Cookbooks pile up around my room, were they wafers, taunt and crackling, there would be enough to feed several large extended families.
Some of the books are solid, heavy, and affirming. Some are paperbacks, flimsy with pages lost. "Curl up with a good book" has long been my ointment, my medicine cabinet cure-all, for life's daily maladies, like the departing of seasons, endless thumping rain, a dark grey Sunday. The feel of the paper, the weight of the book, the photos. Nothing destroys the crush for a new beau more than finding out he owns a Kindle.
Chef/restauranteur Jose Garces has a new cookbook, The Latin Road Home and it's on the top of my book pile right now. Part food tour, part memoir, it's informative, but accessible, and it reads like a travelogue with recipes. The more you read, the more you can't put it down. I took it home on the subway, and by East Broadway, I had 3 strangers asking me what was the book, where could they get it, and the man in front of me who was carrying 2 lbs of shrimp asked me if I could give him a recipe from the book, for something he could possibly make at home that very night. (Shrimp Ceviche!)
The book centers around 5 Latin food cultures that influenced the course of Chef Jose's life, and these 5 countries make up the chapters: Equador, his ancestral home. (While Jose was raised in North-West Chicago, his parents were both born in Equador). The second chapter is Spain, where he worked, then Cuba, where his wife is from, and finally Mexico and Peru, that was the inspiration for some of his restaurants.
Each of these chapters offers 4 complete dinner menus. Some of the dishes included in the book are...
Equador: Equdorian Hot Sauce, Fried Pork, Avocado Salad, and Figs in Honey Syrup with Goats Cheese. Spain: Almond Gazpacho with Smoked Trout, Saffron Aioli, Canapes with Duck Confit and Serrano Ham. Cuba: Lobster in Spicy Tomato Sauce, Fried Stuffed Chiles, Guava and Cream Cheese turnovers. Mexico: Spicy Margarita, Octopus ceviché with Avocado, Chipotle Chicken Nachos. Peru: Red Chile Butter, Rosemary Mint Chimichurri, stewed Duck with Potatoes Peas and Chiles, Peruvian Doughnuts.
Jose's book is beautifully shot by photographer Jason Varney and prop styled by Heather Chontos.
Jason got to travel to Ecuador with Jose and his wife and children. They spent the first few days shooting in the Quito markets, and Jose reunited with many of his family members at a dinner he hosted in Quito, where Jason had the pleasure of shooting portraits of Jose's family tree. Next they traveled a few hours into the Andes and stayed at an eco-touism site called Hacienda Zuleta (on the book's cover). They shot all the recipes a few weeks later at Jose's Cira Centre restaurant JG Domestic while it was still under construction, they set up a make-shift studio and shot the nearly 100 recipe/process images over 8 days. In terms of propping, Heather decided to keep the palette muted but introducing pops of Latin colors- aquas, pinks, yellows. She hand-painted surfaces, and hand-tore linens. They wanted things to feel distressed and rustic to play up the history and rustic vibe of the food. The wrinkles in the fabric were important, they felt it gave a texture and movement that was needed to convey the rustic Latin feel.
CUBAN SANDWICH (CUBANO) (Pictured above, second from top). Recipe courtesy of Jose Garces, from his new cookbook "The Latin Road Home". Cooking Note: To approximate the Cubano at home, follow the recipe to make the absolute key ingredient: the marinated, moist, and deeply flavorful roast pork. Note: plan for several hours of marinating time; you'll end up with enough pork for a second round of sandwiches or the main component of another meal. Makes 4 sandwiches.
ROAST PORK 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon of Kosher Salt 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar 1 tablespoon of ground mustard 2 lb boneless pork shoulder, tied in an even roll 1/2 cup of Dijon Mustard 1 teaspoon of Ground Mace 2 tablespoons freshly ground Pepper 1 tablespoon Spanish Smoked Sweet Paprika
SANDWICH 4 (6-inch) light crisp-crusted bakery rolls 2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard 3/4 lb best quality domestic Ham (unglazed), thinly sliced 1/4 lb Swisss or Gruyere Cheese, thinly sliced 1 large Dill Pickle, thinly sliced lengthwise 2 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter
TO CURE THE PORK: Combine 2 tablespoons of the salt with the sugar and ground mustard. Rub the mixture all over the meat, cover, and set it in the refrigerator to cure for 6 hours. Place a rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
TO ROAST THE PORK: Rinse it under cold running water to remove the seasoning. Pat dry with paper towels. Combine the Dijon mustard, mace, black pepper, paprika, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Rub the mixture all over the meat. Set the pork in a roasting pan, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and roast in center rack at 325 degrees. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees, about 45 minutes. Allow the meat to cool completely before slicing.
TO MAKE THE SANDWICHES: Neat a sandwich press or griddle to medium-high. Split the bread lengthwise and pull it open. Spread the mustard on 1 side of each roll and layer on the roast pork, ham, cheese, and pickles. Spread the butter all over the outside of the sandwiches and griddle until the cheese is melted and the meats are warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, wrap the sandwich in foil and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.) Slice each in half on the diagonal and serve.
To purchase the book, Jose Garces The Latin Road Home: Savoring the foods of Equador, Mexico and Peru, click here.
To read the NPR interview where Garces discusses his latest cookbook. Click here.
Photos from top: Chiles for his recipe for Equadorian Hot Sauce, Cuban Sandwich (Cubano), Spanish Octopus with Potato Confit, (Bottom) Chef Jose Garces eating a Warm Hominy Salad.
Note about my blog: Did you know there are more pictures that are showing on this post? To see entire galley, click on one picture and it will take you to the galley. From there you can keep tapping on the photo to work your way through the galley.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JASON VARNEY: Jason is a food & travel photographer that grew up in the woods, but now calls The City of Brotherly Love home. When he's not taming his Welsh Terrier pup, Jase appreciates stiff drinks & long exposures. He is based in New York, and Philadelphia. Check out his work here. And his blog here.
STYLED BY HEATHER CHONTOS: Heather is an artist, prop stylist and wannabe cowgirl, who lives in Bozeman, Montana with her two daughters, a giant St. Bernard, four chickens, and three ducks. Heather travels between both coasts for work, but when at home, hosts big dinner parties in Bozeman where they draw all over the table together and make crazy art whilst eating. Heather now works mainly through her little design consultancy Milk Farm Road. Check out her work here. And her blog here.