Cookbook Review: Paleo Comfort Foods

I did already do a review of sorts, but in video form. If you haven’t but would like to see what I had to say, it begins at about 2:30 into this silly little 6 minute video I did in advance of the Labor Day weekend.

I have four cookbooks to review and I had intended to do them all in one post but have decided otherwise (this is the true virtue of procrastination, where you refine your ideas while putting off doing them). In the end I figured it would be better for the authors themselves to have posts exclusive to their work, that can stand individually over time.

I love this book, actually. In fact, I love it so much that a short and to the point review is probably called for. The reason is as basic and simple as the book is itself.

One of the appealing aspects of paleo or Primal in the first place is its simplicity, so this cookbook holds firmly to this attractive theme. Paleo, at base, is about less processing, not more; less complexity, not more; more comfort, not less; closer to food in its natural state, not father away.

Don’t get me wrong. I occasionally love to do complex dishes, like something from an old French cookbook and to immerse myself in the task for an entire Saturday, from sunrise and getting out of bed, making my list of ingredients, shopping, staging, sipping on a scotch as I dig in, and then keeping a sane kitchen the whole way (my mother taught me to clean the kitchen as I go), until time to serve guests at 8pm.

And this cookbook does not disappoint in that regard. there are a decent number of more complex dishes you can enjoy preparing for hours, to the eventual enjoyment of friends and family. And yet, the preponderance of the cookbook focusses on relatively simple dishes that only look complex, so my only “criticism,” really, is that the full color photos to showcase every single dish might scare people off. But dive right in. Yes, you really can make simply prepared food look that good.

I adore the “Comfort Foods” theme. Who doesn’t love sausage? Meatloaf? Fried Chicken? Gravy? Meatballs? Deviled Eggs? Wings? Burgers? Salsa? Guac? There are many others. And most notably for me, there is an extensive section on various sauces & dips, things that are simple and easy to prepare but really launch your preparation to the next level. Not only do many of the dishes sport a short list of ingredients (as few as two), many also have a very short list of steps to prepare (as few as two).

You will impress your friends and when you tell them it’s all about a fat loss and health plan, you’ll have their interest a lot sooner than telling them you’re on a new “diet.”

Another thing to note is that there is a clear Southern theme throughout. I know this because I grew up eating fried Okra, too. If you like Southern flair but want to know how to do it in a way that gives, rather than saps your energy, this book is for you.

I could go on, but I want to put an idea out there. The paleo Conventional Wisdom (PCW) says that you Google, find a blog, buy a book on paleo, become just slightly less knowledgeable than a PhD anthropologist about the roots and basis of your new experiment: eat eggs, bland veggies, grilled meat, eggs, bland veggies, grilled meat; wash, rinse, repeat…until such time as you go whoa, and then you buy a cookbook and begin getting a bit more sophisticated with your cooking lifestyle.

I have a modest proposal, and this applies most particularly to the few hundreds of you every day who just stumbled or Googled in here on some search and you’re intrigued.

What if you just got a cookbook first, and gave it a try? What if you let the food guide everything else?

I would be happy for those of you who have the cookbook and have tried a recipe or two, or three, or a dozen, let us know what you think in comments.

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  1. Chowstalker on September 25, 2011 at 16:07

    Great proposal, and a great review Richard.

    Practically being neighbors with Julie and Charles, I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the advanced copies and do the first review of the book. I didn’t procrastinate…this time. :-) I made the steak rolls, because it was a recipe that was different from anything I had ever tried, and they didn’t disappoint!

    One of my favorite things about the book is how they make it so easy to adapt a recipe to what you have on hand.

  2. Jeff on September 25, 2011 at 17:22

    So when is the cooking show going too begin ? We also agree with you on how easy it is to live a paleo lifestyle even with a preteen in the house, By being able to come up with diffrent choices and keeping it interesting has been easy to accomplish.
    Keep up the great work and look forward to meeting you in May on the low carb cruise.

  3. Primal Toad on September 25, 2011 at 18:28

    I LOVE that proposal. Why not?! What would happen if every individual on this planet had one of the several primal/paleo cookbooks that are available? Magic perhaps?

    Great review too. I like your style. I have TONS of reviews to write up. On food (lots of coconut products), books I’ve read and cookbooks. I don’t own this cookbook and not sure if I will unless their is an ebook version. I mean, its a lot easier to download the ebooks that are out there and save them on my ipad then to carry around an extra bag of cookbooks! At least for the next decade while I travel around the world! I’m sure I’ll peak at it soon anyways since thousands are buying!

