‘Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook’ Media Reviews

New York Times Book Review: “Cooking for Dunces,” (John Williams, December 18, 2015)

NPR Radio and The Salt: “‘A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook’: A Classic Revisited in Recipes,” (Steve Inskeep, December 4, 2015)
Parade Magazine: “A Bite of the Bayou,” (Alison Ashton, February 7,, 2016)
Boston Metro: “‘Juicy Wine Cakes and Other Dunces Delights’: Author Cynthia Nobles eats her way through the Pulitzer Prize-winning Novel,” (Rachel Raczka, December 8, 2015)
The Picayune: “‘Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook’ is More Than Recipes,” (Judy Walker, October 6, 2015)
The Advocate: “‘A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook’ Imagines the Food of New Orleans’ Favorite Malcontent,” (Cheramie Sonnier, October 7, 2015)
Houston Chronicle: Author Cooks Up ‘A Confederacy of Dunces,” (Greg Morago, January 25, 2016)
Charlotte Observer: “‘A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook,” (Dannye Romine Powell, December 16, 2015.
The Advertiser: “Inside Look at ‘Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook,'” (Chere Coen, November 6, 2015)
225 Magazine: “‘A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook,'” (Maggie Heyn Richardson, December 2015)

Country Roads Magazine: ‘Three Pounds of Turtle Meat and A Can-Do Attitude,'” (Chris Turner-Neal)

Cooking Up A Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans

imageEditors: Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker
Chronicle Books, hardcover, reprint edition, August 18, 2015
Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-1-4521-4400-9
Retail price: $30.00

When Hurricane Katrina washed away the possessions of a large chunk of the population of New Orleans in 2005, treasured cookbooks were among the casualties. As refugees returned and started rebuilding and resuming routines, they naturally longed to cook the way they had pre-Katrina. But what to do about those drowned recipes?

Readers of the Times-Picayune started using the Food Section of the newspaper as a lifeline to their old ways of cooking. A few even requested that someone write a cookbook. And that idea sat just fine with food editor, Judy Walker, and Marcelle Bienvenu, one of the Picayune’s long-time food columnists.

To find the city’s cherished recipes, the two dug deep into the newspaper’s archives. They also put out a call to local chefs, restaurants, and the newspaper’s readers. The result was the accumulation of over 225 authentic recipes, along with stories of how they were created and what they meant to those who lost everything.

First released in paperback in October 2008, Cooking Up a Storm is chockfull of dishes that might seem foreign to anyone outside of New Orleans. Kolb’s Sauerbraten, for example, was popular at the iconic restaurant that operated on St. Charles Avenue from 1899 until 1994. Let-Um Have it Eggplant, a dish of fried eggplant topped with a seafood sauce, was the concoction of John Unger, a “tall, strapping, tattooed man from the Irish Channel neighborhood.” The beloved dish known as Lasserre’s Magic Crawfish was one of the most requested dishes for this book, and it was created by Beinvenu’s husband, Rock Lasserre.

There are, of course, many outstanding traditional recipes, including those for beignets, chicken salad, hummingbird cake, a few omelets, and a slew of casseroles. But this book’s strength is its documentation of unusual local creations. It’s not every day that you find a recipe called Halloween Cookies Like McKenzie’s.

The cookbook’s one minor weakness is the lack of photographs. But the wealth of heartwarming stories and those unique recipes more than make up for that flaw. Even if Hurricane Katrina had not zapped away so many of the city’s recipes, this book would have still been a good idea, just the way it is.

Praise the Pig: Loin to Belly, Shoulder to Ham – Pork-Inspired recipes for Every Meal

imageAuthor: Jennifer L. S. Pearsall

Skyhorse Publishing, November 3, 2015
Paperback, 232 pages
ISBN: 978-1-63450-435-5
Price: $19.99

Blogger, photographer, and home cook Jennifer Pearsall has created over fifty recipes that can be the answer to the question: What can I do that’s different with this hunk of pork? Pearsall’s first book was The Big Book of Bacon, and she explains how branching out to make dishes that revolve around other parts of the pig “just seemed a natural route” from her inaugural work.

