Riding a wave of publicity for his new cookbook This Is Camino, California chef Russell Moore is packing his bags and heading for New York City. “We’re having two dinners where chefs are cooking recipes from our book in their kitchens. I’m so excited to see how they interpret the food,” he tells the Voice.
Moore’s book, co-authored by Allison Hopelain and Chris Colin, tells the story of how the soulful Oakland restaurant came to be, and expounds upon a wood-smoked, flame-licked cooking philosophy that embraces unpredictability, that responds to seasons, to locale, to mood, to whim, to char, and to fire.
“It’s not been easy to write rules for how we cook,” Moore says. “For me, it’s dull to do the whole ‘turn the oven to 350 degrees and leave the food alone for 30 minutes’ thing. I love to cook with fire. When you light a fire, you’re engaged with the process. You’re responding to the food. As the fire heats up, blazes, and burns down, every time, there’s something different.”
“I was determined not to write another cheffy cookbook that nobody uses. But I think after 30 years, I have a story to tell, and some ideas to give people. Especially when it comes to appreciating vegetables. If you’ve paid for really great produce, you don’t want to waste any of it. So maybe you use the leftover stems of herbs to make a tea to poach eggs in. Or cook lamb for dinner, then use the leftovers to make ragu. It’s realistic, economic and also creative. The book is the story of the ecosystem of our restaurant. It’s an approach to cooking. And I hope it’s really helpful and useful to cooks.”
And so to the series of dinners in New York: one will be a four-course dinner at Prune (54 E. First Street; 212-677-6221) showcasing recipes from the book — including grilled squid with fresh turmeric, chilies and radishes and slow-cooked duck legs with cabbage, prunes and duck cracklings — which will be prepared by Gabrielle Hamilton on Tuesday, October 20 ($100 per person including wine and signed book; seatings at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Call the restaurant for reservations). On Thursday, October 22, John Adler will open the kitchen at Franny’s (348 Flatbush Avenue; 718-230-0221) to cook alongside Moore, creating a special tasting menu that will include sheep’s milk ricotta with Camino jam and slow roasted lamb shoulder with braised chicory and potatoes cooked in the coals. ($95 per person/$155 per couple, including a signed book).
“We host a lot of cookbook dinners for friends at Camino,” says Moore. “In fact, last year we had one for Gabrielle Hamilton, and I’m so flattered that she’s reciprocating. I know how much thought goes into them. We all cook differently. That’s really the whole point. A lot of my friends are coming out – you know it’s going to be a good time!”