November 20, 2007

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook

I have to fess up! When given the prospect of reading and reviewing two new cookbooks (see my review of Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, here), I was certain that Bobby Flay's new book, Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook: Explosive Flavors from the Southwestern Kitchen (Potter, 2007), would be the hands-down favorite. I love to grill. Bobby loves to grill. I love meat. Bobby loves meat. It's as easy as 1-2-3, or so you would think. Before I read the book, I perused the recipes and chose two to test, and then I went about reading. The Mesa Grill opened in New York in 1991, and now has two other locations- one at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and the other at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas.

As Bobby tells us in his Introduction, the menu has evolved over the years but has stayed true to its Southwestern roots. In the next section, The Southwestern Pantry, Bobby lists the building blocks of flavor for Southwestern cooking, most of which you will recognize as being available at your market, like avocados, but other things like cajeta (found in Latin markets) might be harder depending on where you live. For example, the first recipe I tested, Fire-Roasted Veal Chops with Maple-Horseradish Glaze, called for ancho chile powder. Despite living in Miami, I had to order it online.

The next section, Mesa Kitchen Basics, details cooking techniques mentioned later in the book. Very helpful for the novice. The next section, Drinks, is one not often found in cookbooks- this section is necessary here because certain drinks go particularly well with Southwestern food- and one of Mesa Grill's signature drinks is a Cactus Pear Margarita, which sounds like a good way to start to me! This section even includes a recipe for Mesa Grill Pretzels, which look deliciously spicy, and are on my list of recipes to try.

Soups are next- although Mesa Grill's recipes change seasonally, these are good, solid choices from across the board- Black Bean Soup with Toasted Cumin Crema and Three Relishes, Chicken and Mushroom Posole Soup and Pumpkin Soup with Cinnamon Crema and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are in the array. After the salad section (Sophie's Chopped Salad is named after Bobby's daughter and looks like a great option for a dinner party) is an appetizer section, and then come the proteins.

One of the differences between this cookbook and others is that the name of the recipe reads just like it might on Mesa Grill's menu instead of a recipe in a cookbook. That might be the point of the book. For example, the first recipe I want to test is Fire-Roasted Veal Chops with Maple-Horseradish glaze. If I wanted to make veal, I would just go to one of my trusted cookbooks and search the index for veal. Instead, I want to review Bobby's book. I read the ingredients and saw that side dishes are recommended based on the restaurant's menu (in this case Mesa Grill Spinach, page 210 and Wild Rice Tamales with Sage Butter (page 207), but I only want to make the veal. The spinach sounds good (and is the simplest recipe in the book) but the tamales sound too complicated for a regular dinner (dried corn husks, a steamer- you get the point). Bobby recommends smoked red pepper sauce for these chops, and I think that sounds great. O.K., page 230 for that. On page 230, the list of ingredients for the sauce refers you to both page 18 (twice) and page 19. All that flipping gets messy while you're cooking (take my word for it).

I did make both the recipe for the chops and for the sauce, and they were amazing, and will be detailed in my next post. Especially yummy was the glaze for the chops-- a totally different taste than my usual repertoire. His instructions are clear and easy to follow.

This cookbook would be the perfect holiday gift for anyone who loves the Mesa Grill. Want to create a dinner based entirely on the Mesa Grill's menu? This book is for you! I have never had the pleasure of dining at any of Flay's restaurants, but would jump at the chance. I would love both making and eating black bean soup- but I would love Black Bean Soup with Toasted Cumin Crema and Three Relishes much, much better if I didn't have to make it myself.


The Cookbook Junkie said...

I have one of his books and the recipes are exactly what you would expect from a professional restaurant chef. They aren't for your average amateur but they do sound wonderful and would be great for anyone who wants to recreate a meal from a fine restaurant.

Arties32 said...

Thank you for your comment- yes, that is exactly what I found to be true. Your blog is fantastic, by the way.

Anonymous said...

very well written review!
love and hugs,