Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book Review #2: SPICED: A PASTRY CHEF'S TRUE STORIES OF TRIALS BY FIRE, AFTER-HOURS EXPLOITS, & WHAT REALLY GOES ON IN THE KITCHEN by Dalia Jurgensen

Summary (from Penguin.com USA)

In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential, a revealing and entertaining insider’s tour through top restaurant kitchens, told from the unique perspective of a critically acclaimed pastry chef.Spiced is Dalia Jurgensen’s memoir of leaving her office job and pursuing her dream of becoming a chef. Eventually landing the job of pastry chef for a three-star New York restaurant, she recounts with endearing candor the dry cakes and burned pots of her early internships, and the sweat, sheer determination, and finely tuned taste buds—as well as resilient ego and sense of humor—that won her spots in world-class restaurant kitchens. With wit and an appreciation for raunchy insults, she reveals the secrets to holding your own in male-dominated kitchens, surviving after-hours staff parties, and turning out perfect plates when you know you’re cooking for a poorly disguised restaurant critic. She even confesses to a clandestine romance with her chef and boss—not to mention what it’s like to work in Martha Stewart’s TV kitchen—and the ugly truth behind the much-mythologized “family meal.”Following Dalia’s personal trajectory from nervous newbie to unflappable professional, Spiced is a clever, surprisingly frank, and affectionate glimpse at the sweet and sour of following your passion.

Dare I say it? This book is delicious! Light, but satisfying. Refreshingly tart – not sour and not too sweet. This tell-all memoir of a pastry chef rising through the ranks of professional kitchens hits all the right taste buds!

Author Dalia Jurgensen whet my appetite recounting how, with just a smidgeon of impetuosity, she quit her office job to pursue her dreams of a culinary career. A dash of luck lands her in an entry level position at Nobu, a top-tier Manhattan restaurant, where she practices and surpasses what she learns attending culinary school on weekends. It’s a grueling schedule with late hours, hard physical work, low pay, and little time or energy left for a social life, but her passion and creativity power her through.

The main course delivers the nitty-gritty as Jurgensen moves through various kitchen stations and restaurants honing her skills, always attempting to balance her creative ambitions with her need for rent money and health care coverage. And she needs that health care coverage - Jurgensen suffers her share of cuts and burns and keeps on cooking. There's neither room nor time for crybabies in the kitchen. As palatable as Jurgensen's story is, she makes it clear that there is always plenty of stress and pressure simmering on the back burner.

The spice sprinkled throughout with a judicious hand entices with just a hint of detail about the goings on between Jurgensen and various co-workers. Just as she is adventuresome and creative in developing recipes, she doesn't shy away from a little sexual experimentation. These details aren't essential, more like . . . icing on the cake?

Which brings us to dessert . . . well, that's what the book is really all about, isn't it? Dalia Jurgensen made the gutsy move to carve out the career she wanted. With about 10 parts hard work, a good measure of determination, a heaping spoonful of creativity, and the aforementioned dash of luck, she mixed, molded, and baked her way to the top of her craft. Then she wrote a good-enough-to-eat book about it. Dare I say it? (I do.) How cool is that?

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Anyone up for a recipe? There are none in the memoir, but I found this one in an article about Dalia Jurgensen at stuff.co.nz. Also, check out Dalia's website at http://www.myspicedlife.com/ .

Hazelnut crusted chevre cheesecake with blackberries and creamsicle sauce (one 8-inch cheesecake)
Hazelnut crust:

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6-1/2 tablespoon butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Mix all of the above ingredients until thoroughly
incorporated.
3. Gently press the crust into the bottom, and one-half inch up the sides, of an 8-inch spring form pan.
4. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Cool.

Chevre cheese cake:

12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
11 oz chevre, room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Using the paddle attachment on a standing mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and the chevre until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
3. Beat in the sugar until incorporated.
4. Beat in the yolks, two at a time, scraping down the sides in between additions.
5. Fold in the sour cream and lemon juice.
6. Pour batter into prepared spring form pan.
7. Bake until batter is set, about 40 minutes. Cool.

blackberries:

3 pints blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1. In a saucepan on low-medium heat, cook berries and sugar until berries soften and juices slightly thicken, about 15-20 minutes, adding more sugar to taste. Cool.

"creamsicle" sauce:

2 cups orange juice
1/2 vanilla bean, split or, 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces
1. On medium heat, reduce orange juice and vanilla bean to 1/2 cup. Stir in sugar.
2. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk in butter bit by bit until completely incorporated.
3. Remove from heat and strain. Discard vanilla bean. Reserve at room temperature until needed.

10 comments:

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Thanks for the recipe, sounds delicious!

Molly said...

Oh -- such a creatively excellent review!!

I just added this title to my TBR list at the beginning of the week, and I can hardly wait to find the time to read it!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have this in my TBR pile too; your review just may have me reshuffling the order of the books!

Zibilee said...

I am reading this one in the very near future. Your review was excellent, it really gets me excited to read this one. Really glad you enjoyed it.

Anna said...

I saw this book in the Mailbox Monday posts this week, and it caught my eye right away. I look food-related reads, and this one sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Allison said...

Sound so good...but guess what..you've won an award..head over to my blog and see!
http://allisonsatticblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/awards.html

caite said...

Hmmm...tried to get a copy of this one. Now I really hope it does show up at some point.

Amy said...

This does sound good! And I feel hungry now... ;)

Wanda said...

Re Recipe: Ever see a picture of Homer Simpson drueling? That's me right now!

You've won an award! :)

bermudaonion said...

My husband's not much of a reader, but he grabbed this book up when it came into our house and read it in a few days. He really enjoyed it too, but I can't get him to write a review.