Cooking the books
Two local chefs make their debuts into the cookbook market.
Takashi’s Noodles (Ten Speed Press, $24.95)
Who it’s for Fans of traditional Japanese food. Chicago chef Takashi Yagihashi focuses more on the classic noodle dishes he grew up with in Japan than the food diners may have tasted at his Restaurant Takashi (although there are a couple of modern American and global dishes thrown in for good measure). None of the recipes are particularly difficult (especially if you opt for store-bought noodles instead of Takashi’s DIY methods)—they just require access to a Japanese market to stock up on ingredients like dashi, mirin, miso, sake, tobanjan and, of course, noodles, from ramen to udon to soba. (We found everything we needed at the Korean Joong Boo Market, 3333 N Kimball Ave).
Notable quote “Like a burger and fries in America, we, too, have our own classic combinations in Japan. Take ramen. Experiencing an authentic ramen meal in Japan is not just about those delicious noodles—you’ve got to have the right appetizers, too.”
We tried An appetizer of tofu steak with Japanese mushrooms and the noodle entrée spicy eggplant ja-ja-men udon. Both came out perfectly, took less than an hour to prepare, and made for a texturally balanced and flavorful dinner. The noodles are our new take on pasta bolognese. —Heather Shouse
The ¡Salpicón! Cookbook: Contemporary Mexican Cuisine (Chronicle Books, $40)
Who it’s for Priscila and Vincent Satkoff—chef-owner and sommelier-owner, respectively, of ¡Salpicón!—have distilled their Old Town restaurant into 192 pages of the Mexican restaurant’s signature dishes (complete with glossy tortilla and mole porn). The book is best put to use by two groups of people: ¡Salpicón! fans who want to eat this food as much as possible (but can’t afford to eat there much), and anybody obsessed with sauces—because sauces make up the bulk of these pages’ best recipes.
Notable quote “When I first came to this country, I often did not recognize what was on the plates at so-called Mexican restaurants.”
We tried The chilled avocado and crab soup, and the lamb loin chops in garlicky pasilla sauce. That pasilla sauce seemed like a disaster at first—it was harsh stuff in the pan—but synchronized with the lamb gorgeously. And the soup had a silky texture and elegant look that completely betrayed how easy it was to put together. It gave us hope that some of the more intimidating recipes in the book may also turn out to be easier than they appear. —David Tamarkin