Celebrity Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann goes back to his Patagonian roots in this gorgeous cookbook, sharing his expertise on cooking over a wood fire with cast iron cookware. Chef Mallman used to be known for his expertise with French cooking
, particularly nouvelle cuisine, but has returned to the more rustic cooking of his own country. His cookbook contains more than hundred recipes for grilling
all kinds of meat and seafood, as well as well as beautiful recipes for salads, roasted vegetables, empanadas, bread, desserts - all cooked over fire.
The Seven Fires
After a brief introduction to Argentina and its cuisine, a personal history of growing up in Patagonia, and a chapter on building and properly maintaining fires, Mallman explains what he means by "seven fires". They are his seven different methods for cooking with fire - including traditional grilling (parilla), using a flat cast iron surface over fire called a chapa, and cooking over a fire with a pot (caldero). Some of the more interesting techniques are his iinfiernillo ("little hell"), in which the food is placed between two fires (above and below), and resoldo, in which food is roasted under hot coals. Each of the seven techniques is explained clearly, and Mallman provides an alternative method for obtaining similar results in the kitchen (with ovens and stoves) for each method.
From salt roasted salmon to a perfect grilled steak, there is a range of exotic yet practical recipes in this book. If we ever lose power for an extended period at our house, I will feel secure knowing I can reach for this book and be able to prepare just about anything over a fire. Though I doubt I will ever attempt to grill an entire cow, it's quite interesting to see exactly how it's done. But I would make bread on a griddle, and I would love to make shrimp with spaetzle or a Patagonian potato galette over a fire.
There are almost as many recipes for roasted vegetables, appetizers, and salads as there are for beef, chicken, pork, lamb and seafood, so even vegetarians will enjoy this book. Burnt carrots with goat cheese, parsley, arugula, and crispy garlic chips, caramelized endive with vinegar, and burnt oranges with rosemary all look wonderful, thanks in part to fantastic photography.
The recipe for a version of shepherds pie, cooked in a cast iron skillet in a wood oven (or regular home oven) intrigued me, as did Mallman's version of pascualina
with swiss chard, also prepared in skillet. There is a great section on condiments, including chimichurri
of course, as well as several tapenades and salsas. There is a wonderful section on how to host an authentic Argentinian asado, which includes a shopping list and a detailed timeline for how to prepare and grill the variety of meats.
This cookbook makes a wonderful gift - it's unique, beautiful enough to go on the coffee table, and practical - with recipes that are approachable and appealing, yet also exotic.