In the food world there are chefs and the rest. On one side we have the likes of Rachel Ray (cue someone screeching EVOO) or Sandra Lee. I confess to having sort of car-crash fascination with Sandra Lee because I can never figure out what she’s going to do next. On one episode she festooned a special occasion table top by placing a gaudily decorated chair on the table. That’s right, she put a chair on top of the table. Pause for concern.
Then there are the real chefs who’ve worked in kitchens and can actually cook. Molly Stevens is the latter and definitely the real deal in every sense of the word. Molly studied and worked in top kitchens in France and the U.S. and now leads classes at major culinary schools in the U.S. and Europe including the French Culinary Institute in New York, the New England Culinary Institute, and L’Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Burgundy.
I first met Molly in 2002 while writing for Fine Cooking Magazine. She contacted me the following summer about doing wine pairings for her book about braising. I accepted immediately. Within days a FedEx box showed up at my door with several hundred pages of text. I took my time reading through the draft making notes about potential pairings in the page columns. What quickly came to mind was that there are lots of people who write about food and cooking, but precious few who can write as well as Molly. Her writing voice is clear, precise and her passion and dedication to the craft come through loud and clear. I have rarely come across anyone else who can so deftly and easily explain the do’s and don’ts of technique, the various cuts of beef or how to shop for poultry and meat. Needless to say, doing the pairings was a dream assignment and all too quickly completed. The finished book, All About Braising, came out in 2004. It’s easily one of the best winter cookbooks ever written. Carla and I have worked our way through more than a few of the recipes. My favorite among many was for Straccoto, an Italian pot roast that we enjoyed for Christmas dinner two years in a row.
Molly next contacted me in the summer of 2010 with a manuscript for her follow up book on roasting. Repeat same process as before: great text, wonderful writing voice and unmatched instructive advice on everything concerning the art of roasting. In short order I test drove two of her recipes for strip steak and simple roast chicken. I have to confess to being monumentally inconsistent with both in the past but using Molly’s recipes I was quickly turning out a perfect medium rare steak and oven-roasted chicken every time—easily worth the price of the book. All About Roasting is now out and I recommend it highly. In fact, if you’re a rabid home cook or if you collect cook books (or both), All About Braising and All About Roasting are both must-haves. Bon apetit.