Stewart Woodman's Shefzilla cookbook helps you cook Heidi's at home

Categories: Recipes

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Learn how to cook like Heidi's.
Stewart Woodman has created a monster. His new cookbook, Shefzilla: Conquering Haute Cuisine at Home, (Borealis Books, $27.95) might just put his forthcoming restaurant, a.k.a. Heidi's 2.0, out of business.

Yeah, right.

The Hot Dish recently received a review copy of the book and gave a few of the recipes a whirl. Here's what we found:

Most fans of Woodman's food will probably just come to the restaurant and let him do the work, but for cooks of moderate skill level, Shefzilla gives amateurs a chance to channel the local pro.

Most home cooks tend to stick with basics--spaghetti and marinara--and leave more daring textures and flavors--trofietta pasta with roast poblano, fresh mozzarella, and celery pesto--for dining out. Few ever whip up a batch of seared salmon spring rolls or lettuce soup on a Tuesday night after a long day's work, but after reading Shefzilla, they'll wonder why they don't.

The Shefzilla recipes include apps, soups, salads, entrees, desserts, and a few essentials (stocks, mayonnaise, creme fraiche). Heidi's fans will notice a few familiar faves, including the buffalo shrimp skewers and the "off menu" crab nachos.

The recipes are interspersed with Woodman's stories of working in New York restaurants, moving to Minnesota, the unfortunate Heidi's fire, and how the event spurred Woodman to revel in the subtleties of cooking for four instead of 25. Tucked between the cooking tricks and tips (using juice as a cooking liquid, the importance of smelling fish), you'll also learn the origins of Woodman's Shefzilla moniker and the story of how he met and wooed Heidi--initially, with limited success. Kate N.G. Sommers contributed some lovely photographs of the food along with shots of the Woodmans cooking with and feeding their family (two sons and a dog) and friends (look for uberfoodies Bob and Sue Macdonald).

Many of the recipes require a little more commitment of time and effort, and some include ingredients you're not likely to find at your local supermarket. You'll have to hit a Mexican grocery to find dried hibiscus, order foie gras online, find wheat berries at the co-op, and track down goat at an ethnic butcher, etc. Mind that this is not a book for beginners--you'll have to use your judgment as to when to take a pan of brownies out of the oven (the time listed in the book was way off for me), what type of red wine to use in a pasta sauce, and if you think it's worth emulsifying your butter with a little water before tossing it with the noodles.

But Woodman's signature humor should help speed the task. With a recipe for chopped liver, he says, "Don't make this recipe. No, I mean it. You will never look at liver the same way again; ya may even consider yourself a fan. Don't say I didn't warn you."

I tried just a few of the simpler recipes and quickly became obsessed with the spinach and pistachio salad with crispy shallots. (Super easy if you make the pistachio puree and fry the shallots in advance--I've had this salad, like, three times in the past week.)

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I was surprised how much luck I had re-creating the vegetarian "bolognese" from Heidi's--the sour, wine/mushroom sauce is perfect with the pliable noodles. Sure, it's more work than boxes and jars, but the dough and sauce can be made in large batches and frozen for multiple meals. (This recipe is also a wake-up call for anyone naive to the ungodly amounts of butter restaurants use in their food. I know you told me not to, but I skimped on it, Stewart--sorry!)
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For those eagerly awaiting the arrival of Heidi's 2.0, consider Shefzilla your amuse bouche.

Stewart Woodman is signing and selling books at farmers markets this weekend:
Saturday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at Mill City
Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Kingfield


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