Once Upon A Chef (Chronicle Books) is yet another cookbook based on cookery from a successful food blogger. And, in a way, it only makes sense. If a food blogger has thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers, it follows she’s going to sell some books. And if, as is the case with Once Upon A Chef’s author Jennifer Segal, the blogger in question is also a classically trained chef who also has experience in the home kitchen, it almost doesn’t need to be thought through: there’s clearly going to be lots to like.
The book features “100 Tested, Perfected and Family-Approved Recipes” and though the blog features Segal’s own photographs, photos for the book were done by Alexandra Grablewski whose work has also appeared in Great Bar Food at Home; Sweety Pies, 101 Martinis and others.
“Recipes with restaurant standards but made for the home cook to easily enjoy,” neatly sums up Once Upon a Chef the book and the blog. As a result, the food — even the simplest of it — has a certain polish.
The book is organized in a very traditional way, with chapters beginning with Starters & Snacks and finishing the book out with Desserts and then Cocktails. It’s a logical progression through every meal and opportunity for food in each day. The food here is solid, well chosen and flawlessly described and shared. Some of it is even quite innovative.
Some favorites. I really enjoyed preparing and then consuming Peruvian Chicken with Green Sauce. This is Segal’s take, she tells us, on pollo a la brass, the spit-roasted chicken found in Peru. This is an oven roasted version, and it’s simple and very good, as is the jalapeño, cilantro sauce that accompanies it.
The Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata, Pesto, & Pine Nuts (shown on the cover) is beautiful, feels luxurious and is dead simple. And Segal’s Broccoli Tots were developed for the mini crowd: they’re meant to be reminiscent of the ubiquitous tator tots of so many youths, but the baked savory “tots” are largely broccoli based. (And, again, very simple to duplicate using Segal’s careful instructions.)
Another startlingly simple recipe is Segal’s take on corn on the cob. The author roasts the ears in the oven, then peels back what is usually husked for an interesting presentation.
Once Upon A Chef is a fun family cookbook. Segal delivers the gravitas of a professional chef combined with the experience of a busy mom for a book that will benefit those cooking for kids and small crowds. ◊