Cookbook author and TV food personality Bob Blumer is a culinary boundary-pusher. He’s made meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato icing. He’s poached salmon in the dishwasher, and he’s won eight Guinness Book of World Records for a variety of food-related feats, including making the largest bowl of salsa, weighing in at 2,672 pounds.
Through it all, the former host of Food Network’s popular series Glutton for Punishment and Surreal Gourmet has made friends around the world, including some of the world’s top chefs, street-food vendors and small-town restaurateurs.
He soaked up everything they’ve taught him, and now he’s poured that knowledge into his seventh cookbook, Flavorbomb: A Rogue Guide to Making Everything Taste Better. It’s a how-to guide that is heavy on the chutzpah, fun to read and full of the helpful hints he’s picked up over the past 25 years.
“I started thinking about it,” he says. “I’ve cycled in 15 countries, eaten tons of street food and been mentored by the world’s best chefs. I subconsciously lean on all of those things when I’m cooking, and I wanted to share every tip, trick and hack I’ve learned along the way.”
“My friends always say to me ‘Why does everything taste better when you make it?’” says the Montreal native who moved to Los Angeles many years ago to manage the career of Canadian singer/songwriter Jane Siberry before, as he says, he became a “culinary charlatan.”
The first half of Flavorbomb, which he defines as “dishes that explode with flavour and texture,” is devoted to the must-haves of every kitchen and cook – the quality ingredients to have on hand, the right kitchen equipment (nothing too fancy) and instructions to master techniques from caramelizing to braising a choice cut of meat.
The last half are tried-and-true recipes, some he’s created and others homespun favourites. Blumer says anyone can make meals that resonate long after the dishes have been cleared away as long as they know the basics and have the courage to trust their instincts.
“This book is the distillation of my life’s journey,” Blumer says. “It is how I cook at home every day for my wife and friends. And my goal is to share everything I have learned in practical, applicable ways that will make you a rock star in your own kitchen.”
Creamy Carbonara with Double Pancetta
Makes 4 generous servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces thick-sliced pancetta or thick-sliced bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 4 ounces) plus extra for finishing
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino (about 2 ounces)
- 2 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 cup chopped parsley
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the individual pieces are browned and crispy. Turn off the heat and add the garlic, pepper and chili flakes. Stir for 1 minute to release their flavours. Transfer the whole lot to a large bowl, being sure to include every drop of the rendered fat. Let cool.
Add the Parmigiano, pecorino, egg and yolks to the pancetta bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Reserve.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pancetta bowl.
Add the parsley. Toss, adding pasta water a splash at a time to create a smooth, creamy sauce the consistency of heavy cream. In all likelihood, you will come close to using up all the water.
Serve in individual pre-warmed bowls or famiglia style, and finish with a sprinkle of Parmigiano.
Excerpted from Flavorbomb by Bob Blumer. Copyright © 2020 Bob Blumer. Photography by Suzi Q. Varin. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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