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Book Review: Estela

December 2018/January 2019 Issue
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By Ignacio Mattos with Gabe Ulla
(Artisan, $35)

Chef Ignacio Mattos’s food is wildly delicious, and his downtown Manhattan bistro, Estela, wildly popular, especially among NYC’s culinary cognoscenti, who’ve bestowed upon him numerous honors and awards, including Esquire magazine’s “Chef of the Year.” No small deal, in a city that’s flush with talent and great food. What’s remarkable is that Mattos doesn’t appear to resort to gastronomic wizardry. Each dish he serves is singularly simple. He partners up a few core ingredients and presents them in a way that allows their flavors and textures to come together as powerfully as an epiphany. A few examples: Navel Oranges with White Onion and Dried Rosebuds. Pork with Charred Cucumbers and Leeks. Egg, Pancetta, and Avocado Sandwich.

In his debut cookbook, Mattos reveals these and many more recipes and divulges the fundamentals of his cooking style: how he builds flavor by brining, marinating, and curing; how he amps up flavor with juices, broths, and sauces; how the cut of a vegetable or the order in which flavors are introduced affect the experience of eating. Anyone with an appetite will surely revel in the wild, wonderful ride of cooking through this book.

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