You can tell a lot about a cookbook by its first and its last recipe. Like a long meal, the first thing you’re given to eat can determine your dining experience, and your last mouthful is often what you remember, regardless of what came before it. The first recipe of Elisabeth Prueitt’s new cookbook, “Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook,” is a simple gremolata (three ingredients, including the pinch of salt; four lines of directions). And the last: marshmallows.
In between there are about 200 more recipes and well over 300 pages from Prueitt, the co-founder, with her husband, Chad Robertson, of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, as well as tips and menus and pretty pictures. But if you think about it, those two recipes are just about right. The gremolata is simple, classic, deeply flavorful, crazy fresh. The marshmallows are playful, silly yet technically proficient, perfect for an award-winning pastry chef and the mother of a 9-year-old daughter — Prueitt is both. One recipe takes a visit to a farmers market, or maybe just the bottom of the refrigerator, and a little knifework. The other requires a candy thermometer and sugar-cooking, copious whipping of egg whites and some fancy pastry chef flavorings. Both recipes work perfectly; both you can make and make again, fitting them into dozens of meals. Or you just read about them (appetizer, mignardise) and go straight to the everyday portion of the program, the pages and pages of stuff you’ll want to make tonight for dinner. Cheesy garlic bread. Spatchcocked chicken. Apple pie.
What makes this book interesting is that it’s not only a window into a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef’s own counter space, but it also functions as a kind of mid-career coda. Tartine Bakery is 15 years old (it’s become a San Francisco institution); the cookbook that was born from that bakery, Prueitt’s “Tartine,” came out in 2013, and has become in a staple on most bakers’ shelves. Last summer, Prueitt and Robertson opened Tartine Manufactory, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, ice cream shop, bakery and coffee shop in San Francisco; they’re opening a second Manufactory in downtown Los Angeles this year. If you’re a Tartine fan, as many of us are, “Tartine All Day” is a way to experience some of Prueitt’s recipes without having to wait in line at her restaurants.
As befits a fairly traditional cookbook, the recipes are divided into the expected chapters: breakfast and brunch, soups, mains, etc. There are lovely, if too few, photos by Paige Green, and lots of handy narrative, headnotes and menus — likely with the help of Prueitt’s coauthors, Jessica Washburn and Maria Zizka. Those recipes, as Prueitt points out in her book’s chatty introduction, are formatted — as are “The Joy of Cooking” and “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” — with the ingredients and instructions side by side. It’s a smart conceit, as it not only visually aligns her with those two classics, but it makes the book feel even more workmanlike and pragmatic than it does already: It’s a cook’s book, a family book, a home kitchen book.
That said, it isn’t really a book for beginners. Many of the recipes assume kitchen knowledge and a serious pantry, filled with specialty ingredients. An excellent blueberry cobbler, for example, requires brown and white rice flour, oat flour, arrowroot starch and kefir. If, however, you’re gluten intolerant, as Prueitt is, these specialty ingredients are likely what you already have in your pantry — and this book is exactly the family cookbook you’ll want.
To remove the backbone from the chicken, use a large, sharp knife or very sharp kitchen shears and work on a secure cutting board. The best way to do this is to place a dampened towel on top of your work surface and set the cutting board on top of it. Hold the chicken upright, so that its back faces you. The back will come out in a long strip about 1¼ inches wide, so place your knife a little more than ½-inch to the right of the spine and cut down the length of the back. I find it easiest if you go down one side halfway, then the other side halfway, and so on, until the entire back is cut out. It generally takes a few cuts to do this. Discard the backbone.
Lay the chicken flat, with the uncut side facing up. In some cases, the breastbone may need to be pushed on a bit to flatten it more. The legs should be pointing outward from the body rather than inward toward each other. Separate the breast meat from the skin and slip about half of the thyme leaves under the skin on the surface of the meat. Repeat for the thighs with the remaining thyme. Rub one-quarter of the salt over the underside of the bird and rest on the skin side, making sure to get some under the wings and thighs. There should be a little less on the wings and a little more on the breast, legs, and thighs. Place the bird skin-side up on a platter and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or up to 1 to 2 days.
When you are ready to roast the chicken, place a pizza stone on the floor of your oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and set it aside to come to room temperature while the oven and stone are preheating.
Set the baking sheet directly on the stone and roast the chicken for 25 to 35 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after about 15 minutes so the chicken cooks evenly. Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness. The center of the thigh should reach 170 degrees and the thickest part of the breast should reach 160 degrees (it will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven). Remove the pan from the oven.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
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