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December 3, 2010 at 10:56 AM

Seattle-area restaurant cookbooks: Get cookin’! Your faves?

In this age of austerity, when eating at home trumps dining out — at least much of the time — cookbooks with recipes from area restaurants are a welcome invitation to don an apron, hang out in the comfort of your kitchen and get cooking! Here are a handful of recently published volumes to add to your collection, and your gift-giving list.

Restaurant recipes — at home in my kitchen.

And here are some of the many reasons why I think you should do so:

Fried Chicken & Champagne: A Romp Through the Kitchen at Pomegranate Bistro by Lisa Dupar (Southern Accents Inc., $38);

She had me at “fried chicken.” But it wasn’t until I watched how a cut-up fryer, bathed in buttermilk and then outfitted with crushed saltines, swiftly turned “golden brown” in my cast-iron skillet — exactly as the cover recipe promised. When it remained moist and memorable after I finished the bird in the oven, I thought: “Sold! This is the only fried-chicken recipe I’ll ever make again!”

Dupar built her reputation as a catering queen, and as co-owner of Redmond’s Pomegranate Bistro draws from a wide range of recipes from her extended family (hello, Aunty Mamma’s marmalade!), and her restaurant “family” (that’s chef Juan Nuñez’s guacamole). Whether you’re drawn to Southern comforts like Savannah hot puffs, or Northwest favorites like cherry pop tarts (culled from Dupar’s pal Sue McCown’s pastry playbook), this gorgeous tome goes to the head of my buy-it list.

OK, so Lisa’s is prettier. But trust me, my version was every bit as delicious as the professional’s. I liked how the quick-fry-and-finish-in-the-oven process made the chicken moist and (practically) grease-free.

Bis on Main: Contemporary Northwest Cuisine by Joe Vilardi with James O. Fraioli (Culinary Book Creations, $35);

Dine out in Old Bellevue frequently enough, and chances are you know Main Street’s unofficial mayor Joe Vilardi and his classy city council (a handsomely attired serving staff). Vilardi cuts a fine figure as he casts a warm eye on his contemporary art-enhanced bistro — and the Eastside clientele that frequents it. All are captured for posterity in this photo-filled cookbook that bears the Bis name.

In it, you’ll find recipes for house specialties like salmon gravlax with potato pancakes, or crispy garlic chicken with garlic mashed potatoes. This is a book for Bis fans who may someday find themselves entertaining at home, perhaps replicating the popular Bis happy hour with barbecue roast-pork sliders and Joe’s mojito, or (James) bonding over an icy Vesper and oysters on the half-shell with Vesper vinaigrette.

Salmon gravlax with potato pancakes, just like at Bis on Main? Count me in! — perfect for a Chanukah party, and the time is right. And kudos to chef Chris Peterson, late of Bis on Main (now at Milagro Cantina), for lending his talent to Joe’s book.

Dining in Seattle: Past & Present by Andrea Lott, Andrea Umbach and Elliott Wolf (Peanut Butter Publishing, $23);

As a longtime collector of Seattle restaurant-recipe compendiums, I’m pleased to add this plump paperback to my collection. An update of an old series (the last “Dining In” volume was published 25 years ago) the current take provides a trip down memory lane with a handful of restaurant recipes past — as well as a heaping-helping of restaurant menus present.

Seattleites of a certain age might revel in tales told of storied dining halls of a bygone era (the Mirabeau, Gerard’s Relais de Lyon and the Palm Court), plus recipes from Brasserie Pitsbourg (volaille aux pommes), Henry’s Off Broadway (oysters Rockefeller) and Rosellini’s Four-10 (chocolate mousse). I’ll be certain to stain the pages featuring modern classics like Lark’s mussels with bacon, shallots and apple; Cafe Flora’s Oaxaca tacos; and Wild Ginger’s seven-flavor beef, which knocked my socks off when I served it at home along with the Ginger’s recipe for cucumber pickles.

I’ve always loved the pickles served alongside the satays at Wild Ginger, and now I can make them at home. They taste exactly like the ones served there and if I say so myself, the seven-flavor beef tasted even better than the restaurant version. (Must be all that “wok hay” from my now-well-seasoned new wok.)

Ethan Stowell’s New Italian Kitchen by Ethan Stowell and Leslie Miller (Ten Speed Press, $35);

Crazy for the soft-boiled eggs with anchovy mayo at How to Cook a Wolf on Queen Anne? (I am!) You’ll find the recipe here. Ever wonder how to clean a geoduck? (I have.) Chef Ethan Stowell provides the pictorial process, and a recipe for geoduck crudo — just like they serve at his Capitol Hill comer Anchovies & Olives. And of course, there’s a whole chapter on pasta, fresh and dried (the star of the show at Tavolata in Belltown).

The foodista faction might cop a thrill when a recipe calls for “2 pounds of trimmed veal cheeks” or “4 of the smallest pork jowls you can find” (I didn’t.). And if difficulty sourcing such fancy staples has you down, consider a trip to Staple & Fancy Mercantile in Ballard. Perhaps Stowell will prepare them for you — as part of his family-style meal.

For at least 25 years I’ve been turning to James Beard’s classic recipe for potato gnocchi, but now that I’ve made Ethan Stowell’s — which calls ricing the potatoes rather than mashing them — I’ve decided his is the way to go.

So, while I’m on the subject of restaurant cookbooks, why don’t you tell me this: Which restaurant cookbooks (local or otherwise) are the most-stained cookbooks in your collection?

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