Recipes are made with common ingredients and techniques, and they do not call for the off-the-wall implements required by so many charcuterie cookbooks. But the dishes are anything but boring. Pearsall stuffs poblano peppers with pulled pork, and she tosses pancetta and ground pork into Porkestrone, her “everybody in the pool” Italian-inspired soup. She also makes chili out of tenderloin, and she crumbles breakfast sausage into smashed potatoes and tops it all with a pulled leftover pork chop.

A few downsides: I was thrown by the success and failure stories that appear as the last step of many of the already chatty recipes. The biggest drawback, however, is the lack of an index. The Table of Contents does list every recipe by chapter. But suppose I have a fridge full of ground pork — how will I know which recipes are contenders?

Even so, this book’s scrumptous photographs and mouthwatering ingredient lists make me want to cook. And it’s finally cold here in Louisiana, so excuse me while I go whip up a Roasted Tomato Stew with Italian Sausage and Tortellini.


Are We Having Any Fun Yet? The Cooking & Partying Handbook

Author: Sammy Hagar with Josh Sens

Dey Street Books, September 15, 2015
Hardcover: 9780062370006, (320 pages) $29.99
E-Book: 9780062370013, $23.99

imageYes, this lifestyle cookbook is the brainchild of THE Sammy Hagar, the high-energy rocker who found success as a kickin’ solo act, and was frontman for the bands Montrose and Van Halen. Over the years, the Red Rocker developed the reputation of party host extraordinaire, which helped bolster the image of his Cabo Wabo Tequila, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum brands, and Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grill franchises.

But can he cook? At first I was skeptical. Then I read a few pages of this cookbook and realized that the most remarkable thing about it is that the guy is genuinely passionate about food.

Are We Having Any Fun Yet starts with a foreword by none other than Emeril Lagasse, Hagar’s true-to-life partner in culinary crime. Hagar goes on to tell us he learned to appreciate the good life from his namesake, his idolized Italian grandfather, Sam, whose favorite hobbies were “hunting, fishing, lying, and stealing.”

The bulk of the book is divided into chapters titled after Hagar’s favorite party cities. Cabo San Lucas is the inspiration for Lobster Burrito, Epazote Quesadilla, Quick and Easy Guacamole, and Sammy’s Wabo Shrimp. Maui spurred recipes for Vegetable Frittata, Papaya-Marinated Chicken, Vegetable Sitr-Fry, and Spaghetti with Black Olives and Orange Zest. Hagar’s home in California’s Mill Valley is the place where he whips up down-home favorites, such as Beet and Strawberry Salad, Homemade Stock, White Beans with Serrano Ham Hock, Chorizzo and Pork Loin Paella, and Braised Lamb Shanks.

And let’s not forget the cocktails. Heralded for his love and appreciation for a well-crafted adult beverage, after dark, of course, Hagar gives numerous recipes for his own creations. This impressive selection includes the tequila-based Red Rocker, Bloody Maria, and Waborita. There’s a vodka cocktail or two, and rum drinks, including his most famous of all, the passionfruit-tinged PMS.

I had a hard time putting this book down, not only because of the fifty well-written recipes, but also because of the narrative. Taking up at least as much page space as the recipes are Hagar’s food and party stories, along with personal photographs, which all revolve around his life on stage, his family, and his friends. The language in these sections is sometimes coarse. But you just can’t help but connect with a guy who makes his own coconut cream, practically worships perfect mushrooms, gives generously to charities, and plans to consume all ten thousand bottles of wine in his cellar before he checks out.

The book’s main weakness is its lack of any type of dessert. But we’re not throwing a tea party, here. So mix yourself up a Sammy’s Rockin’ Picasso or whip up something simple and familiar like Potato and Leek Soup. It’s time to have fun with Sammy Hagar.