If there’s a piece of advice I could give someone who wants to tackle a recipe from a local Portland chef, it would be this: Read the entire recipe well in advance.
Our town of artisans really Little Red Hens it, in that often every element of a recipe involves at least three preliminary steps—like making the aioli that goes into the dressing that goes on a salad that has components that need at least a week to cure.
That’s how we know it’s good. But don’t let it daunt you: Feel free to cut corners (buy mayo and avoid crying over failed aioli emulsions) or just steal pieces to use for other things. In recent months, a trio of drool-worthy cookbooks has launched, ranked here from the most newbie-friendly to the most sous chef-y.
Portland Cooks: Recipes from the City’s Best Restaurants and Bars, Danielle Centoni (Figure 1 Publishing)
This book is a gem. Portland Cooks, released in August, brings together an amazing mélange of top local chefs and bartenders with recipes that are both tasty and accessible to the average home cook. Ever wonder how Broder makes its famous aebleskivers? Turns out you can make them in less time than it takes to get to the front of their brunch line. While not as lushly photographed as some local cookbooks, it’s still inspirational, with recipes for Langbaan’s famous scallop coconut cups, that fish-sauce kissed gumbo at Tapalaya, and the incredible chocolate chip cookie from Little T Baker. I made Mae Chef Maya Lovelace’s approachable recipe for pimento mac ’n’ cheese. It took no longer than my usual preparation, and sent a mostly vegan friend of mine into a silent repose for 20 minutes—and then she got seconds. If I were buying someone a present from Portland, this would be high on the list.
Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg (Artisan)
As anyone who has eaten a salad at Ava Gene’s can attest, Josh McFadden is a vegetable whisperer. After years of rumors, his vegetable cookbook has come to fruition. McFadden divides the year into six seasons (summer gets three growing periods), and then splits it up according to vegetable. I’ve been spending time in the tomato section due to some epic home garden overplanting, and the platter of heirloom tomatoes with cucumber yogurt dressing and marinated chickpeas I took to a barbecue stole the show from the meat. A recipe for raw winter squash with brown butter, pecans, and currants is something I’m banking on bringing me out of the winter blues, while the recipe for English peas with prosciutto and new potatoes already has me stoked for spring. McFadden’s recipes aren’t overly fussy, and provide a great peek into how his dishes incorporate texture, giving us normies a chance to steal his signature look.
Hello! My Name Is Tasty: Global Diner Favorites from Portland’s Tasty Restaurants, John Gorham and Liz Crain (Sasquatch Books)
I’m never gonna look at shakshuka the same way. The latest from Portland’s brunch impresario and uber-author Liz Crain is a testament to the hard work that goes into every element of the dishes at Gorham’s Tasty n Sons and Tasty n Alder restaurants. With summer at its peak, I dove into their iconic Salad Niçoise, with olive oil poached albacore and confit tomatoes. It’s a salad, but it took two days to incorporate the oil infused with thyme and spices with the tuna, and hours to prepare the tomatoes and make my own dressing and aioli. The results were sublime. But casual cooks should be warned: Nearly every recipe requires making other recipes on different pages, meaning most won’t work for weeknights. If anything, the cookbook shows that in this case, a professional kitchen with a team of prep cooks is going to do it better and faster. But damn if you won’t impress guests by making them homemade chocolate potato donuts and Burmese red pork stew.