JARED’S NOTE: Our second book report is on Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World, the second offering from Top Chef contestant and Atlanta chef Kevin Gillespie and his writing partner David Joachim. We’ll feature three recipes from his book this week, and we’re going to giveaway a copy. Using one of the links below.
Atlanta-based chef Kevin Gillespie (pictured right) earned his fame as the “pork belly guy” on the sixth season Bravo’s Top Chef. He didn’t win, but was voted the fan favorite on the competition. This appearance propelled his career, leading to a myriad of awards, and his first book, the 2012 Fire In My Belly. By 2013, Gillespie opened his own outpost. Gunshow takes a different approach to the conveyor-belt sushi concept, sending waiters with chef-selected plates to the dining room for guests to select.
With Gunshow up and running, and Gillespie’s star as bright as ever, he and collaborator David Joachim released Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World, one of the most attainable and easy to follow cookbooks I have ever come across.
Gillespie starts the book with his story of how he spent his childhood wishing for a pet, beginning a pig obsession that led him to a Georgia pig farm after he became a chef so he could learn about the animals and how they were raised. The chef offers an education on pig breeds, pork labeling, and a lengthy explanation of consumer commodity pork versus heritage breeds. The pork we find our supermarket shelves lacks the quality of that taken from pasture-raised pigs, which the author lays at the feet of an industry seeking to yield the most meat per animal at the sacrifice of fat and flavor. Gillespie writes:
If you’ve ever grown plants, you may have put Miracle-Gro on your tomatoes at some point and then said: “Holy cow! Did you see those tomatoes? They’re the size of basketballs!” Similar growth enhancers exist in animal feed. Some farmers use them, but they don’t necessarily produce the best-tasting meat. Look for pork that’s raised on high-quality vegetarian feed. For years, people fed pigs slop. And they’ll eat it because these animals are omnivores. They’re hungry. I’ve been known to wolf down two and a half bags of Funyuns if they’re sitting in front of me. But feeding a hog better food creates better meat.”
If this book was a research paper, the above paragraph would be his thesis statement. A quality upbringing leads to a quality product.
Gillespie weaves some his observations with stories, including his on again, off again relationships with pork shoulder and pork belly, the story of his braised pork shoulder recipe that went from experiment to menu item at a restaurant that seated 900 reservations per night, to making a persuasive case to adopt his holistic love for the pig:
I love every last morsel on a pig. But I don’t want to go too far afield here with oddball cuts like pig hearts and kidneys. I do use trotters in my Pork Pho. You just can’t get a rich mouthfeel in that soup from anything but gelatin, and pig’s feats have that in spades.
This intimate knowledge of his porcine friends drives the recipes and layout of the book. Chapter two is a guide to the rubs and sauces at the foundation of the recipes, which are broken into region of the pig’s body. The shoulder section bypasses simple braising and run-of-the-mill pulled pork in lieu of pork shoulder saltimbocca, Korean barbecued pork bulgogi (to be featured this week), and homemade pork pastrami. The loin section goes beyond the basic roast and adapts international flavors from India (pork vindaloo), China (Sichuan salt and pepper pork chops), Thailand (red curry pork) and Germany (zigeunerschnitzel). Yes, Gillespie shares a four different preparations of ribs in the belly and ribs chapter, but he also speaks at length about bacon and how to prepare it from the belly, jowl and shoulder. And, with four dessert recipes — we’ll feature banoffee trifle with candied bacon this week — and directions on how to make your own pork rinds, Gillespie hits all three meals, snacks and the sweet tooth.
Look at a cookbook on its merits and usability. Are the dishes attainable or is the book something that looks nice on a shelf? Can I get the ingredients from my local butcher or will I need to source from a purveyor halfway across the country? Gillespie presents, as he calls them, “totally cookable recipes” that fit in any kitchen. Yes, you may need a smoker to make the bacon, and sure, you will want a deep fryer for those pork rinds, but no one said that cooking was going to be easy. The author works hard to illustrate the recipes so that they are easy to follow and not too complex.
I buy one or two cookbooks a year, and (semi)anxiously await their release. Gillespie’s book has been on my radar for months as one to get, and the variety and challenges presented throughout the book fail to disappoint.
The Book: Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World
The Author: Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim Cover Price: $29.99 Pages: 240
The Publisher: Andrews McNeel Publishing Publish Date: March 31, 2015
Usability Factor: Easy to medium, as some recipes require a smoker or deep fryer
Buy for: Someone who liked Kevin on Top Chef or takes their pork seriously.
DISCLAIMER: This book was provided by Andrews McNeel Publishing for this review.