Pros: lots of great information about Gulf seafood, from what to how to clean, to how to prepare
Cons: not a lot of recipes that stray from the tried and true
I've been on a bit of New Orleans Cajun and Creole kick with my cookbook reviews recently so I thought I'd stray a bit, although not too far and review a cookbook about seafood that can be found all along the Northern Gulf, from Texas to Florida (and yes that does encompass both Louisiana and New Orleans.
Tom Bailey has recently written a wonderful book called "The Complete Guide to Northern Gulf Seafood." As a life long chef, I often forget that many people don't have the same amount of knowledge that I do when it comes to all things food related so often my first reaction books such as this is to immediately dismiss it not offering up anything new, but to do so would be to miss the point entirely. Mr. Bailey offers up an encyclopedia of the most important game and commercial seafood found in the northern Gulf waters, but more than that he walks the reader through, not only purchasing and storing the seafood, but goes into detail about the proper way to clean and dress these fish, often giving a number of different options for butchering those same fish. I was impressed in the amount of knowledge Mr. Bailey stuffed into this book and found tidbits of information or tips and techniques that can even help the more experienced of us.
Of course, there is plenty of information about shrimp and oysters, snapper and redfish, but you will also find sections on rock shrimp (a little known delicacy little known beyond the South), and Cobia, Wahoo, and Amberjack, as well as a whole host of other seafood.
When it comes to the recipes, the author mainly sticks with the tried and true, rarely offering up new or unusual ways to prepare the seafood. For a seasoned pro, this might be a bit of a downfall for the book, but it makes perfect sense for those overly familiar with such seafood and the best way to prepare it. That's not to say that there aren't a few new ideas to be found, but this book seems to place more of an emphasis on the more classic ways to prepare these foods.
So what is my overall opinion of the book? Well, for a seasoned pro, with lots of experience cooking seafood, and shelf full of cookbooks, there isn't much to take away from this book, although you can find a few great tips and techniques to use. But for someone not overly familiar with seafood cooking, in general, or the types of seafood found in the Gulf, more specifically, I think this is a must have book! Mr. Bailey provides you with ample information to help you create great seafood dishes every time.