Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton and Gabrielle Hamilton's recipe for Braised Octopus with Potatoes

An uncompromising chef teaches us her truth

Although her memoir was just published, Gabrielle Hamilton has plenty of experience as a storyteller.

When the chef opened Prune, her Manhattan restaurant, in 1999, her menu challenged the wasabi-mashed-potato status quo with idiosyncratic dishes such as sardines on Triscuits and fried-oyster omelets. Her risks were rewarded: Prune quickly became–and still remains–one of New York's most beloved restaurants. The dishes are profoundly delicious, and the intention behind each tells its own tale.

Now, finally, Hamilton has affixed these stories to a more permanent medium.

Her memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter, retells the formative experiences of Hamilton's life with visceral clarity. The book's moments range from warm (childhood lamb roasts) to grave (childhood abandonment and drugged-up near-brushes with the law) to hopeful (surveying the space that would later become Prune).

It does not include recipes, yet the memoir engages in a kind of symbiosis with Prune, deciphering its delicious code by enriching its trademarks (toasted manti, Negronis) with the experiences that inspired them. Parsley or pen, both are just tools for Hamilton to propel us into the messy and risky pleasure of life.

To that end, she has supplied us with a previously unpublished recipe, which, in keeping with her ethic, requires some patience to execute. Hamilton adapted this braised octopus with potatoes (click here to download the recipe) from her beloved Italian mother-in-law, and all of the meaning that their relationship implies–outlined in the memoir with maternal longing and matrimonial unease–is on offer in its flavors.