Monday, April 15, 2024

REVIEW: Kowbird by Matt Horn


If you are like most people, you eat a lot of chicken. But chances are you haven’t had chicken like Matt Horn’s chicken. Now you can! Learn how to make the best chicken on the planet, from a true master of the art, in this fun and inspiring book.

Celebrated chef Matt Horn spent years perfecting his chicken recipes before he opened his widely acclaimed mecca for chicken cookery, Kowbird, in Oakland, California. Even to this day, he continues to experiment with different cuts of chicken, with a host of sauces and spice mixtures that bring out the best flavors in chicken, and with all sorts of cooking techniques that make this popular food explode with flavor on the palate. In the richly photographed pages of Kowbird, he shares his hard-won wisdom and his brilliantly creative culinary wizardry, elevating the humble bird to its rightful place at the center of the plate—and as the star of the meal.

Matt gives you 65 recipes packed with flavor and creativity for everything from comforting weekday dinners to spectacular weekend feasts. It’s time to set aside the tired old chicken spaghetti, chicken parmesan, and unadorned chicken cutlets and dig.

With recipes for grilling, smoking, sautéing, brazing, baking, broiling, pan-frying, deep-frying, and more, this is a book that takes chicken to delectable places you’ve never dreamed of before.

Format 176 pages, Hardcover
Expected publication May 28, 2024 by Harvard Common Press
ISBN 9780760387412 (ISBN10: 0760387419)

My Thoughts

I chose to review this book from Netgalley as one of those books acting as a catalyst for getting me back into reading and reviewing after a long hiatus. The cover is one of the things that drew me to this book. A delicious spicy chicken sandwich with dripping sauce and pickles. I can almost taste it and feel the crunch of the chicken crust and the bite of the dill pickle, wiping a smear of sauce from my chin.

Inspired by his Oakland restaurant Kowbird, the author Matt Horn begins the book talking about the humble chicken, and its background and history as a staple in Southern cooking. I never knew that someone could have so much to say about chicken, and with such passion and adoration! He would argue that the chicken is not so humble and is such a versatile protein that can be downplayed or elevated and is a perfect representation of cooking in the south.

The book starts with an introduction to Southern cooking and the chicken's place in it. The collard greens and fried okra, chicken roasted or fried or in chicken and dumplings. This cookbook is broken into eight chapters: "Why did the chicken cross the road?", "The southern roots of Kowbird: Chicken, culture and community", Chicken Mains, Southern Sides, Desserts, Southern Sauces, Gravies for Chicken, and Seasonings for Chicken. 

The first chapter walks you through the "chicken's journey through the culinary landscape". It's the ability for chicken to transport you back in time to your grandmother's kitchen with the smell of chicken stew simmering on the stove. Memories of picnics and Sunday dinners. And the author lauds the chicken's ability to "unite".
In a world brimming with differences, the love for chicken is a universal thread. It's a silent reminder that simple joys and flavors bind us all, regardless of where we come from or where we're headed.
The author then offers up a primary on chicken breeds, temperaments and reputations of each, and for what kind of dishes each breed is preferred. His restaurant Kowbird is about community:
Kowbird is more than just a nod to my Southern roots, though it is about building bridges, reviving communities, and fostering entrepreneurship.

The chapter on "The Southern Roots of Kowbird" explores "chicken, culture and community". The author acknowledges some other culinary establishments around the country from which he's garnered inspiration, such as the hot chicken from Prince's Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville or the chicken at Honey's Kettle. He explores the origins of ingredients like black-eyed peas and deep-frying techniques being attributable to the slave trade and enslaved Africans. How many Southern dishes were born of hardship:

Many Southern dishes-- often labeled soul food-- originated during times of hardship, particularly during slavery and the subsequent eras of segregation and economic disparity. Enslaved peoples often made do with the least desirable ingredients, which they transformed into nourishing and delicious meals with creativity and resourcefulness: pork intestines became chitterlings, pig's feet became a pickled delicacy, greens slow-cooked with ham hocks were sublime, and cornmeal transformed into grits.

This cookbook offers up main dishes like Chicken Brunswick Stew, the Kowbird Chicken Smash Burger, and Georgia Peach Chicken Thighs as well as Southern staples like Southern Fried Chicken and Chicken and Dumplings. Dive into Southern Sides like Southern Green Beans with Bacon and Biscuits with Honey Butter. Finish off your meal with Desserts like Sweet Potato or Mississippi Mud Pie, 7Up Cake or Peach Cobbler. Additionally, you have recipes for things like Country Sausage Gravy and Memphis Dry Rub.

My final word: This is such a thorough southern cookbook of everything chicken! It has beautiful photography, passion, history, and above all else, pride. This is a chef who takes pride in his Southern roots and wants to share the flavors and love and novelty and versatility with the world. If you love Southern cooking, or if you just love the humble chicken, I strongly recommend this cookbook!

Chicken is a "comforting constant, reminding us of shared tales and the magic of simple, unadulterated flavors."

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a middle-aged blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received an e-book copy of this book to review through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this cookbook. 

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