You know, I'm trying hard to do the Meatless Monday thing every week, but sometimes I flat-out forget, or can't come up with any ideas of what to make. I guess I am just a meat and potatoes girl at heart. So I was very much looking forward to digging into Rahm Fama's new cookbook, Meat and Potatoes.
The book is divided into sections by type of meat, from beef to pork to chicken to lamb to game. Each section begins with information about how to choose the right cuts of meat. Then come the recipes, in the form of 52 complete meals (one for every week of the year): a main meat dish and two accompaniments, generally a starch and a veg.
Many of the recipes for the main meat are not recipes at all—they just tell you to drizzle the meat with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook in a cast-iron pan (or grill it). Don't get me wrong—this is a superlative way to cook everything from a ribeye steak to a pork chop, but it's not really a "recipe," and it's not worth writing a cookbook about. Granted, not all of the meats were cooked this simply—there are recipes for Pastrami Flank Steak and Chicken Puttanesca and Lamb Parmesan (that one sounds awful to me)—but most of them are just plain meat, cooked. Delicious, but not cookbook-worthy.
As for the sides, a lot of these went to the other extreme and were complicated or fussy. I mean, honestly, who has a "sharp, round metal tube" in their kitchen that they would ever dream of using to make little mushroom shapes out of potatoes before boiling them? (And, even if you did want to do this, shouldn't they be called Potato "Mushrooms" instead of "Mushroom" Potatoes?) Then there were things like Zucchini, Eggplant, and Corn Lasagna and Cassoulet-Stuffed Red Peppers, and I guess I'm just not likely to work that hard on a side dish. (Although, come to think of it, some of these could be turned into Meatless Monday main courses....)
My final note, and maybe only a cookbook editor would notice these things, but there were carelessly worded instructions. For instance, there's a recipe for classic chicken under a brick, where you spatchcock the chicken (remove the backbone and flatten the chicken out), then press it under a brick or other heavy weight to cook it quickly. The recipe calls for "2 whole chickens, about 3½ pounds each, split in half, backbone removed." Fine. But then it says, "Cut the breasts and legs, leaving the legs and thighs together." What the heck does that mean? I couldn't even tell from the photo, although I think it was saying to remove the breastbone too, in which case why not just say that up front?
Then there's a lamb recipe that calls for "4 lamb loins, 3½ pounds each, each cut into 18 medallions," and that's meant to serve 6 people. Huh?! This is obviously a big error—2⅓ pounds of meat per person!—and indeed another lamb recipe calls for "2 lamb loins, about 1½ pounds total" to serve 6 people, which comes out to a more reasonable (albeit skimpy) ¼ pound per person. Oh, and that first lamb recipe has two other problems: First, the lamb medallions are simply seared in a skillet, but in the photo they have a lovely-looking gravy on top—how do you make that? Second, it says that you should use the same skillet the lamb was cooked in to make the accompanying Sweet Potato Galette, but that takes 45+ minutes! So your lamb would be just sitting there waiting and getting cold. And those sweet potatoes? Are supposed to be sliced "1/6 inch thick." No No No.
Whenever I spot errors right off the bat, before I even turn on my oven, I worry that other things were missed, too, and that the recipes won't turn out right.
So, all in all, despite the author's obvious enthusiasm for meat (he grew up on a ranch), I can't say that I was thrilled with the recipes presented here. It may very well be that he is a terrific cook, but not every terrific cook can put together a terrific cookbook. Case in point, I'm sorry to say.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are my own.