves cooking by direct exposure to dry heat, but it means so much more. Roasting, I discovered, infers more than a generalized technique; it expresses nuance and sensibility. Roasting denotes a direct, honest approach to cooking, as it leaves the inherent characteristics of ingredients intact while enhancing the intrinsic flavors and transforming them into the best expressions of themselves. Roasting is about a sizzling, crusty exterior and a perfectly cooked interior. Roasting elevates already delicious ingredients by giving them a savory crust and maintaining their own juices and tenderness. Even the phonetics of the word influence its meaning with the seductive little “st” that you make with the flick of the tongue as you say it.

Once I sorted this out for myself, I was well on my way. The book is now in the final stages of editing and proofing.  I’ve lost track of how many recipes it contains, but I can tell you that each one has that special something, that sizzle, that sear, that appeal that comes from roasting. The expected release in October/November, but you can already pre-order it if you are so inclined. Here’s the link. All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art

In the meantime, I look forward to sharing recipes and tidbits on my blog and other writings.