The new book from Louis Lambert, Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook: Recipes from Lambert's Texas Kitchens, begins with a discussion of chefs’ culinary styles. For Lambert, what he most loves to cook has everything to do with his upbringing in the West Texas town of Odessa and the kinds of food his family always brought to the table. Lambert graduated from The Culinary Institute of America and then worked in New York, Dallas, and San Francisco. It was in San Francisco at Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio where he had a revelation about cooking. He began to see that many of the dishes he prepared in this urban, refined restaurant were very similar to what he grew up eating on a Texas ranch. He knew he could recreate his favorite foods from home with a few new techniques to dress them up for restaurant dining. And, that’s exactly what he’s done at his restaurants in Austin and Fort Worth. I received a review copy of this new book, and I have great news for two commenters on this post. Two lucky people who comment on this post by Friday, October 28th 2011 at noon CST and who can provide a US mailing address, will be chosen to each receive one copy of the book. Just leave a comment, including your email address so I can contact you, and I’ll randomly pick two winners on Friday.
I have to mention what Robb Walsh wrote in the Forward of this book. His first introduction to Louis Lambert and his cooking was by way of an article in Martha Stewart Living in 1996. The article was about West Texas food and Marfa. I remember that article too, and I remember the recipes. I still have them in my files. The dishes in this new book are just as memorable. This is Texas food with some influences from Mexico here and ideas inherited from Louisiana there, and everything has been given some kind of fresh, new twist. The red grapefruit and avocado salad is reminiscent of Lambert’s grandmother’s salad from years ago, but here, it’s been updated with watercress, pine nuts, and goat cheese. The fried green tomatoes are topped with a crab salad made with a Creole remoulade. There’s a posole recipe, but this version is made with shrimp and green chiles, and wild Texas ducks are used for duck rillettes. Of course, there’s a meat chapter including adobo-grilled t-bone with red chile and cheese enchiladas, bock-braised beef short ribs, and crispy wild boar ribs with fresh plum barbecue sauce. But, it’s not a red meat-heavy kind of book. There’s also a Poultry chapter, a Seafood chapter, Tex-Mex, Vegetables and Sides, Breads, and Desserts. I appreciated how every once in a while a recipe caught me by surprise, and that was the case with the gingered acorn squash soup.
With ginger in the title of the recipe, I knew there would be a nice spice flavor in the soup. Then, I read about the pineapple in it which adds just a hint of fruitiness. The roasted acorn squash, sauteed onions, and homemade stock give the soup a rich savoriness, and then the ginger and pineapple add little punches of different flavors. Sometimes, when making a soup, the garnishes can seem like a step or two too many but not here. The sour cream with honey, buttery brioche croutons, and a sprinkling of an anise-flavored herb like tarragon or Mexican mint marigold were so well-suited to this soup I urge you not to skip them. This was a hearty, fall soup, and in small portions would be a lovely way to start a Thanksgiving feast. In fact, the entire Thanksgiving meal could come from this book by using the Mexican chocolate chile rub on turkey instead of chicken, whipping up a big bowl of the loaded garlic mashed potatoes, baking the ricotta spinach gratin, and for dessert, I’d pick the gingered pear fried pies.
Gingered Acorn Squash Soup
Reprinted with permission from Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook: Recipes from Lambert's Texas Kitchens by Louis Lambert and June Naylor, copyright 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Makes 8 servings
2 acorn squash
(approximately 6 cups cooked squash),
quartered and seeded
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, diced small
3 tablespoons finely diced fresh ginger
1/2 cup small-diced fresh or canned pineapple
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons honey
Fresh chopped tarragon, for garnish
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Arrange the cut squash on a baking sheet and brush the cut sides with the melted
butter. Season each piece by sprinkling on the brown sugar and allspice. Bake the
squash until the flesh is tender, about 30 minutes. When the squash has cooled enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.
Heat a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion
and ginger to the pot and cook until the onion becomes soft, about 4 minutes. Add the pineapple, salt, and white pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, heavy cream, and squash and bring to a simmer. Slowly cook the soup, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. You can also blend the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.
To make the garnish, stir together the sour cream and honey in a small bowl. To
serve, ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls and drizzle the top of each with the sour cream mixture. Garnish with freshly chopped tarragon.
(Note: When I made this soup, I made one small change to the ingredients by using only one half cup of cream instead of a full cup.)
You can follow information about Louis Lambert and Big Ranch, Big City on Facebook and Twitter. Two lucky people who comment on this post by Friday, October 28th 2011 at noon CST and who can provide a US mailing address, will be chosen to each receive one copy of the book. Just leave a comment, including your email address so I can contact you, and I’ll randomly pick two winners on Friday.
UPDATE: The winners were #7 and #11. Thank you everyone who entered!