Wolfgang Puck: Live, Love, Eat!
Wolfgang's Greatest Hits
That would be a fitting subtitle for this book. It's a selection of favorites from Puck's various restaurants, and old family recipes from his native Austria. The book lacks a unifying theme, unless the theme is "Hey, check out some of my recipes!"
Not that that's a bad thing. Wolfgang Puck is an extremely successful restaurateur, and with good reason. His food is tasty and his tastes are eclectic. He's successful in several different cuisines; he was one of the first to embrace the idea of Asian fusion cooking, and his Asian-inspired recipes are outstanding. He also cooks a great deal of Italian food, and he's famous for his pizzas. His Austrian roots show through in several recipes in the book, including Wiener schnitzel.
The recipes are clearly written, and there's no confusion about instructions or techniques. The flavors are strong and assured. Everything I cooked from the book was successful. Not that there aren't some problems, however. Puck's got a lifetime of experience as a restaurant chef, so when he adapts his recipes for a home kitchen, some things don't quite translate. He's fond of calling for teeny little amounts of ingredients that might be commonplace in one of his restaurants (goat cheese, or mascarpone, for example) but aren't so common in many home kitchens. A recipe that requires only 2 tablespoons of goat cheese puts the home cook in the position of having to buy 3 or 4 ounces of the stuff, only to have most of it left over. Puck also sometimes calls for techniques that make sense in a restaurant, such as cooking an entire chicken to yield meat for chicken salad, that probably aren't the most time- or cost-effective methods to use at home. I've pointed out a few of these instances in the recipes.
Most of the dishes in Live, Love, Eat! would be fun to make for a party, or on the weekend. Super-quick dinner ideas, these are not. But the time investment won't be wasted. Puck's recipes always yield delicious results. Just be sure to read through them carefully and look for ways to streamline preparation in your own home kitchen. Not every vegetable needs to be finely diced. Not all the time.
Definitely a cookbook I'll be coming back to. It's not a comprehensive look at Puck's cuisine, but it does nicely as an introduction to his cooking and recipes.