HuffPo’s Best 11 Cookbooks of 2011

The Huffington Post has named the Joe Beef cookbook as one of the Best 11 Cookbooks of 2011, and my cheeks are burning hot – hours after hearing the news. First Publisher’s Weekly, then Details, then USA Today, then Time Out New York… [Update: Bon Appetit magazine rates the book as one of the 8 Stellar Cookbooks of 2011; it is also a Chicago Tribune favorite; it is an editor’s pick for a Best Cookbook gift idea at Martha Stewart magazine – along with the Fleisher’s book I photographed] It’s amazing to watch the accolades build up for the book we made for that tiny restaurant in Montreal. I drove north over the span of a year, to chase chefs Fred & Dave around their restaurant, on fishing boats off the coast of Prince Edward Island, and around the outlying areas of Montreal. We didn’t even have a food or prop stylist, but we had Fred & Dave’s aesthetic genius. It was just the kind of location-based, food-based, character-driven project I love to work on. I’m just so thrilled I can’t contain myself. Here are a few of my favorite shots, and there are hundreds more in the book:

Huffington Post best cookbooks of 2011 photographed by Jennifer May Photography
Images & outtakes from The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A cookbook of sorts. Photography by Jennifer May


We did a very simple Thanksgiving: A beautiful heritage turkey from Fleisher’s Grass-Fed & Organic Meats, wrapped in a butter-and-stock-drenched cheesecloth, from a recipe by Michael Symon, served to guests who traveled from afar. We rented a table to fit everyone and to cover that table I bought a 10′ length of burlap. Today I will reuse that burlap in the garden to wrap a honeysuckle bush a buck has been using as a scratching post for his antlers.

Burlap covered dining table - thematic, pretty, inexpensive, and will be re-purposed in the winter garden.

As for the turkey – I can’t imagine ever going back to basting or brining. Chef Symon’s recipe made for the most luscious flesh & crispy skinned bird we have ever cooked. For my own reference next year, his recipe is below.

Our heritage bird was 16 pounds, and we cooked it at 350 for almost 3 hours, which brought the internal temp to 190, which should have been a disaster. But, it was perfect.

Chef Michael Symon’s Roast Turkey

  • 1-12# fresh organic turkey
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 halved lemon
  • 1 halved red onion
  • 4 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1 bulb quartered fennel
  • 1 large piece of cheesecloth
  • 1 # butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbl salt

Remove innards from turkey and rinse inside and out. Place all veg, herbs, stock and butter in large pot and bring to simmer. Place cheesecloth in pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain liquid and reserve vegetables and herbs and let them cool.  Stuff cooled vegetable mix in cavity of bird and place on roasting rack in pan breast side up.  Cover bird with soaked cheesecloth and place liquid in bottom of pan and place in 350 degree oven for 2 hours.  Open oven and remove cheesecloth and baste with liquid.  Raise temperature to 400 and continue to cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove turkey from oven and make sure leg and thigh are at 160 internal temperature.  Let rest for 30 minutes and serve.

More Thanksgiving recipes from Chef Symon here.


Michael Symon’s Cleveland

I spent my birthday doing two of my favorite things: Photographing a cookbook on location, and eating great food. The cookbook part involved following Chef Michael Symon around the West Side Market in Cleveland – we met his favorite meat vendors and took the elevator down to the cutting chambers. The next day, for lunch, there was Michael’s classic beef cheek pierogies at Lola Bistro, an array of charcuterie, and house-cured bacon and house-smoked turkey sandwiches. Still, one of my most vivid memories of Cleveland was seen through the car window as a man walked his pit bull through the rough side of town, carrying a big stick. The need for the stick was clear – as two other pit bulls charged, barked, and lunged from the other side of the road. Lucky for the four lanes of traffic between them, and the man and his dog passed without incident…that time.

Cleveland's Historic West Side Market
The open kitchen at Michael Symon's Lola Bistro in Cleveland
Leaving Cleveland just after sunrise

Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Cookbook

Michael Symon told me today that my laugh sounds like his laugh. This is quite funny if you have ever heard one of us laugh… And there were quite a few giggles on the set. Here we are on day 2 shooting his Carnivore cookbook.

Michael Symon on the set of his Carnivore cookbook shoot

Michael Symon’s Carnivore Cookbook

I was speaking with a college friend of mine on the phone the other day and she reminded me of how much we change. In particular, she reminded me of my 7-year long stint as a vegetarian. Those days are long gone, and now here I am, up close and personal photographing all kinds of meat. First there was the Fleisher’s butcher cookbook, then there was the Joe Beef cookbook. And this week I am in the studio with the crown prince of fleshy treats, photographing Iron Chef Michael Symon’s upcoming Carnivore cookbook (Clarkson Potter). And I couldn’t be happier.

