Book Grub: New American Table

By John Burton, Jr.

From hamburgers, hot dogs and apple pie, each of these things are what we say personify as stables on the American table. However, the look as well as the taste of America is changing. The nation is becoming more and more of a melting pot for a variety of ethnicities bringing their tastes with them which has aided in the change of the American palate. This is all the more evident in the latest cookbook, and I would also say huge picture book, New American Table, by Top Chef Master Champion Marcus Samuelsson.

The Ethiopian born but Sweden raised chef is facilitating on what the New America food should be considered.  Touted as one of the nation’s premiere chefs, Samuelsson in the New American Table takes us on a culinary journey as what Americans are now cooking in the kitchen. Coupled with the copious amount of recipes, there are breathtaking photographs taken from across the heartland to the seas.

Chocked with over 350 pages of recipes, Samuelsson provides a plethora of things from which to sample to meet the needs of the any American. He conquers condiments to desserts effortlessly throughout his work leaving his signature on each. The highlights for me are the Breakfast and Brunch, Fish and Seafood, and Desserts and Drinks sections. Within breakfast and brunch, the Breakfast Burritos were delightful! Based on the ambiance of the California atmosphere twinge with a hint of Mexican culture, the burritos were muy bueno (very good) with flavor overlaying flavor brilliantly.

Another standout is the Mushroom Risotto.  A colossal fan of risotto, Samuelsson’s take on the Italian classic warmed my heart and belly. What fascinated me most was the use of red wine in this recipe instead of white.  The inclusion of the red provided a richer and robust essence without compromising the taste of the dish. I am anxious to get started on the Banana Bread Pudding. As a Southerner, nothing says comfort like bread pudding. Yet Samuelsson’s twist on the classic by adding cardamom, coconut milk, and cherries, makes my mouth glisten with the thoughts of how it will taste.

It is the little things that certainly make New American Table a must buy for someone looking to fool their palates with classics done the Samuelsson way. Samuelsson forces African-Americans to move beyond salt, pepper and seasoning salt for today’s cooking. Overall there are only two drawbacks to the work. At first glance, the book’s bulk comes to mind. He could have easily divided the book into two or three books without compromising the integrity of the work. The 300 plus pages could seem a bit daunting. Secondly, the recipes are geared more towards the intermediate and professional cook rather than beginner. It’s the “finessing” of the food that needs to be considered on some of the recipes. Still as the youngest chef to receive a three-star rating by the New York Times, owner of the Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem, UNICEF ambassador and frequenter on various Food Network and Bravo programs, Samuelsson proves why he is one of America’s top chefs. Samuelsson successfully marries, flavor, culture and goodness all in every dish.

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