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Cooking with Love: Comfort Food That Hugs You by Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko
Published by Simon & Schuster ISBN 9781451662191
Hardcover, $30, 336 pages
I recently received an e-galley of chef Carla Hall's Cooking With Love. Hall is a co-host of ABC's daytime show, The Chew, but I first saw her on Bravo TV's Top Chef. She reminded me of an exotic bird, tall, thin and with her down-home Southern way, I think many people (including her competitors) underestimated her. She was voted Fan Favorite from the Top Chef All-Stars competition in 2011. It was her big heart and the way she "hugged you with her food" that made people fall in love with her.
She grew up in the South and learned how to cook from her beloved granny, and then she went to France to become a model. There she fell in love with a different kind of food, and returned home to train as a professional chef. She now owns Alchemy, a popular and successful catering company in Washington DC.
Hall sprinkles the cookbook with stories from her life: the amazing meals her granny made and taught her and her sister to cook, the difficult boss she worked for in the Bahamas (I wonder if he will read this book and recognize himself), some amusing anecdotes from The Chew and my favorites, some behind-the-scenes of her most famous Top Chef moments.
On the All-Stars edition, one task was to create a birthday lunch for Jimmy Fallon. Hall whooped with joy when she was drew Chicken Pot Pie as her meal; it is one of her specialties, and she shares one of her most famous recipes in this book. Click here for the recipe.
Hall also gives some great tips, like serving deviled eggs on a bed of dried washed black beans on a platter and if you want to sell your house "pop a batch of buttery yeast rolls in the oven" before a showing.
Layering flavors is a key to her cooking, and I found it interesting that she starts a meal by thinking not about the meat she will cook but the vegetables and "then builds from there."
This is a book for cooks who have some experience in the kitchen; these recipes require some skills and beginners may find it a bit too challenging. But if you enjoy cooking and are looking for some new recipes that will kick up your taste buds, this is a book for you.
Some recipes I look forward to trying are:
- Down Home Deviled Eggs with Smoky Bacon
- Creamy Goat Cheese Grits
- Creamy Mac & Cheese
- Osso Buco
- Black Bean Patties with Mango Relish & Tropical Vinaigrette
- Creamed Chicken with Broccoli
I have attended a few tapings of The Chew, and Carla is a fan favorite there too, dancing with Clinton Kelly and audience members and just generally having fun. She has personality plus and it shines through in her cookbook.
rating 4 of 5