Cook the Book: 'Urban Italian'

20090330-urbanitalian.jpgFor the first time in his life, chef Andrew Carmellini found himself cooking at home every night in his three-by-nine-foot kitchen. Instead of an army of sous chefs and dishwashers, it was just him and his food-writer wife, Gwen Hyman. Carmellini has worked at establishments like Lespinasse, Cafe Boulud, and, most recent, A Voce. Faced with doing his own prep work and grocery shopping and equipped with the standard New York–sized kitchen, Carmellini found himself cooking Italian with an urban twist. And so, Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories From a Life in Food was born.

This book is basically the story of my life. Well, minus the part where I'm a respected professional chef. But I, too, am my own prep cook, dishwasher, and grocery shopper. Reading through Urban Italian made my mouth water and made me laugh too many times to count. There are about 30 pages preceding the recipe section that are filled with stories highlighting the crazy, mixed-up adventures that Carmellini managed to get himself into on his way to creating Urban Italian. The amusing anecdotes captivate the reader and bring Carmellini's life to the table, where we can savor all the high jinks.

The recipes may seem difficult with the multitude of steps and sometimes vast ingredient lists, but they're there for a reason. The number of steps ensure clarity and understanding, and the ingredient lists don't call for obscure ingredients, just lots of familiar ones. Don't let any of this scare you. The food is complex in flavor, but still completely accessible, especially with the warm writing. Besides, how can you not want to make a creamy fettucini with summer corn, bacon and shiitake mushrooms? Or potatoes giarrosto-style (essentially extra crispy, flavorful hashbrowns)? Try a rack of lamb glazed with citrus and vinegar for Easter this year. Each day this week, we'll be sharing these recipes and more from the Urban Italian cookbook. Grace Kang

Win 'Urban Italian'

Courtesy of Bloomsbury, we're giving away five (5) copies of Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food. In the comments below, tell us your favorite Italian dish with a twist.

Contest will end and comments will close at 3 p.m. ET, Monday, April 6, 2009. One entry per community member. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.