It was sad news this week to hear of the passing of one of my culinary icons, Judy Rodger’s of the Zuni Café in San Francisco. Her book, The Zuni Café Cookbook, has been a seminal text in my massive cookbook library. She was passionate and uncompromising in her preparations, and honed her culinary skills in France in the rustic traditions and later worked with Alice Waters in the early years of Chez Panisse in Berkley, CA. Her writing was impeccable and she was able to translate the cooking process in literary and visual detail. Her rough puff pastry recipe for crostata is a work of art. I memorized it years ago and can visualize every step. Her ideas about salting meats went against everything I was taught, and are now commonplace among chefs and home cooks. I reproduced her famous Zuni chicken from her recipe and even without the wood-burning oven it was impressive.
It is rare for a chef to be content with one restaurant and only one cookbook in these “food network” times. Zuni Café was a mecca for foodies, immune to food trends and a financial success in a difficult business. I’m sorry there will not be a sequel to the cookbook……..
Here is a wonderful tribute by Michael Ruhlman.
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