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Bruce Aidells's Complete Book of Pork    by Bruce Aidells & Lisa Weiss order for
Bruce Aidells's Complete Book of Pork
by Bruce Aidells
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In his Introduction, Bruce Aidells tells us about man's 'long history' with the pig, wild boar being prominently featured in ancient cave paintings. His Complete Book of Pork offers recipes for all cuts (aside from 'pig's head or chitterlings') and from most continents. Included are forty pages of advice on 'techniques like grilling sautéing, and moist-heat cooking', with a reminder that even experienced cooks can benefit from 'a tip or two'. A brief, but fascinating, porcine history covers the origin of the words 'botulism' and 'sausage', how pigs arrived in the Americas), and taboos on eating pork. The cookbook does not have photographs.

Recipes are divided into 'Light Meals and Starters', 'Main Courses' and 'Preserving Pork'. Breakfast Strata seems like a hearty cook-the-night-before choice for winter guests, and the Thai Seafood and Pork Dumplings recipe made my mouth water. Tigelle sound delicious, but I'm not ready yet for a salad with pig's ears. The soups, such as German Goulash Soup, all seem spicy and filling. For a main course, how about Grilled Yogurt-Marinated Pork Chops? There are many ways to cook Sautéed Pork Chops with Pan Sauce (our usual family recipe involves a simple apple sauce but I'm game to try Sweet Red Pepper and Fig variations included here). Baked Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops sound like they would retain their moistness, and the recipe for Pork Scaloppini Doré (with fresh sage and capers) looks both simple and delicious.

Kebabs are always popular, and there's a nice variety of preparation choices here - I like the one with apple cider marinade, and also plan to try Spiedini. Same kind of selection for spareribs - Hong Kong-Style Ribs sound great (the rub includes Chinese five-spice powder), or how about Blackberry-Glazed Back Ribs? We often cook stuffed pork tenderloin, and as for kebabs and ribs, Aidells encourages experimentation (his Soy-Orange brine intrigues me). On to pork roasts - the Cumin and Fresh Herb Crust sounds simple and good, and the Cuban Style recipe and Real Barbecued Pork (Southern style) are both already on my summer barbecue list. Hams next. We always have one on our New Year buffet table, so I plan to try a variety from this cookbook through the year to find what we like best ... Ham in Tangy Chablis and Mushroom Sauce just might fit the bill.

On to pot roasts, stews and pastas. How about Italian Porcini and Pork Pot Roast, Burmese Curried Pork, or Hungarian Goulash? International dining at home! The final section explains how to preserve pork as sausages (including a 'blood pudding'), patés and terrines (like Franco's Polpettone Napoletano), bacon and salami (though the author does not recommend making the latter in a home kitchen). The cookbook ends with a discussion of 'Specialty Pork' and a listing of ingredient sources. Do you enjoy pork in all its variations? Whether you're like me and have previously stuck to a few tried and true recipes, or are a more experienced cook, Bruce Aidells's Complete Book of Pork is a comprehensive resource for both techniques and recipes.

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