Book Grub: Simply Done, Well Done

By V. Sheree Williams

I first heard about the latest cookbook by chef Aaron “Big Daddy” McCargo, Jr. in 2009 from the man himself.  A favorite on the Food Network, McCargo really delivered a wonderful collection of recipes that puts him right in the kitchen with his fans.

“Simply Done, Well Done” according to McCargo was two years in the making and in the end captured the essence of his culinary style and flavor as seen on his show, “Big Daddy’s House.”  He describes the recipes as either “super easy” or ones that “takes a little bit of thought,” but essentially each one can be prepared with ease no matter what level of cooking skills you have.

With 120 recipes to tempt you every day and night, the cookbook first opens with acknowledgments and thank yous, something I thought was a nice touch.  It took a team to make this book happen and McCargo is fully aware of that.  Next, we learn more about the man behind the big smile and food along with a nice bio that briefly outlines the journey traveled to get to where he is now.  My favorite part, besides the recipes, is titled “My Kitchen, Your Kitchen,” and here we get the inside scoop on what to have in the kitchen to cook just like McCargo.  If you have any questions about what pots and pans, appliances, and knives to own and use, McCargo answers them all in this section.

Almost all of the recipes in the book were created by McCargo.  He is a big supporter of the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, N.J. and brought on five students to work on the project as well. The title came about during a conversation between McCargo and his manager.  “I said I want to keep it simple. I just want to make sure that it is well done. I don’t want it junky, I don’t want it overdone. He was like ‘simply done, well done’ and I said okay and it was born.  It took us all of a two minute conversation to discuss what I wanted this book to be about.”

At first glance, you just can’t wait to get in the kitchen, pull out a cutting board and knife and get down to business.  Each recipe is packed with flavor and diversity.  From appetizers to soups, salads and main entrees, McCargo as we would say, really “put his foot” in this book.  My favorites so far are the ultimate chicken salad and the savory taco chicken pizza with guacamole and chipotle salsa.  I love chicken salad and this recipe was easy and tasty.  I have to admit that I used chicken salad from Costco that I just love, but the rest of the ingredients were just spot on for a flavorful sandwich.  As a BIG pizza fan, the savory taco chicken pizza was to die far as well.  I like to make my own dough and loved the concept of Italy meeting Mexico to pack an unforgettable punch. I also like my guacamole spicy so when you add that to the pie, it brings everything on home. 

The recipes for dressings and sauces are also easy and take only minutes to prepare.  My favorites here are the pesto and chipotle mayonnaise.  What a great way to give burgers a savory makeover. 

Lastly, the desserts also steal the show. I haven’t tried any of these recipes yet, but on my list include the cinnamon-peach bread pudding and vanilla ice cream sundaes with homemade butterscotch sauce and sweetened vanilla whipped cream. Talk about guilty pleasures.

McCargo also has a line of herbs and spices that come in four bold flavors: McCargo’s Smoked Salt, Signature Rub, Signature Blend and Seasoning Salt.  His signature line is available on his web site at www.aaronmccargo.com.

The next time you watch “Big Daddy’s House” on the Food Network, remember that you can taste the flavor first hand with each recipe from “Simply Done, Well Done.”  We asked for it and now it is here. As for his next book, McCargo says that he would love to do a cookbook full of soups, salads and sandwiches.  I have already signed on to that and will once again be anxiously waiting.

To order your copy of “Simply Done, Well Done,” click here.  Or the first person to post a comment telling me what year McCargo started his show on the Food Network will win a copy. Must live in the U.S.  Good Luck!

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