Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine
- by René Redzepi
- Phaidon Press, $55
It's hard to quibble with the genius of Danish chef René Redzepi or his first cookbook, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine. It's just that "cookbook" may be the wrong term for his newest creation. This volume is food for thought, not food most of us can cook.
Presentations such as Snowman, three stacked spheres of carrot sorbet rolled in yogurt snow with a carrot nose, or birchwood dessert, which includes a sorbet base made from simmered birch wood shavings, combine whimsy and creativity with a distinctly northern sensibility.
Yes, there are recipes and, of course, jaw-dropping photos of every dish, but the genius of Mr. Redzepi's cuisine is the way he marries two schools of culinary thought customarily viewed as incompatible: the postmodern technique of Ferran Adrià and the hyper-local, hyper-seasonal ethic of Alice Waters. That's what makes a dish such as poached duck egg and oysters, raw and cooked vegetables so special. It's also what makes it uncookable, at least as written, for foodies across Canada, who lack access to the bivalves of Lammefjord and a spare humidifier to spray the duck eggs.
Mr. Redzepi rightly argues that quibbling over shallots from the island of Laeso or instant food thickener misses the point of his book entirely. "It's more than just recipes," he told me. "We're showing people that it's been done in Denmark, so it can be done anywhere. ... Perhaps just replace them with some of your own ingredients."
He says any Canadian should be able to make his recipe for beef tartare by replacing the instant food thickener with cornstarch or stale bread in the tarragon emulsion, for example. Sure, but let's hope his book inspires some equally ambitious Canuck to go a step further: maple wood sorbet, anyone?
The grade on René Redzepi's book
Quality of recipes (out of five) N/A
Over all ***1/2
The conclusion The most stunning, interesting, thoughtful cookbook most foodies will never cook from.