Bite-Size: New Hampshire Cookbooks
Three cookbooks from NH chefs celebrate our local food scene
We’re lucky to have talented chefs with excellent restaurants across the state. As a Food & Drink writer, I miss exploring the “best of” for New Hampshire Magazine. From dining rooms in rustic cabins, to ski-town happy hour institutions, to warmly lit bars in renovated mill buildings, our food scene is sprinkled with interesting places to eat.
While we wait, a few local chefs have distilled their years of experience into the pages of their cookbooks — each recipe is a vignette of a meal that works every time. It’s a hopeful act for a chef to publish a recipe. Setting it out into the world with encouragement, imagining we — the homecooks — will be able to replicate the dish just as they did.
The good news: For each recipe attempted from one of these cookbooks, we have support. Through social media chefs are just a direct message away. With takeout and delivery options we may be able to taste the dish this week. And, when life normalizes a bit, we may be able to belly up to the chef’s table and watch these masters cook in action at their restaurants.
These three cookbooks — written by well-loved New Hampshire chefs — teach us to hunt, gather and transform local ingredients into seasonally inspired meals.
Each book below encourages you to develop new ideas for layering your skills as a chef together — from learning to trace your meat to the most local source with the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, to deepening the flavor of every dish with the joys of stocks and spices with Evan Mallett, to a celebration of the enchanting relationships that develop when farmer, chefs and diners meet in a field-to-feast with Chefs Viaud and Sarasin.
Place one of these books on your kitchen counter and you’ll enter a world of edible creativity. Place all three on your counter and you’ll soon fully understand how special it can be to live and eat and cook in this great state.
“Black Trumpet” by Evan Mallett of Black Trumpet in Portsmouth
Prior to the pandemic, I had drafted an email to Chef Evan Mallett to ask if I could work in his kitchen for the spring. A few weeks ago, I bought a glass jar of Mallett’s harissa at Vernon Family Farms (also available online at STOCK + SPICE) and since then, this red powder spice has become an essential ingredient in my soups, roasted chickens and egg dishes. I credit this one spice with elevating my quarantine cooking.
Mallett is an active member of the slow food community in New Hampshire, and he’s praised nationwide by the most knowledgeable food critics. While it won’t be possible to apprentice in the kitchen for a while, there is plenty of homework offered in his cookbook.
In “Black Trumpet: A Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons,” Mallett teaches us how to move with the microseasons here in New Hampshire. A master spice blender, Mallett reminds us that careful prep work can set up a homecook to attempt to approach the rich flavors of his kitchen — a kitchen that’s helmed by a humble man who has been recognized four times as a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef, Northeast. You can trust the guidance from this book as you begin to build on stocks and spices to create meals that celebrate the seasons from early winter to late fall.
The book ($40) is available at Black Trumpet, where Mallett is currently offering takeout Thursday-Sunday from 4-8 p.m. Orders for the book and food can be placed (for pickup or delivery) online, or by calling (603) 431-0887. STOCK + SPICE, a shop directly next door to Black Trumpet, sells the book along with a wide variety of Black Trumpet mixes and rubs.
“The Farmers Dinner: A Story in Every Bite” cookbook celebrates time spent with farmers.
Over the past few years, chefs Sarasin and Viaud, partners at Greenleaf in Milford, have succeeded at keeping the magic of community meals alive with their summer farm dinners. This cookbook contains their best recipes from these collaborations, and guides us through the creative process of sourcing ingredients to cooking and entertaining friends and family.
“During the height of the season we are in constant communication with the local farmers and consider them to be part of our family,” says Viaud. Asked which supplier he admires, he refers to the Loudonshire Farm, which sells him heritage pekin duck. Viaud suggests that you get to know your farmers. “They are incredible people with many stories to tell,” he says.”When shopping at farmstands and markets, try produce and meats you are less familiar with. Farmers love to experiment, so ask them how they would prepare it. Learn about the microseasons in your area and when the best time to go in and grab the freshest crop may be.”
This book maps the careers of the Greenleaf chefs. As networkers between diner and famer, Viaud and Sarasin teach us to share in the challenges of growing food. To eat a meal with a farmer on their land is to celebrate the output of the soil and the challenges of manual labor.
Through “The Farmers Dinner Cookbook” we see into the field through Viaud’s eyes. Follow Viaud and Greenleaf on Instagram, where you can then peek inside the kitchen. And, soon, once again we can taste how it all comes together at Greenleaf. Until then, this cookbook is a wonderful way to learn to cook with seasonal, local ingredients in your own home. Practice the recipes, and prepare your questions for the day you get to take a seat at the Greenleaf chef’s table, where you can ask the chef questions and watch the artistic presentation of dishes as they are plated.
“Although we had to pivot from our concept, we are still doing the best that we possibly can to support our local farmers, especially in times like these,” says Viaud. “Although our orders might be smaller than what we would typically take in during our normal operation, we are still staying true to our brand and reinforcing the fact that we are a true farm-to-table restaurant.” Vaud encourages others to continue to do what they can to support the farming community in any way possible. Greenleaf is an award-winning, seasonally inspired farm to table restaurant in Milford. Greenleaf is currently open for pickup and delivery. “The Farmers Dinner: A Story in Every Bite” ($24.99) cookbook is available at www.TheFarmersDinner.com.
“New Hampshire’s Wild Eats: Cooking Your Catch,” by Becky Johnson at New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game
When I called Mark Beauchsese at NH Fish and Game to talk about “Wild Eats,” he picked up his cell phone just as he was approaching a bear den to gather some data. This book comes from the people who protect our wildlife population and act as guardians of the state’s fish, wildlife and marine resources.
Hunters are important to the state’s wildlife conservation efforts, as much of those efforts are funded through hunting and fishing licenses and permit fees.
For anyone new to hunting, this book may surprise you. With recipes for seafood, trout, groundhog (or whistle pigs), porcupine, beaver, bear, moose and game birds, it’s a look at what a wild-caught meal really looks like. Northern New Hampshire is known for Wild Game Nights — and if you’re lucky enough to get an invitation, study this book and they just might let you help in the kitchen as you turn foraged ingredients into a memorable meal. It’s also one of Steve Taylor’s 100 Things You Should Do to Know the Real New Hampshire.
This cookbook picks up at the ice box where your processed game has been broken down, frozen and prepared for the chef. It also includes links to instructional videos and quotes from 250-year-old New England cookbooks. “Wild Eats” is the bridge between the time when you had to catch your dinner and now, when you still have the chance to do so.
The spring wild turkey season is from May 1 to 31. While the season is still currently on as scheduled, please check The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department for updates, to obtain a hunting license and register your birds for information about registering your catch. There have been some changes due to COVID-19, including recommendations to hunt locally as possible. Read more here. Once you have a bird in hand, the “New Hampshire’s Wild Eats: Cooking Your Catch,” cookbook has traditional and updated recipes to make a meal from the foraged, caught and hunted bounty that thrives in the remote forests and rivers of our state. See select recipes and order it online here.