cover image Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorites from Across the USA

Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorites from Across the USA

Mario Batali. Grand Central, $40 (512p) ISBN 978-1-4555-8471-0

Batali is best known for his New York City Italian eateries (Esca, Babbo, and Luca) and cookbooks (Molto Italiano, The Babbo Cookbook, etc.), as well as TV shows such as the foodie chat show The Chew, but he has been branching out lately, and his second book of American food (2014’s America: Farm to Table highlighted local providers) features a solid collection of some of the country’s iconic dishes. The premise is hardly a new one, and Batali offers plenty of expected regional fare: Manhattan clam chowder, crab cakes, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, and so on. These are pitch-perfect in execution but bring little new to the discussion. The book takes off with the inclusion of quirky, must-try dishes such as black-walnut ice cream from Missouri; Country Captain Chicken from the Charleston, S.C./Savannah, Ga., region; quirky Midwestern fare such as loose meat sandwiches from Iowa, Cleveland’s pierogies, and Nebraska’s runzas (bread pockets stuffed with meat and cabbage); and Maryland’s Smith Island cake. Those culinary details, as well as Batali’s essays on his two-year journey across the U.S. (which include further recommendations), set this volume apart from its peers. Though many of the dishes have been collected elsewhere (Batali’s She-Crab Soup and oysters Rockefeller, among others, do not deviate in the slightest from the classic preparations), Batali fans and collectors of Americana will appreciate this reliable and well-curated compendium. (Oct.)