Review: The Dirty Apron Cookbook (& Giveaway)

I’m always excited when new cookbooks show up on my doorstep, but especially so when they feature local chefs/restaurants/foods. There are so many amazing things going on in the culinary scene in British Columbia, and I love showcasing them. Since moving away from the big city to Prince George, I miss all of my favourite restaurants, and wish I had a chance to check out all of the new ones that have come along, or even old ones I hadn’t yet tried. One of those places is The Dirty Apron Cooking School & Delicatessen. I have heard so many good things, and had always wanted to grab lunch there or take a class, but you know how time slips away on you, and before you know it, you don’t have that opportunity in your backyard anymore. Fortunately, they now have a cookbook out, so I can experience a little bit of The Dirty Apron in my own home kitchen. It will have to do for now.

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Since I haven’t actually been to The Dirty Apron, I will defer to the description on their website:

The Dirty Apron Cooking School is Vancouver’s favourite culinary playground, a place for amateur cooks, the curious and professionals alike to learn, explore, and unleash their inner chef.

Yup, sounds like my kind of place. Which of course means this has to be my kind of cookbook, right?

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The cookbook has the same focus as their classes – to teach one how to make delicious meals that could be on any high-end restaurant menu, using easy to find ingredients, basic cooking techniques, and that don’t take the whole weekend to prepare. It is beautifully designed, with plenty of stunning food photos, as well as some candid shots of the restaurant, staff, and students. Just the photos and descriptions of the recipes make me want to find time for a lunch date there while I’m home for Christmas vacation! Interspersed with the recipes are great cooking tidbits of information – things like how to select great seafood, how to choose an olive oil, and Chef David Robertson’s philosophy on desserts.

Speaking of recipes – there are plenty. From breakfast to dessert, land to sea, there is probably something for almost everybody (although vegetarians will find a serious lack of mains). The recipes are definitely upscale in flavour combinations (Cinnamon-Smoked Tuna anyone?), but they are broken down in a way that makes them easy to understand, and doable for the home cook. That being said, I would say many of the recipes wouldn’t be everyday affairs, other than maybe some soups and salads. The mains tend to have multiple components to them, or involve some planning ahead (there are many recommendations to brine certain meats). This cookbook is not for those with an aversion to cream, butter, or olive oil either. You have been warned.

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While I had flagged a good 10 – 12 recipes that I wanted to try, I decided to focus on learning some techniques I had previously not tried. Seemed like an appropriate approach for a cookbook designed to teach, no? I used Chef David Robertson’s egg poaching technique to finish off my Smoked Turkey & Brussels Sprout Fingerling Hash, which turned out to be super easy, and has made me an egg poaching machine! Then it was time to tackle another skill – making gnocchi from scratch.

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Can I say that making my own gnocchi was not only insanely easy, but super fun and rewarding as well? The gnocchi recipe in here is for a ricotta gnocchi, which takes all the cooking/prepping time out of making traditional potato gnocchi, but the results were just as delicious. I had an army of little pillowy dumplings (as I doubled the recipe), with a perfectly chewy exterior and creamy interior. I loved the simple cheese and herb flavour on it’s own, just with a little olive oil and parmesan, or sautéed in butter until golden brown. But to be completely fair to my review, I felt I needed to make the entire recipe they came from as well – Herb Ricotta Gnocchi with Chanterelle Cream Sauce.

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So in my excitement to make gnocchi, I probably should have realized that December is probably not the right time of year to make a dish that uses chanterelles and asparagus, as neither were in season. And while I was able to get some decent asparagus at the store, I had to resort to dried chanterelles, which were not quite as nice as the fresh ones, not to mention expensive! I had to supplement with some cremini mushrooms so as not to spend my whole paycheque in one go. Regardless, I think it turned out quite good – not that you can really go wrong with mushrooms, wine, parmesan, and cream when making a sauce. It was nicely balanced, and wasn’t so rich that you couldn’t enjoy the whole dish. But I really love the versatility of the gnocchi recipe, and already have plans to play with that in the near future. I imagine ricotta is now going to be on my weekly shopping list!

 

Not only will I share the gnocchi recipe with you, but I have another surprise. Seeing as it is the season of giving, I am excited to say I have another copy of The Dirty Apron Cookbook to giveaway to one lucky reader! So you too can expand your culinary skills and oogle over the pretty food photos just like I have. Here’s how you can win:

  • Leave a comment on this post, letting me know something you would like to learn to make or a cooking technique you would like to learn (1 entry)
  • Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)

RT to enter to win a copy of @Dirty_Apron cookbook from @Evergreen_RD http://wp.me/pkngt-6qV

The contest will run until 11:59 pm PST on December 24th, 2014. I will draw one random winner from all eligible entries, and post the winner on December 25, 2014 (Merry Christmas!). Open to residents from Canada and US only.

In the mean time – why not try your hand at making this gnocchi? It might just even be life changing. Or at least freakin’ delicious!

