Jose Garces, an Iron Chef on Iron Chef America, takes cooks on a culinary journey through Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru in his cookbook The Latin Road Home (Lake Isle Press, $35). Each chapter highlights one of the five countries, with recipes organized into menus by city, including essential sauces and dishes. The very last menu in each chapter features recipes meant for larger gatherings. Interspersed among the recipes are heartfelt and nostalgic stories from Garces' life, which make this cookbook also a bit of a memoir, filled with stories of friends, family, and travel.
The Latin Road Home will certainly keep avid home cooks who are curious about Latin cuisine entertained for some time to come. Garces covers all the staples, as well as a few dishes that may be unfamiliar to home cooks, including Aji Costeño, the Ecuadorian hot sauce; the well-known Spanish dessert Crema Catalana; Lechón Asado from Cuba; Mexican Tres Leches Cake; and Lomo Saltado con Arroz from Peru, just to name a few examples.
While this book isn't likely to make the weeknight dinner rotation, that probably was not Garces' intention in writing this book, judging from its format and the rather involved nature of many of the recipes. Rather, it's a book for people who want to spend a day cooking during a leisurely weekend, perhaps perusing the book for a menu that jumps out, making a shopping list, and returning from the farmers' market or store with a clear mind to do some recreational cooking. And after a week of rote, harried, weekday cooking, sometimes that's just what a passionate cook needs.
Many dishes that are popular today were born out of a need to preserve meats and fish; brandade, a classic Spanish salt cod dish, is one delicious example.
Though the name and symbolism behind this dish are controversial, it's one of the staple Cuban side dishes.
The "crème brûlée" of Spain, if you will, this version gets an interesting twist with the addition of high-quality dark chocolate.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman