|Not darn good food; damn good food!|
But this is more than a cookbook. It is also a memoir of the man behind the restaurant, Mitch Omer. The cover of the book has a quote from Chef Jacques Pepin saying that Omer "makes Anthony Bourdain look like an altar boy." After reading the book, you might be inclined to agree. Omer has led an interesting life, to say the least. He has battled bipolar disorder, depression, weight issues, addictions to drugs, and bounced around from job to job. The stories in the book are humorous, real, sad, redemptive, and downright crazy.
The recipes in the book are centered primarily around those from the restaurant, but there are also chapters containing recipes from Omer's early years, an entire section on fish and wild game, as well as recipes for other various sacred rites.
In the chapter "Drugs, Sex, and Gluttony," there are tales from Omer's years working as security for rock bands. One story involves the band Van Halen, who Omer loathed. Bands have certain eccentricities, and Van Halen reportedly requested five pounds of M&M's at each tour stop. That is, five pound with the brown M&M's picked out. When one venue refused to do this, Van Halen responded by flipping out, trashing the place, and smearing lasagna into the arena draperies. A perfectly reasonable response, no? :)
So I decided to make the recipe for "Lasagna, Van Halen Style." It is a fairly involved recipe including a tomato-red pepper sauce with spicy Italian sausage, and lasagna noodles spiked with basil and crushed red pepper.
Everything in this dish was homemade. I used my own spicy Italian sausage. The tomato-red pepper sauce was basically a well-seasoned, tomato-based red sauce with the addition of some pureed roasted red bell peppers. And for the noodles, it was time to break out the pasta machine!
|Rolling out the pasta|
|Layering the lasagna with the cooked noodles|
|Out of the oven, and looking good!|
|Lasagna, Van Halen Style, plated up with some steamed broccoli|
Damn Good Food is a damn good book. The stories are compelling, and Omer's life journey has been an amazing one - amazing that he is still alive, and also amazing that he pulled his life together enough to create this successful restaurant. The other recipes in the book look bold and flavorful, and there are several I would like to try. And perhaps one of these days I will actually make it to Hell's Kitchen to try their food?