Shooting the Carnivore cookbook with Michael Symon

Joe Beef Cookbook Top 10 from Details

Not only was The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts selected as a Top 10 Pick for Fall by Publisher’s Weekly, the book has also been rated one of the Top 10 Cookbooks of the Year by Details magazine. Incredible to be reading all this advance buzz… it makes remembering the year I spent traveling & doing the photographs (noted here and here) all the sweeter.

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts. Written by Frederic Morin, David McMillan & Meredith Erickson. Foreword by David Chang. Photographs by Jennifer May.

Shooting the STREET Cookbook for Susan Feniger

Here I am on day 1 shooting the STREET cookbook for Susan Feniger. Our team of chefs (Susan & Kasja Alger), stylists, and I are working in Susan & Liz’s hill-top home with an incredible view of Los Angeles. As we work, Liz is filming for the STREET website. She got these shots of me shooting some very funny things.

Shooting Thai Green Peppercorns for the STREET cookbook
A messy detail pulled off the counter.

Bizarre Foods @ Joe Beef w/Fleisher’s

For the 2011 Butcher Blackout, Josh Applestone and the Fleisher’s crew traveled to the Joe Beef restaurant in Montreal, and they asked me to go along with them. Before the 12-course meal Fred Morin prepared, we had a six-hour picnic in sub-zero weather. Snacks included champagne and oysters on the half shell served from a snow bank and foie gras lobster poutine. Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods showed up with his film crew, so look for that on the upcoming Montreal special. Here are a few photos, and for more, visit this slide-show.

A rotisserie grill & spit as only the mind of Fred Morin could conceive
Butchers & bone-in rib eye steaks: Joshua Applestone (left) & Tom Mylan (right)
A little grinding, a little welding, Fred Morin modifies the grill
Fred Morin, Bryan Mayer & Josh Applestone
Bizarre Foods & crew
Andrew Zimmern, the host of Bizarre Foods, extols on the foie gras double down he just sampled

Hudson Valley Dining Issue

In January, I visited 8 restaurants for the annual Dining issue of Hudson Valley magazine. Here is the cover and table of contents page I shot. The multi-item plate image was done at one of the most interesting restaurants where you will never eat: Damon Baehrel’s Basement Bistro – located in the middle of nowhere and yet has a 3-year wait list. Baehrel cooks what he calls “native harvest” cuisine which features meats cured in pine needles and root vegetables cooked in the soil in which they grew. Check out the caption below.

Photo by Jennifer May

Damon Baehrel's meats & vegetables plate at the Basement Bistro in Earlton, NY: Top of plate: Pineneedle Cured Pork Shoulder with sauce of Wild Burdock Root & Cauilflower Powder & Smoked Cedar-Berry Melted Cabbage. Center of plate: Left = Cold Frame Bordeaux Spinach with wild Dandelion Powder; Center = 2-Hour Slow roasted Brussels Sprout; Right = Baked "Dried Fava Bean Flour Battered" Sweet Onion with Frost Sweetened Chantanay Carrot Puree. Bottom of Plate: 6-Hour Sumac Chicken with sauce of "Rutabaga that was cooked in the soil it was grown in" & Carrot-Water Shallots.

Nose to Tail Cooking

For the February 2011 issue of Chronogram magazine, I observed a lesson in cooking offal from Chef Rich Reeve. When we had finished, there was a buffet of: beef heart tacos, roasted marrow bones, bbq pig’s tail, pig’s ear frittata, and cow’s tongue pastrami. For Peter Barrett’s full story – and an easy recipe for chicken and pork liver terrine – click here.

Marrow bones in nose to tail cookingOffal beef heart tacosnose to tail cooking offal

Joe Beef Cookbook

Another four-day shoot for the Joe Beef cookbook brings a year of regular visits to Montreal to a close. The book will be published by Ten Speed Press and will be out in September, 2011.

Joe Beef Restaurant Montreal Canada

Joe Beef Cookbook

Back from another three-day shoot for Joe Beef restaurant in Montreal. We shot dishes in the restaurant, made excursions to the outskirts of Montreal for poutine and hamburgers, and then there was Chinatown to eat jellyfish (and other things “not for Canadians”) with the Joe Beef chef, sous-chefs, and bartender at 3 a.m.

A classic Montreal poutine with fries, gravy and cheese curds
A perfect bite

Elephant Wine & Tapas Bar

The Elephant Wine & Tapas Bar, in Kingston, NY, is located directly across the street from Fleisher’s Grass-Fed & Organic Meats. This is convenient as that is where chef Rich Reeve sources much of the meat on his menu. He buys the inexpensive cuts and turns them into adventurous tapas dishes. The menu changes regularly, but one night’s offering included beef heart tacos, lamb sliders, “porchetta” roulade, Basque style bbq lamb ribs, and crispy blood sausage. I spent an evening speaking to and photographing chef Reeve and will make a complete post later, but for now, one of my favorite dishes of the evening, bone marrow:

bone marrow as cooked at the Elephant Wine and Tapas Bar in Kingston NY

Instantly Indian

Maya Kaimal launched her eponymous Fine Indian Foods line after coworkers raved about the sumptuous feasts she cooked for them. You can find Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods products in over 1000 stores across the country: Whole Foods Market carries the sauces, as do gourmet and specialty shops. We photographed a selection of dishes the home-cook can easily prepare at home.

