Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Moro: The long overdue earnest summation

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I cooked from the Moro cookbook, and it was one of my favorite cookbooks ever. I know I just gushed about Pioneer Woman, but let me leave no room for doubt: MORO IS BETTER. 

Eccentric and personal, Moro is my favorite kind of cookbook, the antithesis to the sterile, test kitchen-generated Gourmet Today. Although the desserts all failed me and the skate wing counts among the most repulsive things I've ever cooked, this Mediterranean/North African/Middle Eastern cookbook by Sam & Sam Clark (above) challenged and fascinated and educated and fed us very, very well for several months. Even after all that time there were dozens of recipes I still wanted to try but never got around to: roasted pork belly with fennel seed, fried liver with chopped salad, crab brik. The I only reason I stopped cooking from Moro was because Isabel became fixated on Pioneer Woman and practically begged me to move on.
 
I cooked 57 recipes from Moro:

Worth the price of the book: 2*
Great: 14
Good: 25
So-so: 12
Flat-out bad: 4
 
*the bread, of course, which I have baked a dozen or more times, but also the phenomenal chickpeas and spinach.

Definitely a shelf essential. 

Also, I have a story today in Slate comparing Pioneer Woman and Thomas Keller. His fried chicken is way, way better, but I still prefer her book.

29 comments:

  1. Excellent article in Slate, Tipsy. I really enjoy your blog and insights on cooking. Thanks!

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  2. Try the pork belly and asparagus at Bruno's in The MIssion. Also their hushpuppies.

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  3. What a wonderful article! so full of life and wisdom. I love all the different comments from family members.

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  4. Nice article, Tipsy. I'm posting here rather than on Slate, because my comments deal with the personal issues, that is, the recent death of your mother, that you have revealed on your blog and don't discuss in the article and that to me seem to have been a major factor in the outcome of the contest.

    As a few Slate readers pointed out, if you take away the rather baroque preparation for Keller's salad, the actual hands-on time difference between Drummond's and Keller's fried-chicken dinners is rather negligible. Yet despite Keller's landslide victory for you (the potatoes aside), you come down on PW's side. The general sense is that Keller makes you feel tired and inadequate, whereas Drummond comforts you. My point about your mother's death is that I wonder if, say, a year ago you had attempted this cook-off whether the results would have been the same. Certainly you have cooked many complicated and time-consuming dishes in recent memory (Moro, for instance) that didn't seem to tire you so much. I don't think your mother had died by the time you conducted your test, but she was very ill, and you must have known the end was coming. Grief is an exhausting ride. As you said, it's like trudging endlessly through heavy sand. And in that state the idea of comfort, the idea of comfort food, which is what Drummond's food really is, an idea, a friendly representation of the thing, not really the thing itself (aside from the sheet cake and meatballs), is wonderfully welcome; the ideal of comfort food, however, which is what Keller's food promises (and delivers with more effort) - not so much, apparently.

    Yet it appeared that Keller's food made you feel better - more nourished, more satisfied in a deeper sense, at least while you were eating it. Still, I can understand how, with your mother gravely ill, a sense of the "maternal and beneficent," which is what PW bestows, would win out.

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  5. yay!

    Now, I have to find Moro.

    Your article in Slate was great. I think Keller and PW serve different purposes to meet the same end: to feed. On a busy Tuesday night, I'm turning to PW. Picky eaters? PW, again. Kids? Most likely PW. Her recipes are tried and true. I would reserve Thomas Keller for those days when I want to spend a day in the kitchen creating something inspiring or when I'm hosting a dinner party. AdHoc would come out during special occasions or when I'm trying to impress, lol.

    I would probably apply some of the techniques in Adhoc to PW's recipes. Sort of gussy them up a bit...

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  6. I JUST found you (strangely, via a google search for a food item mentioned in The Elegance of the Hedgehog). You're now on my feed reader (and, I suspect, will be a favorite in my kitchen, too).

    Love!

    Chili

    ReplyDelete
  7. Honest Cook -- I should probably cook from Ad Hoc At Home next to do a really fair comparison of the two books. Should I back out of Big Sur?

    The biscuits, fried chicken, and pineapple cake were all vastly better from Ad Hoc. But each recipe had a step that made me hesitate, and on an ordinary day would make me not want to cook it (cake flour, brine, silicone pan.) These turned out to be pretty minor hassles, of course. It's easy to buy cake flour, the brine took about 15 minutes more than PW's night-before step, and the silicone pan was ultimately unnecessary (though he should have mentioned this!) The question is, how many of the hassles that present themselves as you read his cookbook turn out to be minor like these, and how many turn out to be major, like that stupid salad?

    The perceived hassles are what stop me from using and embracing his book. But, like I said, a really fair analysis would entail cooking a lot more than a fried chicken dinner. (And the pot pie. I did make his pot pie.)

    You are right, I probably have gone easy on PW because of my mother's illness and death. I was initially deeply annoyed by her gooey voice and I found some of her food disgusting, like the casserole with canned soup. I think the turning point came one night when my mother was sick, I came home and made the incredibly easy meatballs, they tasted like what my grandmother used to cook, and everyone was happy, including me. After that, I loved Pioneer Woman.
    I think I will do Ad Hoc next and postpone Big Sur.
    Just for my own interest and to be fair.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent article on Slate. Truly funny that only you noticed the differences in taste.

    I also find it ironic that, Keller says you can cook every night from this book- doable family food- if you want to spend three days and all your pots and pans cooking for one night out of seven. I don't know about Keller, but my husband and kids like to eat every day.

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  9. Tipsy, Thank you for the response. I would really love to see you tackle "Ad Hoc." I've put off buying the book, afraid it would merely gather dust on my shelf next to my little-used "Bouchon." It would be great to have you lead the charge.

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  10. The Moro bread is the best (but admittedly only) bread I've ever baked. I just ate 1/4 of a loaf with butter at 1 AM. Thanks for the recommendation-- it was my most victorious moment in an otherwise lousy week.

    ReplyDelete
  11. gourmetbebe4/24/10, 9:53 AM

    I would love for you to take on Ad Hoc. I've been dabbling with it since November and have loved everything I've tried - including the interesting and strangely addictive (addicting?) fried chick peas.

    If I am to continue, however, I fear I will need to purchase more pots, pans, and utensils or hire a sous chef and dishwasher to keep up with the mess. Hmm... now that I think about it, I happen to have two teenage children who can step into these required roles with ease.

    You've now inspired me to heft it from the shelf and find another recipe to try this week.

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  16. Just butting in to say if by pork belly with fennel seed you mean the recipe that also involves quince, that's my favourite food in the entire world. It's my number one reason to look forward to autumn each year.

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  17. I love Thomas Keller. Most especially since he advised on my favorite Pixar movie (Ratatouille.) Try his quiche. It is the best quiche you will ever taste, and it's as easy as quiche gets. You must, however, acquire a deep tart tin or pastry ring. But this is a good thing!

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