January has come. I’m swimming in cookbooks gifted to me and cookbooks I bought for myself with gift cards. The question this time of year is always this, where to begin? Do I choose the cookbook based on when I got it or what interests me the most? This year, I answer that we begin with what interests me most. Allow me to introduce you to our January 2021 Cookbook of the Month: Amboy by Alvin Cailan.
You may know the author from his youtube series with First We Feast called The Burger Show, where he often prepares variations on the classic hamburger for and with guests. Amboy is not a cookbook about burgers or the egg sandwiches of his famous restaurant Eggslut, although his Eggslut history does have an impact on a portion of the book. These recipes come from the whole of his life, bringing together his filopino heritage with his American experience. Being an avid filopino food lover, I was most excited to pick up the book for this reason.
Alvin is a personality that a food novice surfing the internet can get behind immediately, and I am interested in seeing if his book will read the same way. The few pages I opened to look at initial recipes have the little blurb at the top as all recipes do about the way they came into the chef’s life, and it reads in the same voice you hear in his youtube videos. I like that, and I think it means good things for the actual recipes.
I’ve picked out a few recipes that I want to try for sure before the month is out. The most filopino-American recipe I’ve ever heard of-- Cheeseburger Lumpia-- is featured on page 98 and absolutely WILL be made in this house. There’s something endearing about it in the way he describes the dish, and it combines in my head a very distinctly American thing that I love with a very filopino thing that I love. There’s more than one lumpia recipe in here, and that makes me happy.
We’ll approach Amboy with the same eagerness that I approach all cookbooks I choose each month, and maybe this time I’ll be able to do it all. January is going to be a big month for me food wise, and Amboy will help me embrace it. Expect one recipe discussion every week and pictures of what I try throughout the month. When February is close, we’ll judge the book by our criteria: Accessibility, Difficulty, and Originality. Let’s start 2020 on the right foot.
Am I a Dessert Person now? Short answer, no. Long answer, maybe eventually? Claire Saffitz’ Dessert Person is a tome of delicious looking recipes that one woman can’t get through in a month, and what I managed to try has soured me to the harder parts of dessert making such as pies. I’ve had more failures than successes, many of which are more than likely my fault. I am not a dessert person, and I haven’t ventured beyond cookies or basic cheesecake in a premade crust in my whole life.
So I admit that my failings in trying to cook from this cookbook are all my own. Claire’s instructions and diagrams are all super detailed, but I know it will take many many tries for me to get to the point that I can turn out something of a quality that I can be proud of. I’ve never made a pie until November, much less made my own crust. Never made a tart, never made sable cookies, never so much as sneezed at a custard.
I came at this cookbook looking for challenges in things that I was unfamiliar with, and I was met with those challenges. So, for me, this cookbook provided exactly what I was looking for when I ordered it. It’s also a look into what internet favorite Claire Saffitz actually wants to cook, not just what internet goblins got Conde Nast to force her to do in the Bon App test kitchen. I love that the Saint Louis Gooey Butter Cake appears. I love that her book has a section for savory baking too.