Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food
Year released: 2012
Number of recipes: 125 (plus 7 condiment recipes)
Structure: There are many short sections (36, to be exact), such as "5 Fast Salads," 5 Fast Side Dishes," "Country Cooking," or "Speedy Sunday Lunch." Each section has about 2 - 5 recipes each.
Fun fact: I cooked every recipe in this book, cover to cover, just for fun!
Gordon's Ramsay's Fast Food's main selling point is that you can make over 100 "quick, healthy, delicious meals at home."
That statement proved true, except for the "fast" part. While the structure and instructions of each recipe were refreshingly simple, the actual preparation and cooking time were not always speedy. Sometimes they'd get ya with sneaking in pre-prepared ingredients, completely failing to account for the time you would need to prepare each item. For example, one recipe lists "smoked haddock fillets" as an ingredient. Well that means you'll need to budget some time to fire up your smoker first before moving on to the core recipe.
After a few discovering a pattern of this sort of thing, it became clear that "Fast Food" was not going to live up to its namesake. That said, you simply could not argue with the fruits of your labor - the meals were outstanding. This book is chok full of variety and so many great ideas that you'll find yourself surprised at your own ability to create gourmet-like meals with such basic ingredients. There are some fantastics soups, side dishes, desserts, beverages, appetizers - you name it. This is the kind of cookbook where you can randomly open any page and odds are you'll find something amazing.
Highlights were the No-Bake Berry Cheesecake, Pea & Mint Soup with Prosciutto and Turbot with Creamed Cabbage & Bacon.
As with most celebrity-chef cookbooks, it's unclear how much influence Gordon Ramsay had in this book. There are a handful of pictures of him preparing a few dishes but he's wearing the same shirt in most of the photos. So it's possible that he simply came in for the photoshoot for a few hours and called it a day. But if I had to guess, I do think there was a sizable fingerprint behind the scenes that made this a uniquely Ramsay production (mostly based on the copy).
Some recipes have a little quote or tip from Gordon at the top of the page. For example, he says on Fried Chorizo with Parsley "If you can, buy fresh chorizo from a good butcher or deli for this dish. Serve the fried chorizo as it is, or pile onto crusty bread slices and drizzle with the orange-colored oil from the pan." There is a section that lists the pantry essentials Gordon frequently keeps in his kitchen which were used heavily in many of the book's recipes (lots of bread, herbs, creme fraiche, mascarpone, pancetta).
Ironically, you'd need to look elsewhere if you're looking to make lightning-fast foods. Most recipes (over 75% in my opinion) could not be considered quick to make and that's kind of ridiculous for a book titled "Fast Food." But if you look at this collection through the lense of a simple, everyday cookbook then you'll be delighted to see there are many great new recipes with wonderful gourmet spins on common dishes. Considering this book goes for less than $15, it's a tremendous value and it personally expanded my knowledge of flavors, ingredients, and even some international foods. After making a few dozen recipes and talking about the book so often, one of my friends snapped this picture of me praising how much I've enjoyed it:
Note that my calendar says 2014: it took a while to go through the whole thing but it was worth it!