Originally Posted February 15, 2020 in the archive
Here’s the thing. I love Binging with Babish. His presentation during his videos is frankly incredible and so different compared to most of what’s out there in food media right now. Recreating both nostalgic and new dishes from media touches a wide audience, and those videos are great ways to make myself feel better. The cookbook is a similar experience. While January was a hard health month for me, just reading the book had many of the same markers as the youtube channel.
Much of what is in that cookbook is going to be a weekend project for a home cook. Very few recipes are what I would call weeknight dinners. Having watched Binging with Babish for a long time, I had a feeling that would be the case. I mean, never in a million years am I going to wake up one morning and tell myself I want to make timpano, which appears to be a fucking nightmare of hardboiled eggs, fresh pasta, hella cheese, salami, and more fresh pasta that has to cook in a dutch oven for two hours and then rest for an hour-- much less go through the effort of making the pasta and sauce on the same day.
Timpano is impressive on camera. It looks crazy, and it IS crazy. What isn’t crazy is his Philly Cheesesteak recipe a few pages away from that hellish concoction, and that IS achievable in a single evening. The easier and more accessible recipes that are peppered into the cookbook are well worth the time it takes to find them, but let’s be honest with ourselves. This is not a cookbook you are going to pick up because you are looking for new recipes.
No normal person is going to sit down and loyally recreate his rendition of Eggs Woodhouse from the TV show Archer, which consists of practically an entire paycheck’s worth of truffles, caviar, Iberico ham, and KASHMIRI saffron. No one is going to sit down and make Buddy the Elf’s horror show of candy pasta, but he did it for you. That’s part of the beauty of it.
Babish publishes his recipes on his website with every video. You can access a lot of this for free by watching what he does weekly or just going to said website. You buy this book for the same reason I bought it-- you want to support the creator and read the story behind what he does. Every recipe comes with a short blurb from him about his process or the significance of the recipe itself. There is both good reading and good food here. You just have to dig a bit to find the good, accessible food.
The most controversial video he ever did (and perhaps the quintessential Babish viewing experience) centered around Pasta Aglio e Olio, was one of the few recipes that I actually did select from the book and recreate. It’s easy to do in a short evening after work, and regardless of what Italian chefs on the internet have to say about it, it was delicious. The garlicky sauce takes minimal effort if you don’t mind slicing six cloves of garlic as thinly as possible-- and that’s it. Counting the time it takes to get your pot of water boiling for your pasta, you might be in the kitchen for a max of thirty minutes.
This is the cookbook for a true fan. Whether they be lovers of movies or lovers of Babish himself, it’s a good gift and a great read. It is not, however, a cookbook I would recommend for someone who wants to fill their shelves with cookbooks of pure utility. This is a book meant to be savored as a reader, and occasionally, as a cook. Maybe you are one of those people who loves Big Night so much that you really do want to spend your entire weekend making that insane timpano monstrosity. Maybe you love the Office so much that you’d make your own chili paste in order to lovingly recreate Kevin’s famous chili-- sans the dank office carpet fiber. Maybe you’re a Game of Thrones fan so insanely dedicated that you’ll find a way to source squab, rabbit, and wild boar in order to try your hand at Sansa’s favorite pigeon pie (or the pie that killed Walder Frey). But if you aren’t any of these things, there are diamonds in the rough to satisfy both hunger and curiosity.
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