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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 19.0° F  Fair
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Homemade homage
Michael's Genuine Food by Michael Schwartz and Joann Cianciulli

There is a term I've heard lately, birthed perhaps by the hive-voice of the Internet, that describes exactly how I felt when I heard chef Michael Schwartz had written a cookbook: SQUEEEEEEEE!!! Several impeccable meals at Schwartz's Miami restaurant, the acclaimed Michael's Genuine, were a highlight of my disappointingly cold February vacation last year.

I flashed back to the incandescent butter lettuce and avocado salad with oranges and hazelnut dressing, the clever yet accessible desserts made by Hedy Goldsmith, Schwartz's renowned pastry chef, and the incredible discomfort I felt the first time I rolled out of the place, having eaten so much I nearly burst. Naturally I was thrilled at the prospect of cooking from Michael's Genuine Food (Clarkson Potter, $35).

And lo! The recipe for the butter lettuce salad is here, as is the burger recipe that inspired me to start making brioche buns from scratch when I returned home. The recipe for the chocolate cremoso, which is something like a softly frozen chocolate pudding (served drizzled with olive oil and sea salt), is here, along with the espresso parfait that sat alongside it. The short rib and fontina panini recipe is here as well, as are a few of the pizza recipes I tried.

Other dishes are also mine for the making: Michael's famous caramelized onion dip, a grilled wild salmon steak with fennel hash and sweet onion sauce, mustard and molasses St. Louis ribs, and banana toffee panini, to name a few. I was sorry to see that Goldsmith's recipe for homemade pop tarts wasn't here. I never got to try them, as I was not in town on a brunch day, which was my only regret of the trip other than the weather.

Though not advanced in terms of technique, these recipes reward time spent in the kitchen, as many of them require several elements. The salad recipe, for example, involves toasting hazelnuts, supreming oranges and making a vinaigrette, among other steps. Schwartz doesn't leave you hanging, however; techniques that may be unfamiliar are explained, as are where to find less-common ingredients. For me, the result felt worth the work.

The cookbook ends with "drinks" and "basics" sections. The drinks include a bourbon-laced riff on a cherry-rosemary soda I loved, and the basics section supplies instruction for maple-cured bacon, pizza dough, ricotta and a few interesting spins like parsley sauce (pesto, essentially, but with parsley), Provencal vinaigrette and porcini Worcestershire.

I have already begun re-creating my Michael's experience. Butter lettuce salad? Check. Next up? The slow-roasted boneless short ribs with romesco sauce - the leftovers will go into the short rib and fontina panini. And then that fabulous cremoso.

Lastly, a note to Michael Schwartz: I eagerly await your next book, Michael's Genuine Brunch, in which you supply the lowdown on the pop tarts. SQUEEEEEE!!!

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