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Cooking

Phan Club

A cookbook of maximum returns
Powell's Books
Whole braised branzino from Vietnamese Home Cooking

Vietnamese Home Cooking ($35), the new cookbook from Charles Phan, with help from Tasting Table’s senior editor Jessica Battilana, is like an extended-release drug: Its recipes give results long after first consumption.

There is immediate gratification, of course: For armchair travel, the book is a florid, photo-heavy map charting Vietnamese flavors.

But if you cook from the book (which we fervently suggest you do), give yourself a three-day window: shop on day one, prep on day two, cook on day three.

This schedule may seem tedious, but Phan’s recipes are exacting. So before you make pho, simmer proper stock; before you assemble summer rolls, whisk together shallot mayonnaise.

We forgave the chef his obsessive recipes because the book delivers extraordinary results. And then there are the cascading returns: By preparing Phan’s staples, you’re left with a fridge primed for further cooking experiments.

We made and devoured a whole braised branzino (see it here) for dinner, then used the dish’s leftover pickled mustard greens to season a week’s worth of lunches. We sautéed them with chicken breast, added them to potato salad bound with leftover shallot mayonnaise and even used the brine to enhance a pasta sauce. 

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