My Lisbon: A Cookbook from Portugal’s City of Light

Nuno Mendes. Ten Speed, $35 (372p) ISBN 978-0-399-58171-7
Lisbon takes the spotlight in this gorgeously written collection by Mendes, executive chef at London’s Chiltern Firehouse. Far-ranging exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries made Portugal a melting pot, but disasters such as a massive 1755 earthquake, which killed a 10th of the city’s population, and an oppressive 40-year dictatorship that ended in 1974 thwarted the country’s growth, Mendes explains. Now the capital city has come roaring back with a culinary renaissance. These recipes are a thrill ride, careening from fava-bean salad with grated hard-boiled egg, to duck rice with a crisp top scattered with sausage and lardo, to round doughnuts slit and filled with eggy custard. Mendes infuses clear instructions with just enough explanation: the cross-hatching on pork steak helps it absorb red pepper marinade, while lamb shoulder is a good candidate for slow roasting because it is a “working muscle.” His essay-writing skills are outstanding, whether he’s explaining the role of informal restaurants known as tascas, describing goose barnacles that “look like aliens’ fingers, have the texture of an old handbag, and have a kind of hoof on the end,” or ruminating on a man selling sandwiches through a kitchen window during the feast of Saint Anthony. Pitch-perfect and mouthwatering, this book is a joy from start to finish. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2018
Release date: 04/24/2018
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