Review: Michael Symon's Live to Cook

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I thought would try something different today – a cookbook review! If you’re anything like me, you plan to use some money that you got for Christmas for a new cookbook or two, but with so many out there it can be a bit daunting to figure out which ones are worth the money.

Before I received a copy to review, I don’t think I would have ever thought about buying Michael Symon’s book. I love Iron Chef, but I’m always slightly disappointed when he’s the one picked. We joke that the challenger picks him when they want someone who will take it easy on them. This book changed my opinion of him though, and I have a new respect for Michael Symon.

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First though, let’s talk about the book itself: as you can probably tell from the blog, I’m a very visual person. I like pictures. And I most likely won’t look at a recipe in a cookbook twice if there isn’t a picture to go along with it. I was very happy to see that this book is full color and loaded with mouth-watering photographs. Not all together in a little section in the middle either- the photo is right there with the recipe. And a lot of recipes even have multiple photos! That’s my kind of cookbook.

The second thing that I noticed about this book were the chapters – in addition to standards like “meat,” “soups and sandwiches,” and “salads” there are categories for things like “charcuterie” and “pickles.” Fun! But it also demonstrates that this isn’t your everyday cookbook. Certainly some of the recipes can be made easily on a weeknight, but others – like curing your own bacon and pancetta – are pretty involved and not for those of you who are easily intimidated in the kitchen. Other recipes looks awesome, but are pretty impractical for the home-cook – I’m not sure where I would find ingredients like beef cheeks or suckling pig head.

That aside, this cookbook is pretty awesome. I tried a few recipes from it, and they were huge hits. First I made braised pork belly, which took a long time but was very easy to make (95% of it was inactive time that it spent in the oven). The pork belly was great on it’s own, but even better when used to make pork belly croutons to go on a salad with an egg and Symon’s Sherry Vinaigrette! This was a really fun play on bacon and eggs and we loved it. The flavors went beautifully together. I’ll be making the vinaigrette a lot.

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The next recipe I tried knocked it out of the park though, and is what really changed my opinion about Symon. The recipe for Crispy Gnocchi with Morels and Spring Peas is easily worth the price of the book. Love, love, love! I had to use porcini mushrooms and frozen peas, and it was still awesome – I can only imagine how great it would be with the right ingredients! The gnocchi was light and fluffy, with a crispy exterior and a bright lemon flavor. The brown butter sauce was amazing with the mushrooms and peas. AND it was easy enough to make on a weeknight. I can’t say enough about this dish. Seriously buy this book and make it ASAP.

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The verdict: This isn’t a book for the casual home-cook, but if you’re a little more adventurous in the kitchen it’s a great addition to your cookbook collection. None of the recipes are particularly difficult, but some are pretty involved and have multiple steps or use hard-to-find ingredients. You likely won’t be able to (or want to) make every recipe in it, but its a beautiful collection of solid recipes that will inspire you to try new combinations of ingredients and think a little differently about some old standards.

Would I buy this book? While I never would have given it a second look before, I would definitely buy this book for myself or for a food-loving friend.

Michael Symon’s Live to Cook is available at Amazon.com for $23.10.

Comments

  1. I love the cookbook review idea!! It can be SO hard to tell when you’re overwhelmed in a bookstore which book is right for you… I like a lot of what you said about this book! I am easily intimidated in the kitchen :) BUT I’m trying to get over that! So maybe this would be a good shell-breaker for me.

    I am sooooo a picture cookbook person as well lol. I love my Joy of Cooking but sometimes I just wish she would throw me some pics! :)

  2. Thanks for the review – I have been wondering about this book too. And I love that you made some of the recipes!

  3. This is a great review, LK – you should do more of them! :)

  4. I’m a big reader and a big buyer of cookbooks, old and new. I always appreciate a book review. Did he make his own sherry vinaigrette or did he use sherry vinegar? It sounds fabulous. I can’t seem to find sherry vinegar in my market and I really don’t want to fool with ordering it on the internet.
    Sam

  5. great review your so skilled and could cook anything though!

  6. Mardi- I didn’t think it would be fair to do a review without trying some of the recipes! I mean, they might have looked good and been awful… or the other way around. Had to try them out. ;)

    My Carolina Kitchen- He called for sherry vinegar, but I didn’t have any of that either… I took a few liberties and used sherry mixed with white wine vinegar. Probably not exactly the same as his, but it was delicious!

    Rebecca- you should see some of the disasters that come out of my kitchen! I promise you I can’t cook anything (at least on the first try..;))

  7. Sandy Kosinski says:

    nice review,Lauren!

  8. I will have to say that Michael Symon is also my least favorite Iron Chef but he was on Rachael Ray a few weeks ago making some amazing food. I love all cookbooks and probably will pick it up when it is on sale. Thanks for the review!

  9. I wasn’t exactly thrilled when Symon got picked, either. After this post, I’m forced to look at him in a different light again. This guy is adventurous! Sucking pig head? Haha, not sure where i would procure that either, but I would love to eat at his restaurant!

  10. I made his recipe for the tuna cured in olive brine. Very good and very interesting technique. Must try the gnocchi recipe now. Yours looks awesome!

  11. The gnocchi recipes sounds like something I could really sink my teeth into. I actually like Michael Symon a lot (maybe because my son’s name is Simon!). Yes, I could live without his little beard-thingy, but his food always looks delicious and hearty. Thanks for the review.

  12. great review, thanks!

  13. I was drawn to your site by this recipe. I had read about it on Eats Well with Others and was looking for the recipe for gnocchi and morels. It sounds worthwhile to buy the book!!!

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