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First Look: Ben Ford's Cookbook Taming the Feast

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Just in time for Summer cookouts, here's Taming the Feast, by Los Angeles chef (and son of Harrison Ford) Ben Ford and cookbook author Carolynn Carreño. The book, as you might imagine, is a collection of big feasts, all of which can be prepared outside: a whole hog roast, a paella party, barbecue, a fish fry. Each has recipes for accompanying salads, side dishes, condiments, drinks, and even suggestions for what to do with leftovers.

Each chapter is meant to be a usable guide to preparing each feast, should you actually intend to make Texas-style barbecue for 50 people (I'm not saying it's out of the question, I've done it). Although I wish each chapter had a comprehensive shopping list, there are timelines for preparation that start days before each feast, and instructions for building cooking contraptions like a vertical spit roasting box (that one involves rivets).

In other words, these feasts are not for the timid. Some are even impractical. The Burger and Bratwurst Block Party, for example, calls for "one or two 7-foot grills (each grill will accommodate burgers for 50 people)" and then also suggests maybe you want to grind your own beef for those burgers and/or stuff your own Wisconsin-style bratwurst. Are there people who want to grind meat for 100 people? Sure, maybe. But most people are just going to buy it pre-ground.

That said, there are scaled down versions of some of the recipes, and obviously one can separate out a recipe for, say, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Lake Trout or Fresh Chickpea Hummus. In fact, that may be the book's most practical purpose: recipes for dishes one can bring to summer parties.

But the idea is big feasts; "adventurous cooking," as the book puts it. In that regard, Ford follows in the recent footsteps of Anne Quatrano's Summerland and Tim Byres' Smoke, the latter of which just won a James Beard Award. A trend towards chefs doing entertaining cookbooks? Sounds good to me.

Taming the Feast has photography by Frank Ockenfels III. It's out from Atria now (buy at Amazon). Take a look:

· Taming the Feast: Ben Ford's Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking [Amazon]
· All Cookbook Coverage on Eater [-E-]