Recipes and Provocations
By Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman
Published by ClarkClarkson Potter
239 Pages HB

Back Cover:  Superstar chef Alex Stupak's love of real Mexican food changed his life; it caused him to quit the world of fine-dining pastry and open the smash-hit Empell√≥n Taqueria in New York City. Now he'll change the way you make--and think about--tacos forever.

TACOS is a deep dive into the art and craft of one of Mexico's greatest culinary exports. We start by making fresh tortillas from corn and flour, and variations that look to innovative grains and flavor infusions. Next we master salsas, from simple chopped condiments to complex moles that simmer for hours and have flavor for days. Finally we explore fillings, both traditional and modern--from a pineapple-topped pork al pastor to pastrami with mustard seeds.

But TACOS is more than a collection of beautiful things to cook. Wrapped up within it is an argument: Through these recipes, essays, and sumptuous photographs by Evan Sung, the 3-Michelin-star veteran makes the case that Mexican food should be as esteemed as the highest French cooking.

REVIEW: I’m honored and thrilled to be introduced to Alex Stupack whose passion for Mexican food jumps off every page. Alex talks to readers as if they are standing in the kitchen alongside him. This Chef tells it like it is. He is zealous in describing his unexpected journey and what he discovered along the way. He has a few colorful words mixed in talking about his revelations.

The Chef says, “I’m a white boy from suburban Massachusetts. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider Mexican food that didn’t come with a spice pack and a sleeve of crispy shells until long after I ‘d graduated culinary school.” He became a pastry Chef who had an obsession for Mexican food that he dabbled in on his days off.

The Chef says this about his book, “You’ll learn fundamentals, starting with everything I know about tortillas; the journey they take from corn kernel to griddle, why it’s important to eat them at their freshest, and even how to manipulate them with nontraditional ingredients. You’ll gain a deep arsenal of salsa; …the simple and complex…in flavor and technique.” The author goes on, “You’ll learn to prepare taco fillings”…remember…”I too grew up eating crispy shells stuffed with ground beef and shredded cheddar.”

He goes on to say, “This book is only about tacos- a reference point most of us share, a familiar food that we can use to explore the unfamiliar flavors and challenging ideas….We’re using the taco as a Trojan horse and it’s time to open the gates.
The photographer Evan Sung does an amazing job of making this book visually appealing; capturing the beauty of these dishes and ingredients. I appreciated the step by step photos in recipes too. It will be helpful for me when I make these dishes. I can’t wait to try the taco-tortilla ones first – there are so many variations. The Chef says, “My stance here is firm: There is absolutely no substitute for a fresh, homemade tortilla…to fully use this book as it’s intended, you have to reconcile to the idea of making your own.”

The book is broken down into the introduction learning about the Chef and his obsession for Mexican food and how he went from pastry Chef to taco maker and restaurant owner. It starts out with Tortillas recipes, then Salsa, Tacos, Essential Preparations.

I found the section on his Provocations interesting. He talks about the United States of Mexico; My Beef with Beef; The Agony and the Ecstasy of Al Pastor; The Tyranny of Cheap Eats; and on Mexico’s Jolie Laide.

My family has made the change from eating processed food to eating real food we make at home. This book helps me make the change in the way we eat Mexican. I’m ready to make the change from the crispy shells stuffed with beef he talks about. This book has opened the door to new flavors and ideas. I can’t wait to try ALL of them. He has recipes ranging from Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Dessert. The book is one you’ll experience as you read about this author, his discoveries and as you make and taste  the delicious food he describes.  It’s a win win for everyone!

Disclosure of Material Connection:
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Blogging for books site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog
Book Fun Magazine


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