By Michael Ruhlman
Little, Brown and Company, $25.00, 178 pages
It is so very unexpected to review The Book of Schmaltz which is all about cooking and baking with schmaltz, i.e. rendered chicken fat. Cookbooks and food products appear like mushrooms all featuring low fat and no fat but author Michael Ruhlman begs to differ. This is a truly Jewish cookbook. You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the products of his recipes but it helps. Some Jewish foods are accepted, even loved, by any discriminating foodie but others are steadfastly rejected.
“Fat doesn’t make us fat – eating too much makes us fat.”
The recipes are based on using schmaltz for flavor and to keep this ancient tradition alive. In many gribenes, the crispy end product of rendering chicken fat is also used. Recipe writing is excellent, instructions are easy to follow and mostly not very difficult to produce. They are all laid out nicely for the cook’s convenience and many are illustrated with series of large photographs showing the cooking steps. All photos are beautiful, professional, illustrating the final results of most recipes. Book production is equally high end as well as comments with the recipes including tradition and history of that food. The last chapter lists contemporary recipes based on traditional Jewish foods. Index is nicely cross-referenced and very good.
Reviewed by George Erdosh