Recipes the home-cook can make using Maya Kaimal products: left: Madras Chicken Curry, and right: Tamarind Curry Shrimp Kebabs

All of Maya’s sauces are delicious combined with almost any combination of vegetable or protein. Here is one idea:

Maya Kaimal’s Tamarind Curry Grilled Shrimp Kebabs
Serves 4

1 ½  lb extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup Maya Kaimal Tamarind Curry
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
2 tablespoons sliced scallions (optional)
Indian Naan or other flatbread (optional)

1.  Pre-heat grill to medium.
2.  Toss shrimp with ½ cup of Tamarind Curry. Thread shrimp onto 8 skewers.
3. Place kebabs on grill and cook for 2 minutes on the first side. Turn the kebabs over and baste with some of the remaining Tamarind Curry.  Continue grilling and basting the kebabs until the shrimp are cooked through, a few minutes more.
4.  If you like, garnish kebabs with the cilantro and scallions and serve with grilled naan or other flatbread.

Find more recipes at

Joe Beef Cookbook

On location in Montreal, Canada on a shoot for the Joe Beef Cookbook we are doing for Ten Speed Press.

Signage and shadows
Updating the menu board is a daily task
Food looks beautiful on these white dishes with scalloped edges

Holiday Party with Chef Dave

I hosted a holiday dinner party for 12 friends who love food. One friend makes his own sausages and grills pizzas in the wood-fired oven he built in his backyard, other friends work at such publications as New York magazine, or write about food for the New York Times, or are the editor of the Hudson Valley’s Chronogram magazine, and one friend just likes to open restaurants. Of course, the thought of cooking for such a crowd made me shiver.

That’s where Chef David Matthew Lydick, executive chef of Revolution Cuisine stepped in. He and his sous chef shopped for and cooked a 12 course dinner for us, while the rest of us made our way through two cases of wines. It was an unforgettable evening of extravagance. Thank you, Chef Dave.

Shopping with the chef

The chef multi-tasks
The chef prepared his 12 course dinner from these scrawled notes
One of the many hors d'eourves was a coconut chicken satay on a tiny banana bread muffin
For the second course the chef made baby back riblets with a maple ginger bourbon sauce, and Asian cole slaw
Grilling apples in sub-zero weather
Preparing one of two salad courses: Swiss chard gratin with local baby arugula and walnut black olive pesto
The second salad course was an immense hit: pan seared cape diver scallop, with apple nut salad, and a peanut vinaigrette
The soup course was unforgettably delicious: smoked salmon chowder with smoked trout lox, and rainbow trout caviar
The chef went hunting and made Catskill venison carppacio with local baby arugula, roasted shallot and grape relish, on a garlic croustini
You've got to love a chef who leaves a kitchen cleaner than when he arrived

The full menu:

hors varies

coconut chicken satay on banana bread muffin

macaroni and kunik goat cheese bites

Catskill venison carppacio    local baby arugula  roasted shallot and  grape relish    garlic croustini


carrot pea raisin cilantro lime    raw kale and lemon garlic    fresh grilled vegetable caponata


pigs in a bacon blanket    inside out smore


Swiss chard gratin  local baby arugula  walnut black olive pesto

pan seared cape diver scallop    apple nut salad   peanut vinaigrette


smoked salmon chowder    smoked trout lox    rainbow trout caviar

first course

mixed game burger   applewood smoked bacon  Vermont cheddar  polenta cookie  Morroccan chutney

second course

baby back riblets    asian cole slaw    maple ginger bourbon sauce

third course

garlic studded leg of lamb    root vegetable latke    grilled apple sauce   cider reduction   herb crème’


brie and red grape rum pudding with saffron crème anglaise and rosemary

Prepared by Chef David Matthew Lydick, Executive Chef, Revolution Cuisine


Kitchen Tour of Mexico

Hopping around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my brother was a blast. He has been bicycling around the world for ten years (favorite stops: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, India, France, Ireland, and Greece) learning languages and planting trees. His olive skin has turned a darker shade from years of exposure to the sun and elements and he speaks Spanish with a Portuguese accent. Everywhere we ate in Mexico he asked the chefs if his sister could take pictures in the kitchen.

Preparing chili peppers
Way off the beaten path we ate spicy beans with eggs and fresh tortillas. Dipping into the salsa pots would have made Anthony Bourdain proud.
Cooking for an outdoor patio setting
The chefs behind my mother’s favorite restaurant
Not exactly the kitchen scene I’m used to seeing in NY, but tasty food none-the-less
This woman cooks out of her open-walled kitchen & living room. She told my brother she is not much of a cook, but for $1 it was pretty good.
A typical produce stand
Brother Ryan
Food stories in New York's Hudson Valley and beyond from photographer Jennifer May