Wednesday, November 11

Olympia Provisions (aka Charcuterie Extraordinaire) once in a while, you find a book that is not just enjoyable or well written, but truly a gem. Olympia Provisions by Elias Cairo is one of those rare finds. You know from the instant you see the cover that this book was crafted with love by someone accustomed to paying great attention to detail. The size, embossed cover, thick pages, and glorious full-color full page photo spreads all give the book an elegant, classic feel long before you even begin to explore the recipes.

The writing is a precise balance of direct, unassuming personality and professional perfection. The effect is similar to sitting down and sharing a glass of wine and a charcuterie board with a master in the field; you come away wiser about the subject matter, but also feeling connected to the person sharing the wisdom.

The book contains a collection of phenomenal (but accessible) charcuterie recipes, as well as a generous collection of recipes from OP's two restaurants which feature or compliment the charcuterie recipes. Like most books written for people who take their results seriously, it gives ratios and weights as well as the standard teaspoon/cup style measurements. Hands down, Cairo does the best explanations of the safety issues associated with curing meat - including a succinct and outstanding job of tackling and laying to rest the controversy over the use of nitrates and nitrites in meat. I have yet to see anyone else do such a good job making these issues simplified enough to be quickly and functionally understood, while also so readable that they don't make your eyes glaze over.

Further testament to both the writing and photography skills employed in the book can be summed up by this sentence: I never envisioned myself making head cheese, but OP has convinced me that is it not only completely doable, but a very attractive prospect. (!!) From high end (prosciutto) to every day (hot dogs), this book has something for everyone. My fingers itched to start cooking just a few pages in, and I'm pretty sure it was only sheer force of will that kept me from drooling my way through the recipes. Everything is scaled to proportions and tools that are appropriate and feasible for the home cook, and geared toward every day, share-a-meal-with-people-you-love eating. If you've ever considered getting a charcuterie book, this is it - the one you want!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free from Blogging for Books in return for my review. As always, my opinions are my own and unbiased. (It seriously was that good!)

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