Prune

Gabrielle Hamilton. Random, $45 (576p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9409-4
This is one of the most brilliantly minimalist cookbooks in recent memory: no preface, no introduction, no interminable recounting of all that Hamilton has witnessed in her 15 years as the chef/owner of New York’s Prune restaurant. Instead, nested throughout the 250 recipes, in a handwritten font, are scribblings, usually in the form of orders rather than suggestions, as if the reader were on her payroll. It’s an appealing tactic, in a masochistic kind of way, which at once conveys the thrill of restaurant cooking and the wisdom of the author, while making for a charged reading experience. “Don’t just slam them into the pan and manhandle,” she advises in a recipe for razor clams with smoked paprika butter. Her carrot-peeling advice is equally blunt: “Long fluid strokes please—do not chisel away at them into a cubist rendering.” At the end of an entry for salt and sugar-cured green tomatoes, she challenges the imagination by planting a suggestion, like any good boss would, “We should figure out something to do with the interesting cured tomato water.... Maybe the bartenders have an idea?” Twelve of the book’s 13 chapters are jammed with intensely flavored entries. The other, entitled “Garbage,” finds purpose for limp celery and smoked fish scraps, of which the author warns, “I’ll kill you if you waste it.” Perhaps a little fear is warranted after all. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/15/2014
Release date: 11/04/2014
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