"Emeril’s Creole Christmas," Emeril Lagasse

Pros: Some of the most wonderful holiday food I’ve ever seen
Cons: Not for the dabbler
Rating: 5 out of 5

First posted 7/11/2000

If you were first exposed to Emeril Lagasse through “Emeril Live,” his television show, then this book will probably surprise you. This is one of the most incredibly lavish, exotic, and gourmet cookbooks you will ever have the opportunity to play with, and it lacks much of Emeril’s now-trademark in-your-face style.

It includes a Christmas Eve dinner for ten, Emeril’s Christmas Day brunch buffet, New Orleans New Year’s Eve dinner, a New Year’s Day supper family style, the Chef’s holiday favorites, and Emeril’s “stocking stuffers.”

The book is filled with gorgeous photographs of lavish decorations and settings, truly memorable holiday setups. They artfully set the mood in this book – one of no expense spared in the interest of fabulous holiday experiences. The introduction includes Emeril’s own holiday memories, and it’s a glimpse into a wonderful and fascinating world. His descriptions of childhood feasts will make your mouth water.

The book also includes a section by master Sommelier Greg Harrington on the art of choosing wines to go with your holiday dinner. This isn’t something that I find very useful as most of the people I care about don’t drink alcohol, but it looks very handy. It has a lot of useful details that I wouldn’t have ever known to think of. For example, the wine must be more acidic than the food (or sauce) it’s matched with – otherwise the wine will taste dull.

Each section is done as a menu, so that you can make the menu whole or steal individual recipes. I have yet to make a menu whole, but that isn’t because any of it looks unappetizing – I just want to wait until we have the time and the opportunity to do it right. None of these menus are quick things, and this book isn’t designed for the cook who doesn’t like to spend more than a half-hour in the kitchen. Shopping lists are included, as well as wine pairings.

I’m really looking forward to making the corn cakes with caviar and traditional garnishes, and the truffle risotto with parmesan croutons. (I did mention that this is lavish, didn’t I?) The salad of new potatoes and roasted walnuts with warm bacon vinaigrette makes my mouth water every time I look at the picture. (By the way, the pictures are fabulous, and there are lots of them. Some people might want to buy this book just to look at the pictures even if they don’t cook.) The Creole Christmas Trifle looks divine (it uses 12 cups of fresh raspberries!).

The Christmas Day brunch buffet includes tips on setting a traditional bar. The andouille cheese bread always sends me to my browser looking for companies that ship andouille sausage. The white cheddar truffle eggs look like a fabulous vehicle for that first taste of truffle I’ve been looking forward to. We’ve made the spiced pecans over and over again, and they’re just as amazing every time. They’re sweet and a little hot and spicy (there’s cayenne in the mix!), and no one can eat just five.

I could go on forever, but I should leave a few surprises for you to explore yourself. Suffice to say that this book will appeal to two groups of people: gourmet chefs who love a challenge and adore the chance to put on an impressive spread, and people who love to look at and enjoy pictures and descriptions of incredible food. Everything we’ve made out of this cookbook so far has tasted absolutely outstanding; I just wish it was easier (and less expensive) to obtain more of the ingredients.

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