Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Review of "A Girl and Her Pig" [52]

A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield
Ecco, ISBN 978-0062003966
April 10, 2012, 352 pages

Ok, take a look at the cover.
What is she holding?
Yes, that is a pig. A dead pig.
If what I have read and seen so far holds true, many people will never get past that cover.
I assume the issue is the pig. Not the girl.
The pig.

See, I read a recipe from this book, in fact the one I made here, Bloomfield's take on a classic Portuguese dish, on a food blog somewhere and thought it sounded interesting. So I went on line to read about this cookbook and this chef, who I was not familiar with, although it seems she is the owner of several successful restaurants and quite well known in foodie circle. Many of the recipes they mentioned sounded so interesting that I thought I might just have to give in and buy the book. But first, I went on to the Hated Amazon to read the reviews and saw something I had never seen before.
Almost every review fell into one of two groups.
5 stars..loved it
1 star...hated it

Ok, they did not really hate the book, or the recipes or the chef. They never actually opened the book. They hated the cover. They think it verges on the obscene. Perhaps the criminal. Because of the dead pig.
Ok, I admit it. I eat meat. I like meat. I particularly like pork. And folks, in case those like plastic trays in the supermarket made you forget, meat comes from animals.
Like that pleasant looking pig on the cover.

OK, so less move on from the cover. Because this book is so much more than the cover. Or a pig.
It is a delightful book, full of yes, great recipes in a whole range of categories but even more than that as well. First of all, it has some of the most beautiful photographs of food that I have ever seen in a cookbook, by David Loftus. And some delightful illustrations by Sun Young Park, climbing up the sides of pages, introducing each cute.

Speaking of chapters, this cookbook is also about a great deal more that meat, as that infamous pig might have you think. This is not a book about pork.
There are 16 chapters all together, starting at breakfast..I read one review that called her porridge recipe 'life changing' libations..I must say, a Gin Marie sounds interesting. In between, we have nibbles and soup, well-dressed greens and sweets. Yes, there are chapters on our meaty friends...meat without feet, birds, cow, a little lamb, swine and finally the 'not-so-nasty' bits. Oh yes, also veg (which contains more recipes than the chapter about the pig) and stocks and dressings and sauces and did I mention sweets? Sweets, many, like Banoffee Pie and Eton Mess (did I not once read that is Prince Williams favorite dessert) have a touch of her English homeland..
There is also a very entertaining introduction that tell a bit about Bloomfield's story and tells us her take on any number of ingredients and equipment. We also find out a good deal about Bloomfield from about a dozen little essay sprinkled throughout the book, telling fun stories about growing up in England, her family, how she became a chef (she really wanted to be a cop but missed the exam date), her early career, what makes a good pub, how to make a good cup of tea. And happily, every recipe starts with the chef giving a nice introduction to the dish, what she loves about it, how she came to make it, tips and hints and opinions. This is a very personal cookbook, one in which Bloomfield, who is a quite funny, quite likeable person, just jumps out on every page.
I am not one to sit down and read cookbooks, but for this one I made an exception.
And if you like food, and great cookbooks, so should you!


My Chicken Adobo
by April Bloomfield


1/4 cup canola oil
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 heads garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
1/2 large Spanish onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
1/2 cup thinly sliced skin-on ginger
10 whole black peppercorns
4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce


Heat oil in a large Dutch-oven over high heat until it begins to smoke. Working in batches, add chicken, skin-side down, to pot and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to plate and repeat process with remaining chicken.
Add garlic, onion, ginger, peppercorns, and bay leaves to Dutch-oven; cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Return chicken to Dutch-oven along with vinegar and soy sauce. Increase heat and bring liquid to a boil, stirring and scraping brown bits from bottom of the pan.
Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender and easily pulls away from the bone, about 45 minutes. Serve.

Best served, as the author suggests, with some nice jasmine rice and just a bit of the very flavorful sauce.
Key to the dish is to brown the chicken well. I used only thighs because I am not really a fan of the drumstick. Time to get out the splatter guard if you have one. Do not rush this part, do not crowd the pan, be patient. Put some pieces in...wait at least 5 minutes, check, turn, continue 5 minutes more, check again.
Also, after browning the chicken, I had a lot of fat in the pot, from the skin no doubt, I pour most of it off, to serve another day, and then continued with the onions and garlic and ginger. Hmmm..that smells good.
I did peel the garlic (used one of those rubber tube garlic peeler things, otherwise I would have skipped it) and I did peeled the ginger.
Oh, and yes, at the end, I put the sauce through my fat know a cup where the fat goes to the top and your pour off from the bottom..great thing. But be sure you pick out and save all that now very soft, very sweet garlic.
So all in all, I made a  rustic dish just a bit more work, but I think with cause! And a very nice result.


This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. Mouth-watering recipe even at 6:30 am! This was one of the cookbooks "outed" as having a ghost writer (New York Times, in March or so of this year). Why that's such a controversy, I'm not sure.

