Andrew Carmellini isn't known for American food. He's known for Italian food first and foremost, and is no slouch when it comes to French food either. But he is American, and during childhood and early adult road trips, he's seen a lot, tasted a lot and loved a lot of American food. In his latest cookbook American Flavor, the recipes are inspired by dishes at his newest restaurant, The Dutch, in New York City. They are the Italian and Polish dishes of his youth, the Mexican, Japanese and Korean dishes of his kitchen crew, and the BBQ, Cajun and Hawaiian dishes found around the country.
The introduction of this book, co-authored by Carmellini's wife Gwen Hyman, shares the story of Carmellini's life and his travels around the U.S. and Europe. It's long - I'm not going to lie - but it's provides interesting insights into what it takes to become a world-class chef. As the story goes, and as Carmellini's life and career have gone, it takes a bit of bravado, a dash of madness, and a hearty helping of humility. Even not having dined at any of Carmellini's establishments, I found his story fascinating.
This cookbook is like many others from famous chefs who run popular restaurants. There's more personality and behind-the-scenes stories, and less kitchen tips and cooking lessons. The introduction is absent of the standard "equipment I like," "how to use this book," and other basic cooking techniques. Other than Carmellini's life story, American Flavor jumps right to the recipes.
And oh, what recipes they are. There's broiled lobster with red curry and lime, salt-baked beef tenderloin, pierogies, a Sunday night ragu, succotash, Dutch babies, and Chinese-style spare ribs, glazed in a hoisin sauce mixture and sprinkled with sesame seeds and green onions, which Carmellini calls "white boy Asian ribs."
Sprinkled throughout the chapters on soups and salads, seafood, poultry and meat, vegetables, beans, rice, grains, and pasta, breads and breakfast, and dessert are vignettes from Carmellini's road trips and cooking stints, like going to dirt track races with his dad, cooking at a sprawling hotel in the Virginia mountains, and his first apartment in New York City.
For the upcoming all-American holiday, there's plenty of inspiration in this book and excellent choices for whatever potluck or party you have in your plans. There's Japanese-style corn on the cob with a mixture of Japanese mayonnaise, furikake, yakisoba sauce, and bonito flakes spread on top. There's a spicy summer melon salad with a dressing of Sriracha, fish sauce, oil, and fresh herbs. And the root beer cake, which includes sassafras bark (you can probably find it Tenzing Momo - a good place for herbs and spices too obscure for Market Spice or World Spice), offers a uniquely American flavor to the dessert table.