How far will ‘Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat’ go in Piglet Tournament?

The Herald’s cookbook reviewer takes a look at the books competing in this year’s Food52 contest.

“Dinner: Changing the Game” by Melissa Clark is in the first bracket of this year’s Piglet Tournament. (Simon and Schuster)

“Dinner: Changing the Game” by Melissa Clark is in the first bracket of this year’s Piglet Tournament. (Simon and Schuster)

Each year, food blog, recipe source and cookbook creator Food52 hosts a tournament of cookbooks released the previous year. This competition is named The Piglet.

Eighteen cookbooks face off March-madness style and one is crowned the winner. The Piglet kicked off March 5 and will run until a winner is announced April 20.

Each week, The Daily Herald will feature two of the 18 contenders, along with a recipe for you to make a judgment for yourself. Follow along with The Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks at Food52.com.

This year’s tourney opened with two popular cookbooks from 2017: “Dinner: Changing the Game” by New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark and “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” by chef, teacher and writer Samin Nosrat.

“Dinner” offers a visual and tasty way for home cooks to make the most of an often daily drudge of getting dinner to the table. We need things quickly. We need the food to fit picky eaters’ palates. We need something that will provide tasty leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Clark is an artist at providing just this. An easy and welcoming cookbook, “Dinner” might even help you out with breakfast, lunch and snacks in between.

Beautifully illustrated “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” is the culmination of 17 years of cooking and five years of writing. Nosrat started in the kitchens of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse and followed this with a career of cooking and teaching at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. She is credited with teaching author Michael Pollan to cook. Well ordered and infinitely useful, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” is an opus worth owning.

Here’s a recipe from the book I chose — “Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat” — to survive this face-off. Much of the book is comprised of instruction and traditionally written recipes, but with the Caesar salad, it’s a lesson in cooking by taste and intuition. Also, given the recipe’s artistic presentation, a lesson in cooking with visual aids. Steady your bowl with a damp dish towel wrapped around the base. You’ll need a whisk and a strong arm here.

Caesar salad

1. Start by preparing all your salty ingredients: Grate a chunk of parmesan cheese, pound 3-4 anchovies, pound 3 cloves of garlic with a pinch of salt, keep salt at hand, remove cap from Worcestershire sauce.

2. Make a stiff, unsalted mayo (recipe follows).

3. Work in each salty ingredient a little at a time. Then add lemon and vinegar. Then taste. Now stop. Needs salt, right? But what else? More anchovy? More parm? Add some. Now taste again. Maybe add a little more Worcestershire. Taste again. Keep repeating this ‘til it all tastes just right, adjusting with actual salt as needed. Then, once you’ve nailed it, dip some lettuce in for a final taste. Perfect. Toss with crispy lettuce and torn croutons.Top with parm and pepper to taste. Eat.

Mayonnaise

1. First things first! Measure out the right amount of oil and eggs. The golden ratio for mayo: 1 egg yolk to 3⁄4 cup oil, and make sure the egg and the oil are the same temperature. So you’ll want to leave the egg out of the fridge for a bit, or you can run it under some water.

2. Put the yolks in a bowl and start whisking, adding one drop of oil at a time. Once you have added 1⁄2 the oil and it’s feeling pretty solid, add the rest a little faster. If it gets so thick it’s hard to whisk, add a few drops of water or lemon juice. After all the oil is added, taste. Need salt? Add some. Taste again.

— Recipes adapted from “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” by Samin Nosrat reprinted with permission from Simon and Schuster.

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