When I saw that the new cookbook Around the Fire was written by local Ox restauranteur chefs Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton with Stacy Adimondo, I was excited to read it and try out some of the recipes. Ox is known for locally-sourced foods and grilling that goes far beyond the usual barbecue joint on the corner. Around the Fire was all that and more, informative in deep ways (more on that later, beautiful and wide-ranging.
Of course, I was immediately drawn by the gorgeous photos by Evan Sung. He even made burned wood ash look beautiful. I sometimes have mixed feelings about food that looks this beautiful. Sometimes it is intimidating. I look and think, I can never make that. But honestly, the food looks so inviting, so colorful, that I don’t care if I can make it look like that, I want to make it taste like it looks.
This book stands out from many cookbooks because the Dentons share their deep knowledge of their subject matter in their introductions to their recipes. Each recipe introduction is rich in information about techniques, skills and ingredients. Just the intros alone are like an insider’s culinary masterclass. When I cook I think of how to balance flavors, how contrasting flavors work together. I love that they explain why they include ingredients to provide balance.
The cuisine is a hybrid of Argentinian inspiration and Pacific Northwest ingredients and has the typical Pacific Northwest experimentation with flavor. I was excited to see the Nettle and Green Garlic Salsa. I remember once making a tasty Scandinavian nettle soup for a potluck and the dubious reception it received. It cheers me that someone is rehabilitating nettles.
Even the ostensibly simple recipes are special. There’s a recipe for Grilled Potato and Onion Skewers. Simple enough and sure to be tasty, but then it’s served with a Bacon Sherry Cream, a sauce that will send you over the moon. These are all simple, basic ingredients, but truly something magical.
For novice grillers, the book has a complete introduction to grilling basics including how to use the grill as a smoker. There are several essential recipes in addition to the core recipes. From appetizers, meats, vegetable dishes, salads, desserts, and cocktails, Around the Fire offers an insight to the delicious cuisine of Ox and the Dentons.
I love everything about this cookbook. The photos are beautiful. The recipes are rooted in the fundamentals but with fresh and innovative touches and ingredients. Often people think of grilling as all about the meat, but there are pescatarian and vegetarian recipes, delicious salads and yummy desserts. And cocktails! I probably consume less than a dozen drinks in a year and the cocktails had me yearning for a night of drinking at Ox.
I received a copy of Around the Fire for review from Blogging for Books.