It's no coincidence that Portland, Oregon's restaurant scene started to get serious national attention around the same time chef Gabriel Rucker's Le Pigeon opened in 2006, and now, in his first cookbook, Rucker tells the story of how the restaurant got to where it is today. Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird is a solid restaurant cookbook, as good a read as it is potential dinner party inspiration. (This is almost certainly not weeknight family dinner fodder.) The stories are engaging, the recipes are complicated enough to be fun but not so tricky as to be unattainable, and the photography is well done but not fussy. It is the only cookbook I can think of that contains photos of dishes being prepared on an electric stove.
Le Pigeon was co-written by Meredith Erickson, who also worked on The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, and accordingly one can make comparisons between the two. Both contain seemingly tangential asides, like Rucker's Love Letter to Plymouth Valiants or Joe Beef's deep cuts into Montreal history, that prove essential to completing three dimensional portraits of each restaurant. Both show a healthy respect for wine and classic French technique. Both have a lot of recipes for foie gras.
But Rucker's is an American restaurant, and this is an American book. It is, as he puts it, a "best of's" collection from Le Pigeon. So there's a whole chapter of tongue recipes (where exactly do you acquire elk tongue if you're not Gabe Rucker?) but also culinary nods to Portland's Asian community, Portlandia-esque recipes for whole wheat fermented black bean muffins (with foie scraps), instructions for a Pacific Northwest-style beach clam boil, the recipe for the famous Le Pigeon burger, and something called "Duck Nuggets."
The book also puts a healthy emphasis on drink pairings, with GM Andy Fortgang offering "Pigeon Pours" for many recipes. In the intro, he even says if you don't see something you like you can "call me at the restaurant and I'll give you a suggestion. I mean it." There's a list of ten wines for when "a table of four or six wants a bottle to pair with all their entrees." (Someone write this book: this same list from 100 acclaimed restaurants across the country.) There's also Fortgang's "Cabinet of Curiosities," a list of 20 beverages to keep on hand at home.
Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird by Gabriel Rucker, Meredith Erickson, and Lauren and Andy Fortgang comes out from Ten Speed Press September 17 (pre-order on Amazon).