Texas (Cook)Book Festival

Reviewing the Central Market Cooking School

Texas (Cook)Book Festival

The Kitchen Table: Brennan's of Houston

by Randy Evans

Bright Sky Press, 317 pp., $29.95

Many of the renowned chefs of our time have come out of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Creole cooking is one of our authentic regional cuisines, and its practitioners are passionate about food and exacting in their standards. Among the best of New Orleans' Creole establishments are those of the Brennan family, who helm a fleet of "destination" restaurants in Louisiana, along with one Houston location.

Brennan's of Houston upholds the family traditions of expertise and matchless quality but adds a twist: The flavors of Texas are blended with those of Louisiana. Along with the seafood and seasonings of the Crescent City, chef Randy Evans uses uniquely Texan elements such as Fredericksburg peaches, prickly-pear fruit, Pure Luck goat cheese, and Shiner Bock to create a distinctive hybrid cuisine.

The recipes in The Kitchen Table are ones developed for Brennan's celebrated Kitchen Table series, where guests are allowed to sit "backstage" in the kitchen with the cooks. Reservations for the "kitchen table" are booked months and years in advance, and many find it to be the dining experience of a lifetime, combining sensational food with exclusivity, camaraderie, and theatre.

Though young, Randy Evans shows all the marks of genius, and his creations are stunning. The recipes for Peanut-Crusted Softshell Crab, Corn and Wild Mushroom Soup, and Quail Egg Hussard are inspired. But make no mistake: This is a chef's cookbook. Instructions are given to make your own charcuterie, cure salmon, manufacture your own sausage, blend and freeze ice cream, and of course, make quarts of your own stocks and demiglaces. In other words, for the home cook, much is neither doable nor cost-effective, unless you are a very serious foodie. As a memento of Brennan's, The Kitchen Table is lovely; as advertising, it is spectacular (in other words, I don't think my life will be complete until I eat there); and, as a sourcebook for aspiring chefs, I imagine it's a godsend.

Brunch With Brennan's of Houston happens in the Texas Book Festival Cooking Tent on Sunday, Oct. 29, 11am.

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