 

Herb Ricotta Gnocchi with Chanterelle Cream Sauce – from The Dirty Apron Cookbook by David Robertson

serves 4

Ricotta replaces the usual potato in this gnocchi, and, as a result, this dish takes a tenth of the time to make. In Italy, it’s common to see ricotta gnocchi like this made with fresh herbs. These gnocchi can be served right after boiling, sautéed in butter until golden and sprinkled with chopped fresh herbs, or reheated in a sauce.

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Herb Ricotta Gnocchi

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour + more for rolling

Chanterelle Cream Sauce

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chanterelle mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup red wine
  • 3/4 cup beef stock
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 4 tsp cold water
  • 16 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

 

To make the gnocchi:

Place the ricotta cheese in a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl for about half an hour. Pour off any extra liquid.

Combine the ricotta, parmesan cheese, olive oil and parsley until well mixed, then season with salt and pepper. Gently mix in the flour by hand until the mixture has formed a dough.

Lightly dust a baking sheet and a work surface with flour. Lightly coat a second baking sheet with oil.

Dust the dough with flour, then using your hands, roll it into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut the rope into 1 inch pieces and place them on the floured baking sheet.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop the gnocchi into the water and cook until they float to the surface, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to the oiled baking sheet to keep them from sticking to each other. Allow the gnocchi to cool.

To make the cream sauce:

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, shallots and garlic and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the chanterelles and sauté for about 1 minute. Pour in the red wine and bring to a boil; then add the beef stock and reduce the mixture by a third, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer for another minute.

While the sauce is simmering, stir in the parmesan cheese and the cornstarch mixture. Once the sauce has thickened slightly, add the gnocchi and asparagus and simmer for another minute. Serve immediately.

 

Chef’s notes: Keep in mind that this gnocchi mixture is very versatile. You can always add other fresh herbs and dried spices to the parsley (or replace it entirely) to create different flavours. Take time to saute the shallots, garlic and mushrooms properly, as they will develop a great flavour foundation for the sauce.

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Disclaimer – this cookbook was provided to me free of charge to review for the blog. All opinions and photos are my own. Recipe reprinted with permission.

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Categories: BC, Books/Cookbooks, Canadian, Contest, Cookbook, Dinner, Giveaway, Local, Recipe, Review, Vancouver

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20 Comments on “Review: The Dirty Apron Cookbook (& Giveaway)”

  1. rachelhbd
    December 15, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    I would love to learn how to make turdilli, an Italian Christmas dessert my grandmother makes. I love your blog, and I am so excited to go check out some of these restaurants!
    http://ionlycameforthepie.wordpress.com

  2. December 15, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    The chef at the restaurant I worked at did a 50/50 blend of potato and ricotta for his gnocchi – which made them taste like pillows of heaven! I would love to try out that cookbook – you and I are both cookbook whores! 😀

  3. December 15, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve always wanted to learn to make Polenta

  4. Justine
    December 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Looks delicious, Marianne! Lately, I’ve been experimenting with breadmaking more. Next step is learning to make a sourdough starter.

  5. Arjun Rudra
    December 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    would love to learn how to bake vegan

  6. Linda
    December 15, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    I’d like to learn how to make tiramisu.

  7. Jeff
    December 19, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Would like to learn how to make my own pasta.

  8. Jeanne
    December 22, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    Love to learn to make pasta properly

  9. Allyssa
    December 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    I want to learn how to make Swiss meringue buttercream…I fail everytime

  10. Lindsay Gaudet
    December 23, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    I want to learn how to poach an egg. It seems to simple, and yet I hear so many stories about how difficult it is that I’ve been afraid to try it.

  11. December 24, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    Gnocchi is actually high on my list of things I’ve always wanted to make and have never gotten around to doing – would love to learn how! That way I could frequently indulge in carboy goodness chez moi! 😛

  12. Sarah
    December 24, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    I want to make this gnocchi recipe! I’ve never make gnocchi before either.

  13. December 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to make gnocchi after having it at Forage!

  14. Jason Luce
    December 24, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    I really want to learn how to make gnocchi

  15. December 24, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    Hmmmm. That gnocchi looks amazing! I’ve actually made ricotta gnocchi before, but would love to learn how to make the traditional potato kind!

  16. Gia
    December 24, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    I would like to learn…. How to make delicious authentic tamales mmHhhMmmm. Or perhaps some tacos 😋

  17. Jen Sheremeta
    August 15, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

    I can poach an egg but it doesn’t look pretty. I want to learn this new technique!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] By the way, my friend Marianne is giving away a copy of The Dirty Apron Cookbook. Head over to her blog to enter. […]

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    […] Hopefully you’ve been spending your day enjoying the company of family and friends, and eating some tasty treats along the way. I know I’m looking forward to a great turkey dinner tonight. But before I head off for more Christmas fun, I wanted to spread a little holiday cheer for one lucky blog reader. Yes, it’s time to announce the winner of The Dirty Apron Cookbook giveaway!  […]

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