The second of celebrity chef and restaurateur Emeril Lagasse’s many cookbooks — “Louisiana Real & Rustic,” written with Marcelle Bienvenu in 1996 — has been my favorite, until now. It’s been knocked from the top spot by his 19th cookbook, “Essential Emeril: Favorite Recipes and Hard-Won Wisdom from My Life in the Kitchen.”
Co-authored by Pam Hoenig, Lagasse’s latest offers a look into his taste memories and into those who helped shape his career. In the introduction, Lagasse calls the book’s more than 130 recipes his “ultimate collection, curated over a lifetime of cooking.”
He writes that his earliest food memory is when he was about 8 years old. He recalls picking vegetables in his family’s garden in Fall River, Massachusetts, and his mother, Hilda, teaching him how to make vegetable soup.
“My appreciation of the importance of quality ingredients and simple preparations started with that vegetable soup,” he says. “It’s this lifelong journey of discovery and enjoyment in the kitchen that I want to share with you in ‘Essential Emeril.’ ”
He gives thanks to Ella and Dick Brennan for the opportunity they gave him when they named him executive chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, noting that he learned to taste from Dick Brennan and about customer service from Ella.
The recipes, clearly and concisely written for the home cook, are divided into eight chapters, from appetizers to desserts. Among the recipes are My Easy Barbecue Shrimp; Veal Parmesan with Fresh Tomato Sauce; Turkey Roulade; Corn Bisque with Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado Salad; Meril’s Super-Quick Cabbage with Bacon; and the restaurant Emeril’s’ signature dessert, Banana Cream Pie with caramel and chocolate drizzles. He also provides information on creating a cheese board, including his favorite American-produced cheeses.
The book is filled with anecdotes and full-color photographs, including step-by-step photos illustrating cooking techniques such as how to make seven-minute frosting.
This cookbook is a definite keeper.
Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.