One thing you didn't know about Raquel Pelzel
Our Toast author has a guilty secret - can you guess what it is?
There’s one little thing you should know about Raquel Pelzel, the author of our new book Toast which takes that simply singed star of the kitchen table and turns it into a thing of high (and reassuringly low) concept over the space of fifty fabulous recipes. She doesn’t own a toaster.
Yes, you read that right. The lady who’s publishing quite possibly the best book ever on nature’s humble hero of the snack world just doesn’t quite feel the need.
“I have a small New York kitchen and I just love to use the broiler," she tells us. "I can’t grill year round for obvious reasons in New York City. Also, using a broiler doesn’t dry out the bread all the way through, it just makes the top dry and it chars around the edges. I think you get a lot of nuance by using a broiler.”
Which is precisely the kind of explanation we'd expect from an award-winning food writer and cookbook collaborator who’s written for the likes of Saveur, The Wall Street Journal and Epicurious among others and who was senior food editor for Tasting Table. Raquel is full of great toast tips and stories – the genesis of the idea for the book itself being just one of them.
“I had a problem with my eyes, I had holes in my retina and I had a retina doctor who was really close to Gramercy and the restaurant ABC Kitchen. I would have to go to get my eyes dilated and because I was pretty much useless for an hour-and-a-half after I would pop into ABC Kitchen. I couldn’t really read the menu so I just had toast.”
Of course, and as you probably know, the chef there, Dan Kluger, is pretty much credited with importing the current toast phenomenon to the US from Australia where it had been a thing for some time.
“Dan was kind of the first one to create these beautiful compositions on toast that were thoughtful and delicious,” says Pelzel. “He would serve them on an oblong plate cut into thirds and he would feature green market produce and some beautiful combinations."
Indeed, Kluger’s cumin-roasted carrots and muhammara toast is one of eight delicious guest star chef recipes that feature in Toast. Fergus Henderson, Bill Granger and Hugh Acheson are also among those contributing recipes and tips alongside those created by Raquel herself and tested by her foodie friends from the worlds of haute, and casual, cuisine. Deb Perelman, Suvir Saran, Itamar Srulovich and Andrew Feinberg also contribute great recipes.
Split into four seasons: fall, winter, spring and summer and with numerous handy tips on how to broil, singe and crisp your bread, Toast is that great thing, a recipe book that can be as high end and fancy or as approachable and simple to use as you might want on a lazy Saturday or Sunday. If you want to stretch out breakfast out at the weekend with something that raises eyebrows but doesn’t take too much time or brain power to put on the table or maybe create an occasional mid week evening meal but can’t always rise to René Redzepi standards, this’ll give you a sense of achievement without having to try too hard.
And if you’re open to how a bit of microwave dehydrated mint, or a splash of pickle juice or some Cilantro crema whirled in a food processor with plenty of line and jalapeno can cast a whole new light on ‘snack food’ this is the book that will do it for you. Just toss your most recent farmer’s market or seasonal produce purchase on top for some elevated comfort food.
And like Phaidon's vast catalogue of gastronomy books it’s failsafe in its approach - rigorously tried and tested, picking up on yet another trend that every self-respecting foodie really needs to know about.
As well as being an award-winning food writer Pelzel was also an editor at Cook’s Ilustrated so as 'out there' as a few of these recipes may seem you know they'll all work. We’ll be bringing you a full interview with her next week but after reading all this the thought occurs that it doesn't really mater that she doesn’t own a toaster now, does it? Pre-order Toast here.