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To accompany our very competitive, NCAA-style tournament of cookbooks, we asked you—our readers!—to get in on the fun and test and review 15 cookbooks dubbed Piglet Community Picks. Read on for some of our community's reactions to The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson—and keep up with all the reviews here.
Some people say a cookbook is worth keeping on your bookshelf if it brings one great recipe into your life. If that's true, then The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson earned its spot on mine with its silky Sweet Onion Soup with Caraway and Croutons.
But I want more than one awesome recipe from a cookbook. I want an authoritative, confident guide who will teach me something and make me a better cook. I want images that pull me in and recipes that inspire me to try new flavor combinations or techniques, like fried black eyed peas. I want personality and a point of view.
And Broad Fork is all of that.
In his headnotes, Hugh Acheson, a Georgia-based cookbook author and chef, is sometimes a teacher and at times a student—simultaneously helpful, evocative, and playful. In the story behind his pan-roasted cod and soy broth, he confides:
"This dish is my mental image of a Japanese farmhouse meal I have never had. I picture a coastal scene and a Japanese man in a fisherman's sweater cooking this dish with me. Then I realize that I have never been to Japan and this is probably totally a misplaced daydream. But the food is good, so whatevs."
In a recipe for Roasted Chanterelle Bundles, he mentions it would make an unexpected but great camping meal. He also wants to be sure you get the very dry fino sherry, not the creamy one abandoned in a cupboard by grandma.
The tone of the book is encouraging throughout the book. He's excited about vegetables, and he wants you to be, too. Recipes vary from simple pickled asparagus to cured egg yolks and braised veal cheeks with garlic gremolata. He doesn't want to hear how you're over kale. Kale + Hugh forever.
As I cooked my way through the winter section of the book, I noticed a recurring theme of flavors and appreciated that one shopping trip could cover several meals. Caraway, bay leaves, and thyme perfume many of the dishes. The rye loaf leftover for one day’s croutons are thickly sliced for tartine with hard-boiled eggs, a pile of crisp Brussels sprout leaves, and celery remoulade. The rest of my Brussels sprouts were fried and tossed with lime vinaigrette. Frying the sprouts was messy work, yes, so next time I'm more likely to use the vinaigrette on roasted Brussels sprouts.
And as for that soup. You start with a tangle of golden onions (with a more honest cooking time for caramelizing onions than most recipes) and make them luxurious with the help of thyme and eventually cream, a sprinkle of caraway seeds, and golden rye croutons.
My soup turned out a little less green than the one pictured in the book. Acheson is an award-winning chef and judge on Top Chef, so I'm sure his 1 cup of minced celery was chopped a bit finer than mine and contributed to a greener soup. But so what? The soup was incredible. My husband and I greedily ate it all, and when it was nearly gone, I found him scraping the spatula around the sides of the pot to grab every last bit.
I have a couple other vegetable-focused cookbooks on my shelves, but this one got me the most excited to cook. It’ll stay on my shelf for a long time. I even—finally—made my own chicken stock.
A list of things cookinginvictoria liked from the book:
- He is writing not only as a chef, but as a dad with two tween-aged daughters. He cooks for his family while balancing school, work, and extracurricular activities—or as he puts it, “the struggle against time”—so he understands the challenges families face, and his food reflects that.
- He confesses to keeping Jif peanut butter and store-bought mayo in his pantry, but he also takes the time to cook seasonally with a wide array of vegetables, most provided by his weekly CSA box and local farmers markets.
- It is structured by the southern seasons—the Top Chef judge and author lives and owns three restaurants in Athens, Georgia—and his cooking is clearly inspired by the area. There is an abundance of pecans, grits, sweet potatoes, and sorghum.
- Each vegetable entry features 3 to 4 recipes, and the majority are quick, straightforward weeknight recipes. But there is at least one multi-step “project” restaurant-style recipe for each vegetable, designed for more ambitious weekend cooking.
- It’s easy to like Chef Acheson. His mission is to get home cooks excited about cooking seasonally and using local produce, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
- He is an unabashed cheerleader for raw kale and rails against the recent kale backlash. The book boasts three kale salads (two of which I made—they were both crazy good and will definitely show up at our dinner table again).
- Chef Acheson believes in cooking the whole vegetable, including the leaves and stems.