Get in the kitchen, man

Henri mans up with ultimate collection of food writing and recipes

Beef stew with ale, from <i>Eat Like a Man</i>.

Beef stew with ale, from Eat Like a Man.

Eat Like a Man (Chronicle Books), is available for $30 at Lyon Books in downtown Chico.

“This is the best meat- loaf I’ve ever had in my life,” Colette said. “Hands down.” She took a sip of Zinfandel. “Where’d you get the recipe?”

I was hesitant to say. In fact, it was from a book she’d recently given me, Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need, and I have to admit that at first I was a bit put off by the gesture. Was there subtext here? What’s next? An appointment with Michelle Bachmann’s husband?

Besides, publications like that tend to forget about men like moi. I remember the cover story from Vanity Fair’s 30th anniversary issue: “Thirty things a man should have done by age 30.” Well! Not only was there hardly anything on the list that I had done—and I was comfortably past 30 by then—but there were some pretty impressive things I had done that were not on the list, merci very much.

But, I have to admit, the claim this book’s subtitle makes is surprisingly well substantiated. If Chez Bourride ever caught fire—perish the thought!—and I could grab only one cookbook, I just might take Eat Like a Man before Larousse Gastronomique or Julia Child’s The Way to Cook, and not only because I’ve nearly committed them both to memory.

Eat Like a Man is a compilation—by Esquire magazine editors and staff writers, and chefs around the country—of recipes, essays, memoirs, interviews (including with Child herself, from 2000), and simple lists of advice, including “Things a Man Should Know About Cheese,” as well as about entertaining and wine and spirits. There’s also a “Steak Information Center.” Most were previously published in the magazine, some in earlier Esquire cookbooks, including “Classics: Pretty Easy Recipes for Some of the Best Chicken Dishes of All Time,” from 1955.

Reading more like a magazine, appropriately, than a cookbook, Eat Like a Man manages to keep from taking itself too seriously and at the same time to seriously address issues of food and our relationships with it—and with those with whom we share it. Tom Junod’s “My Mom Couldn’t Cook” is a heartbreaking memoir.

The book’s six chapters—Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Sides, Dessert, and Drinks (With Food)—offer over 100 recipes, designated by skill level: Easy, Reasonable, and Worth the Effort. Among them: lobster scrambled eggs, fish and grits, steak tacos, William Styron’s clam chowder, bourbon and brown sugar salmon, creamed spinach, martinis, gimlets and “the foolproof Daiquiri.” The book also includes the easy 45-minutes-at-450-degrees cast-iron-skillet chicken.

Note: the Dessert “chapter” contains only one recipe: for fruit crisp—“the only dessert you’ll ever need.”

In addition to doubting the book’s premise, I questioned some of the recipes. Case in point: the meatloaf, whose divinity Colette had just pronounced. After all, we love the premix meatloaf we get at S & S Produce and Natural Foods. But she was right: This is better (and designated Easy):

Michael Symon’s Meatloaf


Olive oil (to coat pan)

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 red onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1¼2 lbs. ground beef (20% fat)

1 1¼2 lbs. hot Italian sausages, removed from casings

2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup panko bread crumbs

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly coat inside of a medium-sized loaf pan or shallow roasting pan with oil. Melt butter in small skillet, and cook the garlic and onions until translucent. Let cool. Place remaining ingredients and onion mixture in large bowl and mix with your hands. Place mixture in loaf pan, packing tightly. Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees or until it reaches an internal temperature of 170. Remove from pan, slice, and serve.

Notes: 1) I found the 40-minute cooking time way too short. It took another 20 minutes to reach proper temperature (especially important with pork!). 2) I substituted parsley for cilantro and added about a teaspoon each of dried red-pepper flakes and basil. 3) I set the mixture in the pan on a bed of sliced carrots, delicious cooked in the juices from the meat. 4) You can also cook this “freeform,” as Mark Bittman recommends: Just mound the mixture up on a cookie sheet.