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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
If you have ever wondered if a chef's children were like the proverbial barefoot shoemaker's brood, then this is a book for you. Charlie Palmer, chef-owner of New York City's famed Aureole Restaurant, Aureole Las Vegas, and Charlie Palmer Steak in Las Vegas (along with Alva, Astra, and Metrazur in New York City), has put together a book featuring the recipes that are the mainstays of his family kitchen. Written with a bit of help from yours truly, Charlie Palmer's Casual Cooking is at the opposite end of the cookbook line from Charlie's first book, Great American Food, which featured the starred-restaurant meals from Aureole. But, it is, nonetheless, just as valuable a resource.
When I first talked to Charlie about this book, he said that he wanted to do a book that would show that "a simple potato salad, made with care, could be just as delicious as any fancy restaurant dish." And "even though you are cooking simply, the food should still be presented with an eye to how it looks on the plate or in the bowl." In Charlie Palmer's Casual Cooking, the photographs by Gozen Koshida certainly show that Charlie knows whereof he speaks -- we see very simple, home-cook inspired dishes that look like four-star meals.
You can tell how important family is to Charlie as you read through the book and the recipes. He still remembers his late mom's meals (even if they weren't often terrific), and his sister carries on a family tradition with their mom's famous grilled chicken. Cooking with and for his family -- wife Lisa and four rowdy boys, Courtland, Randall, Eric, and Reed -- is a pastime that Charlie clearly enjoys. It doesn't seem to matter how busy he is or how often he has to travel, he always makes time for home-cooked meals and creating family traditions. In fact, he says that Charlie Palmer's Casual Cooking is, "in some ways, a starter book for people who have kids. I think we show that if you take the time and are adventuresome, you can cook with and for your kids so that the entire family can enjoy meal time. This is a book about real food -- a documentation of what I like to eat at home and what I cook for family and friends."
I asked Charlie if he was concerned that readers might confuse his restaurant cuisine with what he has written about in this book. "Absolutely not," said Charlie. "I think that I have made it very clear that this is home cooking. It has absolutely nothing to do with the contemporary American cuisine that I am known for. However, I do hope that it shows that fine cooking can begin in the home kitchen with simple, old-fashioned dishes. I can't tell you how often I have, throughout my career, thought about some old-fashioned recipe that I loved and reinvented it in the Aureole kitchen to elevate it to contemporary American dining standards."
I know that I had a marvelous time gathering the recipes for Charlie Palmer's Casual Cooking, and I am sure that home cooks will treasure the simple, straightforward dishes. A few of them are a bit high-end, for those weekend nights when you want to entertain more lavishly, but for the most part these are recipes you will make week after week, year in and year out. Charlie Palmer's Casual Cooking is rather like inheriting your family recipe folder. Cook from it and you will begin your own family mealtime traditions.