I've owned Francis Mallmann's earlier book, Seven Fires, for years, and cooked most of the way through it - except, obviously, some of the more ambitious recipes, like roasting an entire cow over a roaring bonfire. His rustic and unfussy, but uncompromising and deeply considered, approach to live-fire cooking shows that grilling can be sophisticated and gourmet, and I've fallen in love, as he has, with the bittersweet, rich flavors of food charred over live fire.
Mallmann on Fire follows Francis Mallmann as he travels and cooks in various places close to his heart, from tiny coastal villages in Brazil to New York and Paris. He elaborates on the incredibly strong foundation established in Seven Fires, incorporating the regional ingredients and influences of the locations he visits throughout the book while making the approach a bit more practical. Mallmann explicitly rejects elaborate grills and excessively fussy prep and technique here - the whole message is to resist the urge to overthink and overdo, and simply to get outside in beautiful surroundings and cook good food over fire. He relates the story of taking a hike with a few ingredients in his pockets and cooking an omelette on a rock over a fire, by way of example and instruction. Here he even softens his strict adherence to only burning wood, a theme in Seven Fires, and mentions that charcoal is often superior for everyday grilling. There's a lot less emphasis on apparatus, and many of the recipes require less prep than those in Seven Fires. Some may feel that this is a compromise, but I think it's more a nod to the reality that a towering hardwood bonfire is not an everyday undertaking - whether you're a revered Argentine asador or a tired new dad making dinner after work - and that the perfect is often the enemy of the good. You can still cook like Francis Mallmann on a kettle grill in your back yard - or in a firepit at a park.
The dishes and flavors are less strictly Argentine, and serve to expand the vocabulary of his cooking language without changing his pared-down, ingredients-forward, Spanish and Italian-inspired approach. I can't wait to cook more out of this book. Last night, I made the orange, rosemary, and black pepper salmuera and the charred vinegar-glazed endive to go with the grilled pork I already planned, and they were both fantastic. I'll update as I cook more, but any book coauthored by Peter Kaminsky tends to have well-tested, well-written recipes and this appears to be no exception.
Seven Fires' occasionally outsized, ambitious recipes and techniques are inspiring and dramatic, but Mallmann's travels with his portable grilling setup seem to have translated to a more practical approach. Most recipes here call for a grill with a grate or a griddle over the fire, or an oven, possibly wood-fired but maybe even your lidded kettle grill or home oven. A few might reward the owner of an open fire pit, but that's hardly necessary. It's a little bit disappointing not to see recipes for lamb on iron crosses and salmon cooked in the infiernillo (a double-decker bonfire that forms the oven from hell) - simply because those approaches are so heroic and awesome. At the same time, most of these dishes are actually doable without undertaking major engineering projects, so I can't really complain much.
A few minor criticisms: Photos may not accompany recipes in a logical fashion, and occasionally one comes upon a photo of a recipe on a facing page that runs before the recipe itself - and sometimes the photo comes after. The layout and design is very pretty, but occasionally confusing. The photography throughout is beautiful and well-composed, and it's a gorgeous book - especially the cover.
Also, his highly practical and interesting self-designed grill setup is pictured throughout, but gets a 2'' x 3'' photo of a schematic, and a vague suggestion that an ironworker might knock one together for you, at the very end of the book. Chef, I'd commission one tomorrow, if you'd given me enough to work with! Dedicating a page to the grill and its dimensions would help those of us who want to accept your invitation to build one ourselves.
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Workman (1 December 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1579655378
- ISBN-13: 978-1579655372
- Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 3.2 x 29.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 1.6 Kg
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)