In an era of ever-changing cuisine, Charlie Trotter is not just a forerunner he is a trailblazer. In his latest book, The Kitchen Sessions-a precursor to a series of 13 cooking shows for PBS-Trotter takes his food into the new millennium.
This book is not unlike his previous, very successful works. Concurrent with the treatment of top-selling cookbooks today, the photography is superb, making the book shout out to be devoured, and there are also penciled illustrations that are helpful and instructive.
The recipes are somewhat of a challenge, however, and call for some difficult-to-find ingredients. For example, coquitas, a tiny coconut which has a slightly more intense flavor than a regular coconut, is used in a Macadamia Nut Crusted Chicken Breast with Lemongrass Coconut Emulsion and Herb Oil (page 134). Regular coconut will probably be a substitute for many of us who do not have access to hard-to-find ingredients. For the most part though, Trotter uses ingredients that are readily available in most areas.
What is most obvious in this cookbook, is Trotter's respect for the food he is working with and the people he is creating for. It is the combination and linking of ingredients, along with his flare for presentation that sets him apart. One can only create such marvelous works of art with a passion that resonates deep within. His recipe for Tropical Fruit and Lobster Salad with Black Pepper-Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette (page 47) is an illustration. Here Trotter combines ingredients and matches flavors to create a stunning salad. He achieves perfect balance between the acidity of tropical fruit and the richness of lobster. Added to that is a peppery vinaigrette with just the right amount of vanilla flavor. Watercress finishes the composition to bring everything together. In what may seem an unusual combination, to do without just one of these distinct flavors would put the dish off its tempo and rhythm.
Charlie Trotter is a true inspiration. His work steeps in perfection, while at the same time he invokes others to experiment and interchange ingredients in the recipes and to work with spontaneity
Where did Trotter get his motivation for this culinary publication? A love for jazz was his stimulus. He closely relates cooking to the live jam sessions the musicians of the 40s, 50s and 60s held-the music was always great but never played the same way twice. This is exactly how this book was born. Trotter went into the studio with a list of ingredients and no preconceived ideas recipes were written later. The result: Food that always tasted great but was never prepared exactly the same way twice.
Trotter's philosophy is that cooking is exactly like playing music, and man can he jam!