The New American Chef: Cooking with the Best of Flavors and Techniques from Around the World / Edition 1 available in Hardcover
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America's leading authorities on ten influential cuisines offer a master class on authentic flavors and techniques from around the world
Today's professional chefs have the world to use as their pantry and draw freely on a global palette of flavors. Now Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page bring together some of the foremost culinary authorities to reveal how to use different flavors and techniques to create a new level of culinary artistry. Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, Paula Wolfert, and many others share the foundations of ten influential cuisines:
Packed with information, ideas, and photographs that will inspire every cook, The New American Chef shares a mouthwatering array of nearly 200 authentic recipes, including Honey Spare Ribs from Michael Tong of Shun Lee Palace, Gazpacho Andaluz from José Andrés of Jaleo, and Steamed Sea Bass with Lily Buds from Charles Phan of The Slanted Door.
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About the Author
Called "the brightest young author team on the culinary scene today" on NPR, ANDREW DORNENBURG and KAREN PAGE are the James Beard Award-winning authors of Becoming a Chef, Culinary Artistry, Dining Out, and Chef's Night Out.
They live in New York City and can be found online at www.newamericanchef.com.
Michael Donnelly is a New York-based photographer whose work has appeared in Gourmet, House & Garden, Travel & Leisure, and the World of Interiors.
Read an Excerpt
The New American Chef
Cooking with the Best of Flavors and Techniques from Around the World
By Andrew Dornenburg Karen Page
John Wiley & Sons
Copyright © 2003
Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page
All right reserved.
CELEBRATING THE SEASONS
THROUGH ALL THE SENSES
A Japanese meal is a
communion with nature.
-HIROKO SHIMBO, AUTHOR, THE JAPANESE KITCHEN
WHILE "SEASONALITY" IS a mantra for chefs the world over-a determination to cook
with only those ingredients seasonally available in the market-the Japanese elevate the
idea to a whole new level. They make it a point to celebrate the seasons not only with
the cuisine itself, but throughout every aspect of the environment in which a meal is
served. This is reflected in everything from the materials and colors of the plates, bowls,
and other serving dishes to the fabrics of the placemats and napkins to the flowers on
the table to the artwork on the walls.
No other people go to such extremes to ensure that their food as well as their surroundings
are in harmony with the seasons. Every Japanese meal alludes to the natural
world. (Even take-out sushi features a plastic cut-out of grass, separating the pickled ginger
from the sushi!) To the Japanese, the dining experienceshould be not mere
sustenance, but an aesthetic encounter that nourishes all the senses.
"Japanese food is very sensuous," confirms Hiroko Shimbo. "The seasons in Japan
are very distinct, so we're very aware of the changing of the seasons and take care to
'mirror' that in both the food and the environment."
Every sense is to be pleased-never startled or jarred. Appealing visuals create an
environment that is welcoming to guests, and food is made attractive through careful
presentation. The subtle use of scents provides further scintillation. Finally, the taste of
the food is pleasing to the taste buds, while its array of textures and temperatures provides
a variety of tactile experiences-from mouth-meltingly soft to chewy to
crunchy-the sounds of which can hold their own enjoyment.
Influences on Japanese Cuisine
THE RITUALS OF JAPANESE CUISINE derive from those of the tea ceremony (cha-no-yu),
which itself evolved from the Chinese tea code. In fifteenth-century Japan, the Zen
Buddhist tea ceremony was perfected, detailing exact specifications for everything from
the proper utensils to be used for preparing and serving the tea to the importance of
including a natural component, such as a single blossom, on which to meditate. Its characteristic
spirit, as suggested by the four Zen principles-harmony, respect, purity, and
tranquility-permeates Japanese cuisine today.
The fact that Japan is a relatively small, mountainous country made up of small
islands (four main islands plus thousands of smaller islands) has also had a marked impact
on its cuisine. Notably, it lacks the often-distinctive regional variations observed in other
countries, and its mostly coastal terrain explains the predominance of seafood. In addition,
as only 15 percent of Japanese land is farmable, historically there has been a scarce
supply of food available to feed its population. Instead, Japan has managed to make
the pragmatic necessity of small portions of food aesthetically desirable. By focusing on
exquisite ingredients and presentations, Japanese cuisine has converted this limitation
into a compelling and meaningful aesthetic that expresses an almost-reverential attitude
In individual dishes, the essence of each ingredient, as opposed to a blend of flavors,
is emphasized. "Variety and interest in a Japanese dinner are achieved through
serving an array of many different dishes," explains Hiroko Shimbo. "It is important to
keep the flavors separate, which is why we use so many dishes. Each flavor plays a role
in the meal."
