In recent years a new breed of aggressively casual chefs has come forward to write a new sort of authoritative, opinionated, humorous, always irreverent cookbook—Anthony Bourdain is their god or mascot. More than one of them comes from Quebec. This is a leading example. Health is never part of the equation; sheer extravagant gusto is. Egg yolks ooze, meat fills the plate, and rich sauces proliferate. But there’s an inherent honesty to the uniquely Montreal interpretations of French bistro cuisine cooked up by owners-chefs Morin and McMillan at Joe Beef. Lamb Shoulder for Two, Condimint (they love puns) brings together a springy lamb stew with fresh peas and mint, all with a sweet-sour sauce built from dates and cider vinegar and a pronounced horseradish bite. We swooned. Lentils Like Baked Beans, according to the authors, “has a bit of a Quebecois-lumberjack-in-Bollywood taste.” Uh, sure—and it’s a perfect example of how brilliant chefs can take a dish you’ve had countless times and make it something new and exciting.
The book is wacky, good fun. One chapter is devoted to train travel and train-inspired recipes (like the lentils mentioned above). The authors warn the home cook against deep-frying without a proper fryer, especially if “drunk and/or naked.” A recipe for mashed potatoes instructs the cook to “rectify the seasoning.” A cocktail right out of Mordecai Richler, called Gin ’N’ Jews, marries Manischewitz with gin, egg white, and lemon juice. For all the bawd and bombast, this is a heartwarming success story of two chefs who unflinchingly stick to their unique vision.
GIVE THIS TO: Cutting-edge cooks who enjoy a taste of braggadocio. —Robin Bashinsky