By Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor
Clarkson Potter; $37.50
Is it possible to fall in love with a cookbook? I ask because I’m positively swooning over Twenty Dinners and not just because one of the writers is the bass player for the indie band Grizzly Bear. Rocker Chris Taylor and his friend, Ithai Schori, have created something not only beautiful (the book’s design is modern, clean, and intuitive, and the photos by Nicole Franzen set the perfect mood) but also informative in the most friendly way.
The gist: Taylor (when he’s not on the road) and Schori, a photographer, love to cook for their friends. Twenty Dinners follows a year’s worth of such get-togethers with recipes that are straightforward yet sophisticated, such as Seared Scallops with Corn and Andouille Grits, Spiced Carrots and Harissa Yogurt, and Spiked Apple Crisp.
And while I adore the recipes themselves- it helps that Taylor grew up cooking at home and Schori worked in professional kitchens, what really enchants me is the text, which reads like it was effortless for them to write. What affable voice extends to the recipes, which often made me smile (like where they call unopened clams “goners”). There’s good tool and technique advice as well as “guest” sections on such topics as choosing and serving wine and making a great cup of coffee, all written by friends of theirs who also happen to be experts in the field.
Left to them, dessert would be ultra simple, like a big bowl of cherries or some ice cream sprinkled with instant coffee and sea salt. (Both “recipes” are in the book, and the latter is outstanding.) But to round out the offerings, they called on another friend, pastry chef Lillie O’Brien, whose approach to sweets matches the guys’ classics-with-a-twist style.
It’s a credit to the writers that the book doesn’t feel exclusive, and I can imagine I’d be warmly welcomed at one of their dinners. Until such a time, however, I’ll be content to cook their food for my friends.
Clams in Bacon Mushroom Broth
The deep, earthy mushroom broth, flavored with a splash of Scotch, would be amazing on its own, but it’s intoxicating when paired with briny clams and seared Brussels sprouts.
Pork Chops with Charred Applesauce
A neat trick, charring apples as you would peppers over a live flame, makes a savory and not overly sweet sauce for tender pork chops.
Photos by Nicole Franzen