Note: This is not a sponsored post, but the link to the book does go through my Amazon referral link.
I’m not sure where I discovered Josiah Citrin’s cookbook, Charcoal, but it was probably an Instagram ad, as their track record on reeling me in is well over 90%. Regardless, I’m glad it’s on my shelf and yes, shelf; when it comes to cookbooks only the real thing will do.
Citrin, a chef, classically trained in Europe, opened his first restaurant, Mélisse, in LA twenty years ago. His award-winning restaurant holds a coveted two-star Michelin rating. In other words, Citrin is a big deal.
As Citrin writes in the foreword, a combination of creative change, the love of backyard grilling, and youthful memories of a French Basque country restaurant featuring grilled meats fueled his next restaurant venture: Charcoal. At Charcoal, the fire is everything, and both meats and vegetables get grill parity. The coals love them both and let each shine.
Four years later, Citrin put his love of Charcoal the restaurant into Charcoal, the cookbook.
Caveman style, the direct use of coals for cooking, has undoubtedly been a thing the last few years.
However, Citrin’s use of a briquette bed to cook vegetables, not just meat, drew me in.
Cabbage Baked in Embers with Yogurt, Sumac, and Lemon Zest is served at the restaurant and presented here for the backyard. Let me say this: I’ve made it three times in the last few weeks. It’s simple, and it’s incredible.
One of the driving themes of charcoal is something I bring up again and again. Grilling is communal. Not only should the food be a point of discussion, but the cooking process should beg dialogue too. In this case, it means covering an entire head of grilled cabbage with hot coals for an hour. Do you want to start a conversation? I mean really start a conversation? Pull a scorched round orb from the kettle and place it on a cutting board. With guests eyeing what they may initially believe to be a disaster, four quick knife strokes will reveal a succulent and sweet appetizer. The tangy yogurt served to the side only makes it better.
Not every dish is “in” the coals, but those certainly got my attention. Recipes are over the coals, off the coals, and smoked.
Both the proteins presented and their vegetable friends are approachable yet nuanced.
I combined the “in” coals Loaded Yukon Gold Potatoes with Salted Butter, Crème Fraîche, Aged Gouda, and Chives with a grilled New York Strip and Grilled Asparagus with his Lemon Bread Crumbs.
Last night I also gorged myself on Charred Brussel Sprouts with Soft-Boiled Egg and Orange-Chili Glaze. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy eating.
I’m always looking for a new twist on the grill and Charcoal is loaded with them. Also, the photography is top notch and “real.” I have more to explore and more to eat. Also, fairly confident when I’m back out in LA later this month, I’ll be adding Charcoal, the restaurant, to my dining list.