"I know! Can you believe it? We finally got the book through the doors!"
That was elated response from Jennifer Jasinski, the chef/owner of Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendôme, when I spoke with her late yesterday afternoon, two days after 5,000 copies of her Rioja cookbook, The Perfect Bite, finally cleared customs and arrived in Denver.
"It was locked up in customs for more than two weeks with a high priority flag -- I have no idea why -- and finally got here on Tuesday, and I'm totally giddy and so excited," says Jasinski, whose kaleidoscopic, 184-page hard cover cookbook should have landed on her doorstep more than a year ago, but was inexplicably railroaded by a rogue publisher, who promised, time and time again, that it was in the mail. "The publisher lied to us over and over, telling us every week that the books were on their way, when they hadn't even been published," explains Jasinksi, who ultimately self-published the cookbook.
And what a cookbook it is: The cover, a photo of Jasinski's braised artichoke and white truffle tortelloni, a Rioja recipe that has made grown men break down in tears faster than negotiations between PETA and the Pork Board, is the first stunning glimpse into Jasinski's culinary world, which trumpets 76 recipes, including the chef's signature tasting menu, along with page after page of glorious photography.
"I've wanted to do a cookbook for a long, long time, and I've been accumulating recipes for years," says Jasinski, adding that her customers often ask for recipes, too. Every recipe, insists Jasinski, was tested three times -- by her -- and the cookbook, like her line, is separated into "stations," including "Pasta," "Saute," "Grill," "Oven" and "Pastry." "It's a really nice representation of Rioja, and while there are several aggressive recipes that take three days, there are many others that just take thirty minutes," notes Jasinski. "It was really important to me to write a cookbook that people would be able to use at home."
The cookbook, which costs $34.95, is available online at www.Riojadenver.com, all three of Jasinski's restaurants, Tattered Cover Bookstore locations and Peppercorn, in Boulder.
Jasinksi was gracious enough to let us reproduce one of her recipes from the cookbook -- her black truffle crème fraîche potato salad -- which is on the following page.
And on Wednesday, February 2, Rioja is hosting a cookbook soiree, at which Jasinski will unleash a five-course dinner, paired with wines, from the pages of The Perfect Bite, for $150 per person, including gratuity, tax and a copy of the cookbook.
"We've served this salad as a side with numerous dishes at Rioja," says Jasinski. "But many of our guests liked it even more that the entree protein that it accompanied, so it occurred to me that we should serve it on its own, as the star."
Black truffle crème fraîche potato salad
Truffle crème fraîche
2 cups crème fraîche 2 tablespoons chopped black truffle shavings (available at the Truffle, Marczyk's and other gourmet food shops) 1 1/2 tablespoons black truffle oil 1/4 cup shallot, chopped Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
3 pounds mixed fingerling potatoes, washed, cleaned and cooked the day you plan to serve them 1/2 cup pure olive oil Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 large handful of baby arugula
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Preheat over to 350 degrees
1. Whisk all of the truffle crème fraîche ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper. If it's too loose, or runny, continue to whisk until it begins to thicken. 2. Cut the fingerling potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices or wedges. 3. Toss potatoes in olive oil, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Transfer potatoes to a sheet pan, making sure the potatoes are in one layer, to ensure even cooking. (Use more than one pan, if necessary, to avoid overcrowding.) 4. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the potatoes are just cooked through, but not browned. 5. Remove potatoes from oven and allow them to cool at room temperature. 6. Once the potatoes have cooled, mix them with the truffle crème fraîche. 7. Place the arugula in a bowl with the dressed potatoes and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.