I am a sucker for a behind-the-scenes look into the culinary world. Whether it be a peek at a restaurant’s inner workings or the road to becoming a chef, count me in. Secret Suppers remains one of my favorite books for just this reason (and keeps the dream of having an underground restaurant alive). White Jacket Required, a new book from blogger Jenna Weber, is a “culinary coming of age” book where Jenna shares her journey from graduating college and feeling a little lost, to finding her way into the world of culinary school.
Overall, the book is well-written and has good flow, smoothly transitioning from one chapter of her life to another. It does well to share some of what Weber went through in culinary school, as a student in the Baking & Pastry Certificate program at Le Cordon Bleu, almost making you feel like you were there. While it is a “coming of age” book, there were a number of personal offshoots throughout the book that felt a bit disjointed, disrupting the flow of the book somewhat, particularly if you’re looking at it strictly for the culinary school angle.
The underlying current of the book is about staying true to yourself and following your dreams, a reminder we sometimes all need to hear. Each chapter is punctuated by a recipe (similar to Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life) where Weber shares some of her favorites from her own kitchen and that of her family’s, and by the time I was done with the book, I had earmarked several recipes to try. The first one was the Linguine with Clam Sauce. A super simple recipe using pantry ingredients, I made it quickly on a busy weeknight and set it down at the table. I didn’t tell the kids what was in it, mostly because if they knew it was clams, they wouldn’t touch it. That said, I *did* share what it was when they were down shoveling their portions down. “So I guess you guys like clams, huh?”
If you’re looking for a light read, a quick peek into culinary school, and some good comfort food recipes, check out White Jacket Required.
Linguine and Clam Sauce
Reprinted with permission from White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming of Age Story by Jenna Weber, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Yield: 4 servings
A note from Jenna Weber: hands down, my favorite dish. Since there’s no need to buy fancy live clams from the seafood counter, you can make this year-round.
8 ounces dried linguine
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
3 (6.5 ounce) cans clams, drained, with ½ cup juice reserved
Juice of one lemon
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add minced shallot and sauté until very soft and tender, about 5 minutes.
Add clams and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add reserved clam juice, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
Toss pasta with sauce, adjusting red pepper flakes to taste. Divide among four plates and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.