  4. Paleo Comfort Foods-Charles on September 25, 2011 at 18:43

    Richard, what a great review….and wonderful suggestion. It seems like such a logical approach. Let the food be your guide and the results will lead you. Thanks again for all your energy and enthusiasm toward the Paleo/Primal movement. We look forward to hanging with you again at some point in the future. Let us know which recipe is your favorite and feel free to send us suggestions for future recipes on our blog.

    @P.Toad- the e-book will be out this week. According to our publisher, Kindle/Nook versions will be live on Wednesday. Don’t hold us to that….but do keep your eyes out.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 25, 2011 at 18:58

      Charles, you won’t believe this but I had chicken for soup in the pot since before I started this. I have my own simple chicken soup recip, but then I thought, what can I learn from theirs? The hybrid is still in the pot and it’s orgasmic.

      I’ll blog it later tonight, as an adjuct, ie, not only is the book great on it’s own, but you can get paleo inspiration to enhance recipes you already have.

      You will love this. Stay tuned.

  5. Paper Thin Chicken Soup | Free The Animal on September 25, 2011 at 21:20

    […] Posts RSS ← Cookbook Review: Paleo Comfort Foods […]

  6. Remnant on September 25, 2011 at 21:30

    Let me put in a good word for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Book. One of the main reasons I like it so much is just what Richard is hitting on here: it’s not a lot of complex, involved recipes. Rather it is kind of a “geschtalt of meat”, so you finish reading it with a greater sense of what to do with various cuts of meat, what they might go well with, what not to do with them. From that perspective, the recipes don’t even seem like prescriptions: they come off simply as examples of what one could do.

    Aside from how to cook the food, Fearnley-Whittingstall’s discussion of issues relating to how animals are raised, how they are killed, how they are transported, how sold, etc. is an absolute tour de force and will be of great interest to anyone with a locavore as well as paleo bent.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 25, 2011 at 21:41

      River Cottage Meat Book is one of the favorites in my increasingly important collection, which includes many old French cookbooks I’ve picked up in used bookstores over the years.

      I even have a copy of The Virginia Housewife. If you want to know how to use the entire head of a cow or pig, that’s your book.

      • Remnant on September 25, 2011 at 21:59

        Looking at early European cookbooks is an excellent reminder that we need neither go far back in time nor divert our attention to remote places around the globe (Kitovan etc.) to see how to eat properly. Some cookbooks from early America or Middle Age Europe are shockingly paleo.

        One other area where looking at early cookbooks is helpful is for realizing how absolutely crucial fermentation was in our (and everyone’s) diets. I had been fermenting my own yogurt and creme fraiche, and disposing of the resultant whey. After picking up “Nourishing Traditions”, I am now starting to ferment vegetables. And if I have the time and inclination I intend to look into homemade cider, kvass, etc. “Wild Fermenation” is another book that should probably be recommended.

        Fermentation is essentially adaptation to non-ideal circumstances. Wheat is bad, but if you have a lot of it, using it to make small beer or kvass or something like that is surely better than starving to death. I am reminded of Kurt Harris’ analogy to burning a stove using propane versus butane versus natural gas versus some other less efficient fuel. If all you have is the lesser fuel, you use it. But you don’t use that fuel when you have options just to “mix things up a bit”. Some way with small beer: it shows that wheat CAN be eaten in certain circumstances; doesn’t mean it should be if other things are available.

        Going slightly off topic I guess…

  7. Todd on September 26, 2011 at 05:19

    I preordered the cookbook a long time ago and it arrived late last week, so over the weekend I tried the chicken wings and the guacamole. Maybe its just me, but I had to throw the wings under the broiler to crisp them up a bit because by following the instructions they weren’t quite done. Everything else about them were awesome. The guacamole was seriously the best I’ve ever had. Definitely looking forward to diving into this cookbook because, yes, it has a lot of those awesome Southern style foods that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside…or maybe that’s the bourbon. Probably both!

  8. LXV on September 26, 2011 at 10:35

    The Shrimp and “Grits” recipe I got off their website was simply amazing. I recommend trying that one soon. I punched it up with some andouille sausage and roasted tomatoes. (To me that is the essence of cooking – knowing where, what, and how to change a recipe, not that it’s hard eith shrimp and grits)

  9. Jeff on September 27, 2011 at 18:44

    mine arrived today. Had to thumb thru it right off the bat. Saw some amazing things to try.

  10. Tracy on December 6, 2011 at 15:46

    Late to the party, but I pre-ordered it also. First thing I made were the paleo grits… AMAZING. Being Canadian, I have nothing to compare it to, since I have no idea what grits actually are, but who cares? Delicious.

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