John T. Edge is not the young, Hipstamatic-driven author we expected would write The Truck Food Cookbook, especially as there are already several food truck-related cookbooks out there. But short of perhaps Jane and Michael Stern, Edge is exactly the sort of old-school journalist we'd hoped would explore the California Korean tacos, Philly broccoli rabe breakfast sandwiches and Wisconsin chicken-cheddar-bacon pasties that leveled the high-end restaurant field.
Other books by Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and columnist for The New York Times, include Fried Chicken: An American Story, Apple Pie: An American Story and Hamburgers & Fries: An American Story (the subtitle here is 150 Recipes and Ramblings From America's Best Restaurants on Wheels).
In this book, Edge covers a broad realm of highway, exploring food trucks in several cities nationwide (a colleague/assistant revisited each truck to take casual photos and jot down recipes, which were adapted for the book). There are both "old guard" and "new guard" food trucks represented, though the recipes lean more toward the new (Kogi versus the 20-years-strong mom-and-pop tamale truck). And they're pretty great.
From L.A., you can expect a recipe from Kogi for short rib and salsa verde tacos, which kicks off the "Tacopalooza" chapter, followed by Tacos el Galuzo's carne asada tacos and "cheater's horchata" made with evaporated milk. In the "Unexpected Pleasures" chapter, you'll find greens with turkey necks from Asian Soul Kitchen.
Edge peppers the recipes with sidebars on his tasting escapades, like traveling to L.A. during the Auto Show, which at the time was featuring a Kogi-inspired hybrid Scion (a refrigerator where the back seats once were, a sink in the passenger seat rear door). He also offers up his opinion on topics like proper to-go taco size ("As for [taco] portion control, when served by better trucks, they are not overly stuffed.... They're comparatively restrained, respectful of the equilibrium of filling and garniture").
Fun little nuggets, but we're really here for the recipes from trucks we likely aren't going to travel across the country to visit anytime soon. Chicken peanut stew from the Buraka truck in Madison, Wis.; Cubano sandwiches from the Texas Cuban truck in Austin; "Wasabi pea dust" (pulverized wasabi) and olive oil-sea salt toppings from the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in New York.
Actually, this is such a jam-packed book that it can at times feel a bit frenetic. Then again, so does the entire food-truck craze and the often hyper-creative food that comes along with it -- all part of their charm. But as we couldn't agree more with Edge's introduction to the "oatmeal jammy" cookies from the Treats Truck in New York, we'll leave you with his comments and the pretty fantastic-sounding recipe. Even better, truck owner Kim Ima donates 10% of her profits to charity.
Too many street vendors aspire to grandeur. Of late there's been too much crème brulee and not enough brownies. This recipe, from the Treats Truck, rights those wrongs. Oatmeal jam cookies are elemental. They're satisfying. And they're eminently portable.
Oatmeal Jammy Cookies
From: The Truck Food Cookbook by John T. Edge (via Kim Ima of the Treats Truck).
Makes: About 3 dozen cookies
2 cups (4 sticks) butter
1 ¾ cups firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup thick jam of any flavor (raspberry and apricot are especially good)
1. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter with the brown and granulated sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by the oats, and mix until well combined. Refrigerate the cookie dough for 15 to 20 minutes to firm up.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. When ready to bake, place tablespoon-size scoops of cookie dough on ungreased baking sheets about ½-inch apart. Make a little indentation in the middle of each and spoon a dollop of jam in the center. Bake the cookies until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
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5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat the process until you've baked all of the cookie dough. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
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