Gabrielle Hamilton’s New York restaurant Prune turned 15 years old and Ms. Hamilton celebrated with the release of her first cookbook. You’ll remember her first book Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, a memoir recounting her early years on a farm, leaving home at age 16 years, moving to New York, suffering many hardships and ultimately opening her restaurant. Applause for this woman who perseveres.
by Gabrielle Hamilton
Photographs © 2014 by Eric Wolfinger
And now, Prune, a cookbook. This is a book that is chock full of recipes, recipes and more recipes. It appears to be a copy of Hamilton’s 3-ring recipe binder from the restaurant kitchen including handwritten notes, highlighted items, with lots of asterisks and exclamation points. The notes could be amounts for halving or doubling recipes. Or direction to staff, i.e., “*Remove the butcher’s string before slicing, people!!*” Next to a recipe step which says “Stack the slices and make fine julienne” she writes “*don’t use the mandoline. Keep your knife skills in shape.”
It’s from these notes that we get to know Gabrielle. There are no headnotes. Nothing warm and fuzzy. The closest she comes to acknowledgements is one handwritten note on what I’ll call the legal page showing copyrights, publisher, Library of Congress info, etc. Next to “Photographs © Eric Wolfinger” she wrote “OMFG. Wolfie! best. photos. ever.”
One thing bothers me — actually, it drives me crazy — is there is no index. An opening page listing the chapters and a list of recipes before each chapter. But, if you want to know what nifty/inspiring thing(s) she does with artichokes, you have to look at each chapter page to find 2 recipes including artichokes. One in Dinner Vegetable Sides and one in Lunch. In a recent EATER interview Hamilton is quoted “This is a cooking book, it’s just a cooking book. There’s nothing else going on here.” Fortunately, if a recipe contains a sub-recipes, there is a page number referenced. So why can’t there be an index? …maybe the Kindle edition will allow a search???
The recipes are creative — outstanding, really. Mixed Colored Carrots with Preserved Lemon Butter and Honeycomb, Soupy Green Rice with Squid, Mussels, and Shrimp, Calvados Omelette, Braised Lamb Shoulder with Lemons, Tomatoes, and Cinnamon, Cornmeal Pound Cake with Rosemary Syrup, Candied Rosemary, and Poached Pear — all mouthwatering. My editor, Gwen, is fascinated by the “Garbage” section tucked after the impressive cocktail section. Garbage is a collection of recipes using what most of us would throw away … salmon carcasses, tomato skins, and zucchini tops.
Instead of typing out a recipe for you as I usually do, I wanted to share with you how the book works. Here is a recipe for individual apple galettes with whipped mascarpone. These galettes are a perfectly beautiful dessert for this time of year and this demonstrates Hamilton’s written note style.
Remember: the first paragraph in the method isn’t a headnote but instructions to her staff.