Cookbook review written & photographed by Stay-At-Home-Chef
Cravings is available for purchase at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit Penguin Random House Canada.
Once upon a time there was a little girl born to a Thai mother and father of Norwegian decent who grew up and became a famous model and social media maven. Our heroine married musician John Legend and wrote a cookbook – which is where our story gets really good!
This cookbook has been getting a lot of attention online with skeptics converted into believers and a five-star Amazon rating out of more than 600 reviews. Oh and she looks like my friend Janakie (see below) so that kinda sealed the deal for me: this book must be reviewed.
See what I mean? The resemblance is uncanny, right?!
After initially flipping through the recipes I headed straight for the gym. Warning! No low-cal diety recipes will be found in this book. Come on people – the title is Cravings – that pretty much sums up the recipe focus. Most of the dishes are meant to be indulgences.
In the introduction Chrissy writes that food has been her second language since she was a kid. Let me say this – you can tell. It quickly became apparent to me that this woman likes to cook. Everything I tried turned out super tasty and are dishes I’d make again in a heartbeat. The photos of her and John (I’ve made his famous chicken wings so I figure we’re on a first name basis) are fun and look like they belong in a fashion magazine. The writing and overall tone of the book is approachable and full of hilarity that will have you laughing like a crazy person in your kitchen.
I dare you to pick-up this book and not bring it home and start cooking right away. Divided into sections that include Breakfast All Day, Noodles and Carbs, Party Time and Sh*t on Toast – you’re bound to find something that strikes your fancy.
John’s Breakfast Sandwiches
Rating: 5 out of 5
THE TEST: At least once a week we have ‘backwards’ day in our house – an opportunity to indulge in breakfast for dinner. So when I saw the recipe for these Breakfast Sandwiches I knew they were going to make a guest appearance on what has traditionally been Waffle Wednesday.
Making sausage patties from scratch might sound like a lot of work, but it’s alarmingly simple and very much worth the effort. This recipe calls for what seemed to be a carefully calculated list of spices and seasonings so I followed it exactly but ended up doubling the recipe to have enough for leftovers the next morning. Ground pork is mixed with minced onion, garlic, brown sugar, sage, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Fry ‘em up in a pan and finish in the oven while you toast the English muffins (we opted for brioche buns instead) and let that cheese melt.
THE RESULTS: I happen to have very high expectations when it comes to breakfast sandwiches and this recipe surpassed those expectations. Each bite was so satisfying I didn’t want it to come to an end. (Let’s just say I was supper happy I doubled the recipe for those leftovers!)
My biggest challenge with making sausages patties has always been nailing the seasoning. But these turned out perfectly seasoned with a nice bit of heat from the red pepper flakes. I wouldn’t change a thing. With an exterior that was nice and crispy from the pan sear but still moist inside – I was in heaven. And when you put it all together with melted cheese and the suggested side of Sriracha the results are guaranteed to get your day off to a great start – or end it well (as was the case for us).
John’s Fried Chicken Wings with Spicy Honey Butter
Rating: 5 out of 5
THE TEST: Ah chicken wings. Sweet, sweet chicken wing goodness. Let’s just say I’m a fan of this American snack staple and when I read the list of ingredients for this recipe I knew I had to give it a try.
We’ve made wings in our house plenty of times before, but have never thought to brine the chicken first. Genius move. The wings soak overnight in a brine of water, seasoning salt, garlic powder and cayenne. Then you bread the wings and deep fry until golden brown. Because we needed to make these gluten free we skipped the breading step and to avoid the mess of deep frying we baked these off in the oven using a fantastic method I discovered thanks to Saveur Magazine which uses a two-temperature baking method that produces the best, crispiest wings you’ll ever have out of an oven.
So back to the recipe.
Once the chicken is done the wings smell heavenly and you’ll find it hard to resist devouring them right away, but STOP. For there is a special and completely addictive Cholula honey butter sauce that must douse them first.
THE RESULTS: Out of this world. That’s how I have to describe these chicken wings. The end.
Okay, for those of you wanting more detail let me just say that the brine seasoned the meat perfectly while keeping the meat super juicy. There was the perfect amount of heat with the cayenne pepper and that Cholula honey butter sauce? Unreal. And the perfect sauce to accompany these wings.
We served the sauce on the side for dipping in case the kids weren’t fans, but both of them loved it – even my eldest daughter who tends to shy away from spice. And my youngest kidlet being a Cholula addict (seriously – she has mini bottles of the stuff to pack in her school lunch) was in heaven.
This recipe knocked it out of the park for me.
THE TEST: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage
Rating: 4 out of 5
THE TEST: Gnocchi is one of those things I’ve always said I’d make one day but never seem to get around to actually doing it. This particular recipe seemed like a good point to jump in with both feet and give it a try! The dough is traditional gnocchi style with potato and flour, but the addition of sweet potato (or yams like I used) and ricotta gives this Italian staple a slight twist.
I doubled the recipe and swapped gluten-free flour for the all-purpose so my daughter could partake, and got to work. Because we don’t have a microwave I baked the yams in the oven until soft, then mashed the flesh and stirred in the ricotta and seasoning.
Insert entertaining interlude here: When it came time to add the flour I forgot I’d doubled the recipe and was baffled by how much ‘extra’ flour I had to keep adding until the dough achieved the necessary loose and shaggy texture. Whops. Eventually I figured out my mistake.
Once the dough is ready you simply roll portions out into 12-inch-long, 1-inch-thick logs and slice into pieces. Drop the gnocchi into boiling water until they float, then pan fry in brown butter and sage and finish with a dusting of Parmesan cheese.
THE RESULTS: What I loved about this recipe is how satisfying it was to make. I felt like I really accomplished something by the time I proudly delivered the final results to the table, and I felt like a pro. I mean come on, who makes gnocchi from scratch?
In all honesty it was easy to make and very enjoyable when not pressed for time or being stared down by hangrey children. So if you find yourself with an afternoon to spare and cold bottle of vino in the fridge, roll up your sleeves and give gnocchi a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised – I promise.
This dish turned out great although I did find the yam flavour wasn’t as pronounced as I’d like and got a bit lost. The dough could have used more seasoning and the texture wasn’t as fluffy as I’d like, but I credit that to all the extra flour I kept having to add and the additional stirring this required. But the brown butter and sage combo was delicious and I would definitely make this again.