The design of the Japanese bento box (a lunch or picnic box featuring individual
compartments) is a ubiquitous example of these intentions. Each compartment in these
lacquered wooden boxes contains a different food item with a unique presentation. The
foods range from raw to cooked, including such items as sushi, blanched vegetables,
steamed dumplings, grilled teriyaki, and crispy tempura.
Food is meant not only to be enjoyed on the palate, but also to be appreciated on
the plate. Dishes are presented with larger pieces of food ("mountains") to the back and
smaller pieces ("water") to the front. With sushi, the Japanese serve pickled ginger and
wasabi arranged in mounds whose shapes echo the country's mountainous and hilly terrain.
Vegetables are carved into shapes from nature, such as leaves and flowers.
Garnishes, too, may be chosen not necessarily to complement the food but to accent the
season, and might include, for example, actual tree leaves.
Even a small amount of a particular food can take on large significance. "When you
eat a ten-course Japanese meal, a single pickled vegetable can provide a note of drama,"
says Mark Miller. "The drama comes from the pickle being so intense and the rest of the
meal being so pure. That level of subtlety often escapes non-Japanese people, so they
are not always able to fully appreciate a Japanese meal."
Bringing Nature Indoors
THERE ARE MANY WAYS in which nature is reflected indoors for the comfort and enjoyment
of guests. "For example, we always take into account the weather in selecting a
dish's preparation method and the temperature at which it's served," Hiroko Shimbo
explains. "During the cold months, more hot dishes are served. In the summer, the main
course will often be served cold-though not ice-cold, because that would cause the
dish's flavor to suffer."
While Westerners are more likely to seek to conquer nature, the Japanese seek
contact with nature-and to express their reverence for it. "We work hard to bring the
seasons into our home and kitchen as a way of showing appreciation," says Shimbo.
"Every season, my mother would change everything from the carpets to the art on the
walls. Even the chair and floor cushions would be changed: In the warm months, they
would be white and blue linen, while in the colder months, they would be dark red and
"My mother also had four sets of dishes, whose patterns related to the four seasons,"
Shimbo recalls. "Now I own multiple sets of dishes as well. My spring dishes are ceramic
with cherry blossoms, and the summer dishes are white, blue, and clear glass. My
autumn dishes are earth-colored, and the winter dishes are even darker than those."
Masa Takayama of Ginza Sushi-Ko in New York uses his entire restaurant as a canvas
on which to celebrate the seasons. "Atmosphere is very important to me, and I'm
involved in every aspect of creating it at Ginza Sushi-Ko," says Takayama. "I visit the
flower market every morning, and that can be a real inspiration. Recently, I constructed
large bamboo stems connecting both walls, then cut holes in them and filled them with
water to make little pools. In the spring, I use tiny cherry blossoms. I want to express to
the customer that it is springtime, so they should wake up!"
After being shown to one of his restaurant's nine seats, a customer is taken further
into Takayama's expression of the seasons. He is as serious about his presentations as he
is about the food, paying careful attention to the plate chosen for serving each dish. "I
am always thinking about flavor and visual contrast, combined with my own feeling
about what is 'right,'" Takayama explains. "I even design my own plates and then have
an artist make them for me. I know one who is very talented and can make anything that
I come up with.
"My plate choices depend on the season," he says, echoing Hiroko Shimbo. "In
winter, I like using brown or clay, which are earthy colors. In the summer, when diners
are hot, I will get them to think cool by making 'ice dishes'-literally, dishes carved from
ice. I'll also use more white or turquoise plates, since I consider those to be summer colors.
I'll even change the cups used for sake: in summer, I will take a piece of bamboo,
cut a hole in it, and freeze it, then fill it with sake!
"I also like to play the plate's color, depth, width, and texture off the fish I'm serving.
For example, toro is a little pink, so I like to serve it on a dark green dish. I like to
wrap sea urchin around shrimp, and for that I prefer a brown dish. Hamo is a white fish,
so it needs a colored plate; I may pair it with a red or sour plum color, then add a little
broth to make it softer. If I am starting with caviar, I like to use a crystal plate.
"I don't have an artistic background," Takayama points out. "I just like combining
visuals and featuring contrasts on my plates and in my restaurant. Some chefs don't
care; they just slice the fish and put it on the plate. Not me. This is my own creation. Art
and food are the same to me."
