Tim Ferriss, bestselling author of "The 4-Hour Workweek" and "The 4-Hour Body," has topped the bestseller charts again with his new book "The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything and Living the Good Life." The book is being boycotted by Barnes & Noble and many other bookstore chains because it is the first major offering by the new print publishing arm of Amazon.com called Amazon Publishing. You'll need to shop at independent bookstores (such as Village Books in Fairhaven) to get this new book. ("Oh, darn," she said, tongue in cheek, having been an indie bookstore owner herself in a past incarnation. The irony that an action from Amazon is driving customers to indie bookstores should not be lost in this controversy.)
When people tell me they enjoy reading this column each week, I often ask if they have tried any of the recipes. All too often they respond, "Oh, no, I could never cook like that." Since the main reason I write these articles is to encourage people to cook with locally grown foods, and since I myself rarely use a fancier technique than sautéing, I am always somewhat puzzled by that response. Consequently, I was eager for Ferriss' book to come out to see how he approaches getting people to cook something other than processed foods.
"The 4-Hour Chef" is really a book about what Ferriss calls "meta-learning," or techniques for how to learn anything. He begins the book by recommending several techniques, such as deconstruction (breaking a skill or subject down into its essential components), the 80/20 rule (identifying the 20 percent of the subject which will yield 80 percent of the desired results), sequencing (figuring out the right order in which to learn parts of a skill or subject), etc. Though he talks about everything from tango to languages, he uses cooking as his primary example for applying his learning techniques.
For example, the first assignment in the book is about learning to taste. While being able to identify individual ingredient flavors is recognized as a useful skill in learning to cook well, Ferriss breaks it down into more detail than I've ever seen. Did you know you have taste receptors other places besides your mouth - in fact as far down as your small intestines? He offers simple techniques for taking advantage of every aspect of your taste sense. In interviews, he has said that if readers try only this single practice from the book, it will dramatically improve their enjoyment of eating.
After explaining his learning process, he goes on to the next section of the book (called "The Domestic") where he leads readers through 17 (and a half) cooking lessons, each involving a recipe using cooking techniques that gradually increase in difficulty. To build confidence, he even includes two dinner party plans. Along the way he introduces some general food preparation techniques such as knife skills, making a great cup of coffee, etc. He even offers pairings for each meal-not the usual wine pairings (though he has a special section about wine), but instead a piece of music and a tea blend.
After learning to cook in the kitchen, Ferriss takes the reader outdoors in a section titled "The Wild." Here he present survival skills, ranging from purifying water, hunting, fishing, cooking over a fire, fermenting (sauerkraut) and butchering different kinds of animals, including a few insects. Ferriss, who calls himself an anti-hunter and obviously finds it difficult to kill, recognizes that those of us who eat meat should know what's involved and be able to do it ourselves when necessary. He says at the beginning: "This section is intended to make you uncomfortable." Lest you think it's nothing but grim, it also contains recipes like Ceviche and mussels a la mariniere, and a hilarious recounting of Ferriss' first experience trying to prepare a live lobster. Additional cooking lessons are scattered throughout.
Next in the book is a section called "The Scientist," where Ferriss takes us into the realm of gels, foams, emulsifications, powders and other more scientific approaches to food. Techniques range from pressure cooking to liquid nitrogen to next-generation fat loss. Ferriss recommends you "skip around, pick your favorites, and ignore the rest."
The final section, called "The Pro," includes three types of recipes: Classics (such as Soffritto and French omelet), Avant-Garde (cauliflower creme brulee) and what Ferriss calls "the grand finale ... a near impossible recipe": Carp a L'Ancienne.
Today's recipe is my local adaptation of the first "lesson" in the book. Ferriss misspells "buco" because Osso Buco traditionally uses veal instead of lamb. In my Kindle edition of the book, the tomatoes are listed in the ingredients, but not in the cooking instructions. I think they would be a good idea to include, if you have some local canned tomatoes, though the dish is wonderful either way. Exactly as Ferriss promises, the first lesson is a no-fail recipe.
Perfect reading - and cooking - for the holidays!
(Adapted from recipe in 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss)
1 bunch carrots (Hopewell Farm, Everson)
2-4 lamb shanks (Skagit Angus Beef, Concrete, in Skagit County)
Optional, but recommended: 2 cups canned Roma tomatoes (home canned, with tomatoes from Terra Verde Gardens, Everson)
5 cloves garlic (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
1 bottle white wine (Legoe Bay Winery "Viognier", Lummi Island)
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Clean carrots (peel if you wish, or scrub thoroughly and remove ends). Break carrots in half, and place in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other oven-proof pan with a tight fitting lid.
Place the lamb shanks on top of the carrots. Optional: Pour the canned tomatoes over all.
Peel the garlic cloves and crush with the side of a knife, or put through a garlic press. Add to the pot. Drizzle hazelnut oil over all. Add enough white wine to cover lamb shanks about halfway.
Cover pan and place in the oven for 2 hours.
Serves 2-4, depending on number of lamb shanks.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996; appel-farms.com
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959; artisanwineclub.com
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060; bellinghamfarmers.org
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699; boxxberryfarm.com
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859; cloudmountainfarm.com
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158; communityfood.coop
Everybody's Store, 5465 Potter Road, Deming; 360-592-2297; everybodys.com
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747; ferndalepublicmarket.org
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151; graceharborfarms.com
Green Barn, 8858 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-354-1008
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
Lynden Farmers Market, 514 Liberty St., Lynden, fiveloavesfarm.blogspot.com
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398; facebook.com/pages/Pleasant-Valley-Dairy/161872142667
Red Barn Lavender Farm (egg CSA), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale; 360-393-7057
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190; islandergrocery.com
The Markets LLC, 3125 Old Fairhaven Parkway and 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797; themarketsllc.com
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020; terra-organica.com
Reach NANCY GING at 360-758-2529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, "like" Whatcom Locavore on Facebook (facebook.com/whatcomlocavore) and "follow" on Twitter, @WhatcomLocavore. For locavore menus, recipes, and more resources, read her blog at at whatcomlocavore.com.