‘Essential Emeril’ Shares a Glimpse into the Life of Emeril Lagasse
Emeril Lagasse, best known for his stints on the Food Network, shares a glimpse of his lifetime spent in the “food world” in his latest cookbook Essential Emeril. Starting with the first pot he washed in a Portuguese bakery in his hometown Fall River in Massachusetts to filling the shoes of Paul Prudhomme at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, the enigmatic personality we first welcomed into our homes and kitchens on his show The Essence of Emeril, then Emeril Live, details his journey from a boy fascinated by food to the celebrated American chef, restauranteur, television personality, and cookbook author he is today.
At the heart of the book is Emeril’s mission to teach people to cook. He presents the recipes, techniques, and tools in a way that gives any cook the confidence to tackle dishes like his Blueberry Beignets, Lobster and Saffron Risotto, or Turkey Roulade.
This beautifully photographed cookbook gives step-by-step photographic instructions for essential techniques, like “making a roux” and “pan searing.” Even if you consider yourself a skilled cook in the kitchen, there is plenty to take-away from this cookbook, like how to develop rich flavors in your Chicken and Andouille Gumbo that any Louisiana native would approve of eating.
There is so much to learn about cooking — so many cultures, and ingredients. If you can understand a culture, then you understand the food. If you can understand the food you understand the people. — Emeril Lagasse, 'Essential Emeril'Emeril explains his attachment to food in the introduction of the book saying, “There is so much to learn about cooking — so many cultures, and ingredients. If you can understand a culture, then you understand the food. If you can understand the food you understand the people.”
We had the chance to ask Emeril for a little more insight into his philosophy on food and cooking, what influenced the recipes in this cookbook, and how he hopes readers will use the book.
The Daily Meal: Can you tell us a little bit about your philosophy on food and cooking?
Emeril Lagasse: When it comes to cooking, it is all about having fun and never giving up. Things don’t always turn out perfectly, but you have to keep trying. Also, don’t worry so much about what other people think, make recipes your own. If you want to add more pepper, add more pepper. And if you can, always try and have the freshest ingredients possible. Your food is never going to taste good if you aren’t using quality meat, seafood or produce.
How did that influence the recipes you chose to include in this book?
This book is all about the journey that I have been on over the last 30 years. I wanted to share the techniques and recipes that I have learned along the way and some of my classic and favorite dishes. In this book, I am sharing them with you in the hopes that you will enjoy making these recipes as much as I have enjoyed creating them. It’s all a journey and you are learning along the way. You have to remember that.
What is that one dish that you just can’t stop cooking?
There are a lot of these actually. I have my go-to recipes that I can’t stop cooking whether it be at home or in my restaurants. Sometimes it’s because I love making them and sometimes it’s because my family and/or customers just won’t let me stop. At home, I like to make soups especially when it gets a little colder outside. Caldo Verde, Tortilla Soup and Gumbo are some of my favorites. EJ’s fried rice, and Spaghetti Bolognese are other favorites plus the Love Potatoes recipe from Essential Emeril which my family requests all the time. In my restaurants, BBQ Shrimp is just one of those dishes that I could never take off the menu. I also included a recipe for this favorite in Essential Emeril. I think the home cook is really going to enjoy it.
In the introduction to this book, you mention that “flavor memories and kitchen experiences” largely influenced this collection of recipes. Can you tell us a little bit more about a particular memory that has stuck with over the years?
There are so many memories and people that have influenced me along the way. Julia Child, of course, is one of them. Showing her how to eat crawfish for the first time is just one of those memories that will always stay with me. Cooking alongside chefs like Charlie Trotter or Mario Batali brings up memories of friendship and meals shared together. The recipes in the book are inspired by flavor memories of the dishes that I grew up with, the ones that I have made over the years and some are about experiences that I have had with my family and friends. The book is really the story of my life in recipes.
How do your earlier experiences with food differ from your ones now?
I don’t know that they have changed all that much. Of course I had a lot more to learn when I was first starting out, but at the same time I don’t think you can ever stop learning and growing. I can learn something new every day when it comes to food. There are so many cultures, people and techniques to learn from. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of cooking, there is always more to discover. Right now I’m so impressed with these passionate young cooks that are really paving new ways and continue to evolve the industry, it’s exciting.
What’s the takeaway for readers? What do you hope they’ll get from this book?
I hope that readers will have fun with this book and learn from the stories and techniques that I share throughout. I put a lot of myself into the creation of this book and I hope that they see that.
Want to try a recipe?
This is basically a sweet fritter batter. You can substitute raspberries or cut-up strawberries, but there is something about blueberries that makes these awesome. — Emeril Lagasse
Chicken And Andouille Gumbo
Chicken and andouille is my favorite of the classic gumbo combinations, the chicken tender and filling and the sausage adding a rich spike of heat. Make it a day or two in advance for the best flavor and reheat it slowly so that the chicken meat does not fall apart. It freezes exceptionally well and is a great choice for parties or tailgating. Don’t skip the white rice—gumbo isn’t gumbo if it isn’t served over a mound of rice—or the hot sauce at the table.
In Louisiana, everyone has his or her own preference when it comes to gumbo thickness. This one is about middle of the road, which is the way I prefer it—not too brothy and not too thick. It is easy to adjust the thickness by using less broth for a thicker gumbo and/or adding more for a thinner consistency. — Emeril Lagasse
Chicken with Champagne and 40 Cloves Of Garlic
The slow cooking of the garlic makes this dish sweet, nutty, and creamy. Some folks like to cut up a whole chicken, but I prefer all thighs—they braise well and the meat stays juicy. I used Champagne because I love the subtle flavor it adds, but any dry white wine could be substituted. — Emeril Lagasse
Crab and Corn Fritters with Fresh Corn Mayo
Growing up, there was a park on the water outside of Providence, Rhode Island, called Rocky Point, and they used to serve the best clam fritters. When I ate beignets for the first time in New Orleans, I immediately thought of my childhood clam cakes and wondered how I could give beignets a savory turn. This recipe provides a foundation batter that you can vary as you choose; I’ve given you two variations in the box on page 48 to get you started. I particularly like making these with eggplant because it almost melts right into the batter. — Emeril Lagasse
Maple Bourbon Fudge
My mom used to make fudge, so I took those flavor memories and mashed them up with my love for maple syrup and bourbon. — Emeril Lagasse
Wonderfully gooey and indulgent, this classic combination of sweet and salt makes it the perfect partner for cocktails. You can also cut it into pieces and use it as a garnish for salads. — Emeril Lagasse
Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.