Pillars of Japanese Cuisine
MANY THINK OF PRISTINE FISH so perfect that it should be eaten raw as the star of
Japanese cuisine. Yet rice is every bit its equal in importance. To a great extent, what
make the fish, rice, and other ingredients that define Japanese cuisine shine so brightly
are a handful of other key flavor enhancers-including dashi, mirin, miso, sake, and
shoyu (soy sauce). These ingredients add depth of flavor while ensuring subtlety in
Unlike cooks in other parts of the world, the Japanese use few spices; their seasoning
is very delicate and refined. Although wasabi and mustard are used as
condiments, they are relatively minor players. As contradictory as it sounds, the
Japanese focus on adding layers of subtlety to their dishes.
Rice is a critical part of Japan's self-identity. It has been the staple grain for centuries and
at one time was a sign of wealth. During the Middle Ages, real estate values were given
in koku, a volume of rice, and samurai continued to be paid in koku even after cash
Rice is eaten in its whole-grain form, but it is also widely consumed as flour, sake,
and vinegar. "New rice," fresh from the fall harvest, is considered the best, and the
source of each year's best new rice is hotly debated. For whole-grain rice, the short-grain
varieties are often preferred because they are quite moist when cooked, remaining
firm yet sticky enough to be picked up easily with chopsticks. Masa Takayama,
however, prefers koda, which he considers "the perfect long-grain rice." Except for
glutinous rice, which is steamed, Japanese rice is usually boiled. It may be served plain
(gohan or meshi); cooked with something else, such as beans or chestnuts (takikomi-gohan);
mixed with other things after cooking (maze-gohan); made into a gruel (okayu);
or vinegared for use with sushi (sushi-meshi).
"The bottom line is that to master Japanese cooking, you have to know how to
cook rice," asserts Kaz Okochi, chef-owner of Kaz Sushi Bistro in Washington, D.C. "In
America, rice is a side dish. In Japan, it is the dish. A good bowl of rice is very important.
As a professional cook, I wash rice before cooking it. The rice comes out nicer that way,
although it takes away some of the nutrients. The most important thing about cooking
rice is the amount of water you use. Every bag of rice cooks differently, so you need to
be aware of this, and to taste and adjust.
"Freshly harvested rice from the fall cooks differently from older rice," he explains.
"A bag of the harvest rice will have a sticker on it indicating that it is from the 'new crop.'
With new-crop rice, you cut back on the water. Later in the year, as the rice dries out,
you increase the amount of water. After one bite, we know how to adjust it, which is
something that comes from experience. You must realize that growing up in Japan, we
eat rice 365 days a year. I would compare it to working with bread. Once [Washington,
D.C., chef] Roberto Donna was pointing out the subtleties of good and bad bread to
me, but I couldn't tell the difference because I didn't grow up eating bread."
Understanding the nuances of rice doesn't come naturally to most Americans
either," says Mark Miller. "Americans don't respect rice. In Japan, rice has a milling date
and, by law, can only be sold for a certain period of time, then must be removed from
the shelves. In America, we have been eating stale rice all our lives."
A good way to get a sense of the Japanese palate is to make a dashi
broth or some miso soup.
In Japan, dashi, a fish-flavored broth made primarily from dried bonito (a type of tuna)
and kombu, a seaweed, is the equivalent of stock in the Western kitchen. In American
restaurant cooking, chicken stock is most commonly used. However, as the Japanese diet
relies far more on fish, fish stock is more appropriate to the Japanese marriage of flavors.
In Japanese tradition, the soup course reveals how well a cook has made dashi, the
key component for all the dishes that will follow. Aside from its use as a stock, dashi is
also used in many other ways, such as to poach vegetables. "When you order vegetables
in a restaurant, they will be cooked in a light dashi broth with a little soy sauce," says
Kaz Okochi. "They would never be poached in just water. Dashi is good for poaching
vegetables because the vegetables will absorb its flavor. Spinach is commonly eaten in
Japan, and it is great poached in dashi with a dash of soy. Dashi is very delicate and very
Mirin is a sweet golden-brown wine made from rice, used exclusively for cooking. "It is
a source of sweetness that is more refined than sugar," explains Hiroko Shimbo. "We
use mirin in almost every food preparation, so the body is satisfied and doesn't crave
"Mirin is the most important ingredient for a marinade," she continues. "It is used
in teriyaki and for basting eel, and it makes for a rich, glossy sauce. It is important to get
authentic, not synthetic, mirin, so be sure to check the label."
