October 23, 2008

Take This Dish and Twist It

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With chapter titles from “Grillin’ Like a Villain” to “How Sweet It Ends,” George Duran’s unique cookbook sets out to take comfort food to a new, decidedly unexpected level. While the recipes may not make for the most appetizing sounding dishes (potato chip Spanish tortillas?), the book is, overall, well written and interesting.
Duran explains right off the bat his penchant for fried foods, and even goes so far as to list some of his favorites: fried pickles, fried strawberries, fried olives, etc. As Duran himself writes, “You can fry all of these things. The question is, should you?” In my opinion, you should not, so the enormous amount of fried food in the cookbook was a bit off-putting. Once past the initial grease, however, there are delicious recipes to be found.
The granny smith guacamole, a tart take on the classic dip, was easy to make and a new favorite of my family. The hot and spicy brownies were a bit more complicated, but added a whole new dimension of flavor to the classic chocolate treat. Raspberry and white chocolate soy pancakes actually got me to eat something with “soy” in the title, so that was an achievement unto itself, and the Caesar spinach salad included a really cool recipe for making crispy parmesan bowls (not as hard as you would think, and a really cool trick if friends come over for dinner).
While those dishes are great, however, there are others that make you cringe at the name. Cuban sandwich casserole, pizza fondue, PB&J jalapeno poppers, deep fried hammed mac and cheese … the very name is enough to feel sick, and the photos of the dishes are even worse (ham, cheese, macaroni, deep fried … ew). These are the dishes that make the book less of a success, and make you wonder who Duran was marketing the book to (Morbidly obese cheese-lovers? College kids who love greasy food? People who just have way, way too much time on their hands and love fried food way, way too much?). Regardless, some of Duran’s culinary creations are downright nasty looking.
Overall, some of the dishes are very good, and there are a few more that I would be interested to try. However, I probably could have looked up the recipes online. Nothing that is particularly new or innovative looks like I could stomach it. If you have the arteries for it, I recommend this cookbook. Otherwise, stick to epicurious.com. Your heart will thank you later.