Book Review: The Recipes Behind the Restaurants

Some favorite cookbooks from some favorite local eateries

The Recipes Behind the Restaurants

Fresh: Healthy Cooking & Living From Lake Austin Spa Resort

Recipes by Terry Conlan
Favorite Recipes Press, 207 pp., $30

As my 18-year-old daughter prepares to leave the nest for college, she has repeatedly asked for one parting gift: a collection of her favorite recipes that I routinely prepare and that she's grown to love. I consider myself an above-average home cook, and I take no small amount of pride in my offspring's adventurous and discriminating palate and appreciation for fresh and wholesome food. This appreciation she's developed for real food that's fresh will be her best guide to good cooking and eating. I figure if she can sauté, brown, braise, blanch, fold, whisk, poach, toss, sift, and grill, and if she can appreciate seasonal ingredients, she's in for some good eating.

This rationalization may be my way of dodging the laborious work of compiling and creating actual recipes. As with many cooks, most of what I make may at one time have been based on a recipe, but it's continually adapted to seasons and availability and repeated so many times, I have long since ceased to consult a recipe. Nonetheless, a solid template recipe that is certain to be included in any collection is the pan-roasted chicken with peach and bourbon glaze from Terry Conlan's Lake Austin Spa cookbook, Fresh.

I've been cooking from this now-splattered book since it came out in 2003. The dishes in Fresh bear little resemblance to typical "diet" cookbooks. Featuring lavish photography shot on-site at the spa, the book spells out the modest fat and calorie content of the dishes along with other nutrition information. The recipes are fresh, innovative, and satisfying, drawing influences from around the world. A familiarity with the book and its recipes quickly reveals a few techniques that can be used to adapt fatty recipes into less-lethal versions.

The adaptability of Conlan's pan-roasted chicken (substitute Port wine for bourbon and fig preserves for the peach, and it's a whole other dish) and his calorie-cutting techniques are masterful examples of the lessons I want my daughter to take with her into the world. Maybe I'll dodge the recipe collection project and just give her her own copy of Fresh instead.

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