Miso is a soybean paste that has a texture similar to creamy peanut butter. It is made
from fermented soybeans combined with one of three different bases-barley, rice, or
wheat-and a special yeast. There are many types to choose from, and they range in flavor
and color intensity. Darker misos have been fermented longer and tend to be saltier
and more robust-flavored, while lighter misos are less salty and more delicately flavored.
Miso is not an ingredient that needs to be replaced often, as it will keep in the refrigerator
for up to a year after opening.
"Miso, which was developed in the seventeenth century as a preservative, is a
source of salt, but it has more amino acids," explains Hiroko Shimbo. "It is very versatile,
and used in soups, dressings, marinades, and sauces. There are two basic types of miso,
light and dark, with light used most often for soups and dark for marinades. A good dark
miso should be fermented for at least a year, and some are aged for up to three years.
Excerpted from The New American Chef
by Andrew Dornenburg Karen Page
Copyright © 2003 by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
MEET THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF.
CELEBRATING THE SEASONS THROUGH ALL THE SENSES.
While seasonality is a popular culinary touchstone throughout the world, the Japanese take their celebration of the seasons beyond the selection of produce in the market to the consideration of the flowers on the table, the types of bowls and plates used for serving the food, and the linens that dress the table. Seasonality is observed in every aspect of their livesfrom the fabric of their clothing to the art on their walls.
PROCURING THE BEST INGREDIENTS.
The word "recipe" in Italian means "to procure"and indeed, the most important aspect of good food in Italy starts with selecting the right ingredients. Learning to be as discriminating as an Italian chef will hold you in good stead when selecting ingredients from any part of the world.
LETTING INGREDIENTS TASTE OF WHAT THEY ARE.
While many countries are capable of serving and appreciating unadorned food, nowhere but in Spain is th is taken to such an extreme. The classic dishes of Spain are the simplest ones that let the natural flavors of the ingredients shine through. It is the only country whose regions are actually named after dishes: stews, roasts, rice, and fried foods.
WESTERN TECHNIQUES AND SAVOIR FAIRE.
The French contributed a codification of recipes and techniques to professional cooking, which is why most American cooking schools teach French technique. These techniques are timeless and consistent, and mastering the classics will give your cooking a solid foundation upon which to build.
EASTERN TECHNIQUES AND A YIN-YANG BALANCE.
The underlying philosophy of Chinese cuisine is rooted in the concept of yin-yang: a constant balance. Balance in Chinese cuisine is raised to an art form, both within a single dish, as well as among dishes on a menu. Understanding the concept of yin-yang and how to apply it to your cookingin any vernacularwill make you a better chef.
THE MASTERFUL USE OF SPICES.
No other cuisine is as well known for spices as Indian. India consumes more spices per capita than any other nation on earth. From subtle to powerful Indian spicing is a force to be reckoned withwhether flavoring meats in the North or vegetarian dishes in the Southas well as a skill to be mastered.
WHERE CHILES REIGN SUPREME.
While chiles are an important part of cuisines elsewhere in the world, in Mexico they play the starring role: as a flavoring agent, as a condiment, as a vegetable, and more. Dish for dish, Mexicans manage to coax more flavor out of fresh and dried chiles than any other cooks on earthindeed, Mexico's very cuisine would not be the same without them.
BALANCING STRONG FLAVORS AND AROMATICS.
While in other countries a dish might first be appreciated with the eyes, in Thailand it is first appreciated through its scintillating aromas. No other cuisine employs aromatics as effectively as does Thai, and the intense sensory experience continues with the first bite, when the salty, sour, fiery, and sweet flavors begin their dance on the palate.
ENCOURAGING TACTILE AND TASTEFUL INTERACTION.
While the mark of culinary perfection elsewhere is the absence of salt and pepper on the table, in Vietnam, dishes are frequently served with a dizzying array of condimentswhether sauces, sprouts, and herbs for a dish of pho to lettuce leaves and a bowl of dipping sauce accompanying a plate of hot spring rolls. It is the diner's own seasoning and preparation that completes the dish and the experience.
FEASTING IN COMFORT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
All countries have their celebrations and festivals, but in Morocco, feasting is a way of life. Their mealtime ritualsfrom hand-washing to lounging on cushions and pillowsall underscore the importance they place on their sensual enjoyment of food.
DISTINGUISHED CULINARY EXPERTS.