    Regardless, this book has been on my list to buy. I love reading cookbooks and now you've convinced me I'd be a 5-star person.

    The pig on the cover? I grew up in the Midwest and currently live in PA farming country. I know where my food comes from: the local farm or hunter. I eat meat. So sue me.

    1. The book lists a co-author not sure what that is about. Not hat I would care anyhow. The recipes are hers the techniques are hers, the stories are hers....

  2. Oh so delicious! I just had a heavy saturday lunch but the recipe still made my mouth water!
    And I liked the cover a lot. The Girl with the pig is so confident and happy!

    Do visit!

  3. Oh man that looks good. MMMMMM. And I'm not the least bit offended by that cover. I grew up on a farm, we butchered animals that fed four families. That was a fact of life. I could never be a vegetarian...I love my meat. I'm going to see if I can get this at the library for a test run.

    1. The amazon one star reviews are really quite worked up about it.

  4. April Bloomfield is such an interesting person, and I have heard about the love-it-or-hate-it visceral response to her book cover. I saw a story on her on the news one day, she cooked for a White House dinner recently. I know that in NYC here, she is highly respected. Great review!

  5. I'm really glad that you reviewed this one because it most definitely had caught my eye but I keep passing it by, not offended by the cover at all. But I did judge the book by it's cover and I assumed her recipes would be too much work after seeing that whole pig. Going to check it out! Thanks! The chicken looks delicious, great flavors.

    1. some of the recipes are easy, some more complicated, but I think all totally do-able. and great to read about.

  6. It is so sad that people (well any who actually eat meat) are offended by that cover. I agree that all those pre-packaged meats are causing people to forget where their food comes from and that is a danagerous thing. I hadn't heard of April before reading your review, but this sounds good. Thanks for drawing her to my attention.

  7. Your review is excellent! If I looked at that cover I would assume it would be more about butchering and that is not something I plan on taking up at this stage of the game. Even if I wanted to, here in Podunk . . . . .

    Kelsey on Kelsey's essentials (cooking channel) did a show about butchering and it was interesting but a lot of work.

  8. I think the people who are offended by the cover need to stop eating meat. As you said, we need to remember that meat doesn't just APPEAR in those neat little Styrofoam containers at the grocery store. We need to remember that animals give their lives so we can eat. I can see vegans and vegetarians being offended by the cover, but if you're a meat eater and find it offensive, you need to grossly reevaluate your eating habits and ethics.

    Like Beth F, I remember this book being outed as having a ghost writer, but if it's a good cookbook, who cares? I'm definitely going to check this book out.

  9. I agree with Kaye; your review is excellent!

  10. That's the problem with amazon reviews - the book should never be reviewed because of it's cover. Granted, I don't like the cover, but I wouldn't give the book a bad review because of it. The cookbook sounds wonderful and that recipe looks delicious! I love the drawings too.

    1. You know, if someone actually looked at the book and did not like it and gave it a bad review, fine. But to try and skew the reviews because of the cover seem so wrong.

  11. I'm hooked... your review was excellent and enticing..
    so I am going to get the book... love cookbooks and this one
    will be a nice read too !

  12. The recipe looks great!

    I can see vegetarians being put off by the cover. Makes sense. But, meat eaters who are being put off by the cover are not being honest with themselves...

  13. The pig on the cover should not be an issue. I would have skipped this book as I would have erroneously assumed it was all about pork. Glad you pointed out my mistake. I enjoyed reading your review. Thanks

  14. I have only tried one adobo with marginal success. This one looks achievable. Just goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover - still a publishing mistake I think. Have a great week.

    1. i have nothing to compare it to, but it was very good.

  15. Interesting photo she chose for the cover. I wonder was it to capture people's attention since it wasn't a book about pork.

  16. I wish I would have had a warning... as a vegetarian, such a cover is not one I like to encounter :(

  17. Okay, I don't think this is the book for me - but great post! ;)

  18. I loved this post! And the chicken looks really good and the dead pig did not 'offend' me! I couldn't have fried pork chops if it did:)

  19. Reading cookbooks is actually something I love doing - I like to see the author/chef's personality and attitude towards food come out. I think I'll be looking for this one at my library... Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the recipe!

  20. I've seen this cookbook around and erroneously assumed it was largely focused on meat. The cover doesn't bother me--like the other commenters have already said, if you eat meat you should be able to stomach a photo like that. Because if the hunter or farmer and butcher weren't there... we [meat eaters] would be doing this ourselves.

  21. I've recently started to pick up recipe books that contain much more than recipes but I admit that I'm a little off-put by the cover of this book. ;) The little piggy illustrations you include, however, are very endearing. Ha!! Guess we shouldn't judge a book by the cover.

    The chicken dish looks delicious! I don't typically cook with the skin on (I know, bad...but I can't figure out how to use my fat separator), but I might have to give this one a try.


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