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Joe Beef and Mission Street: 2 cookbooks as holiday gifts

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef and Mission Street Food

If you’ve been to a dinner party in 2011 and politely asked your (hipster) host about the recipes for a particular fried chicken or ssam course and his answer was a little too earnest chances are it came from David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook. Or in some cases the entire point of the party was to serve and eat food from Momofuku. How do I know this? I’ve been that guy; I’ve cooked those meals.

What’s going to replace the yellow book in 2012? Good question.

It’s dessert version, Momofuku Milk Bar is getting the full, giant-stack treatment from bookstores (and will likely sell well) but I didn’t like reading it nearly as much. I found Christina Tosi’s writing style less comfortably enjoyable than Chang’s but I can see that if desserts are your thing–especially ones with classic American flavours–this will be more up your alley.

After exploratory surveys (but not, I should say, a really thorough testing), the two books I’m excited to cook more from are Joe Beef and Mission Street Food.

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts by David McMillan, Frederic Morin, and Meredith Erickson follows squarely in the footsteps of the Au Pied du Cochon cookbook with recipes that include foie and bone marrow but are a bit more odd-ball smoking jacket to APDD’s red plaid trapper hat.

Intros to recipes and the stories of the Montreal restaurants weaved between have some really excellent lines.  Saying that ricers are for young boys (and cooks)  “up there with fire trucks, guns, and large breasts” stands out.

Smelt mayonnaise, the bone marrow dish, and the hangover kale are all recipes that I’m looking forward to trying. Even more I look forward to bed-time reading filled with stories of their projects like back-alley smokers and ridiculously generous smorgasbord.

Mission Chinese Food was the last real meal we ate at the end of our trip to San Francisco in November. My mouth still waters at the thought of the thrice-cooked bacon and szechuan pickles.

This spots sits at the end of a chain (for now) of off-beat restaurant ideas that go from borrowed vegetable cart through borrowed days in a threadbare Chinese restaurant. The book, especially its first two-thirds, is structured as a how-we-did-it how-to that sort of like Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential will hold appeal even for those who don’t follow in any of the footsteps.

Also, like many in Momofuku, the recipes in Mission Street Food by Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint are straight-forward enough for a Tuesday but delicious, and impressive enough to be scaled up for a casual dinner party. They’re all very photo-heavy and designed for an experienced audience that doesn’t need to be led through the process of searing protein, for instance.

I suppose it can be forgiven that in the part about faking job experience in his hacker’s guide to becoming a chef Anthony does say to “pick a reputable city, but one where no one’s familiar with the food, like Miami or Toronto.” I quibble more with him for suggesting the ridiculous food processor method for mayo that is about four times more difficult than the immersion blender method.

I’m psyched to try the rare beef tostada, pork belly preparation (yes, I need another), triple-fried potatoes, and signature buttery flatbreads. And with an intro like, “I prefer by marrow big, sloppy, and redolent, like a depth charge of beef, wrapped in a squid torpedo, fired at your gullet,” how can these bone marrow stuffed squid not make the short list?

Between now and Christmas I’m going to have more suggestions for cookbooks to give this holiday season. I’ll at least cover ones that fit the categories of general reference, books on food and food policy that challenge you to think about what you eat, and cookbooks that let you travel through what you cook in your kitchen.

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  1. [...] is at the opposite end of the high-low spectrum from the example set by a similar recipe in the Joe Beef cookbook. But it was really for the tiny sausage and sweet bread stew ($19) that we engaged in fork fencing. [...]

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