Voltaggio brings readers 'Home' with folksy and rich cuisine

Crab waffles. Soft-shell crab tacos. Maryland oyster stew. Bryan Voltaggio's latest cookbook a paean to homey

When chef Bryan Voltaggio was setting up photos for his latest cookbook, "Home," his young son, Thacher, climbed on a chair and began braising potatoes — in Coca Cola.

Voltaggio, the force behind nine restaurants in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, encouraged Thacher, who was 6 at the time, to write down his recipe. A photo of the list of ingredients — "6 potatoes or more, ethr sise"— scrawled on three green sticky notes appears on one of the last pages of Voltaggio's cookbook.

It's a fittingly folksy touch to end the book, Voltaggio's paean to food that is meant to be cooked for — and eaten by — family and friends.

"It's not a coffee-table book. It's not a collector's piece. It's a book you can cook from every day," Voltaggio said in a phone interview last week. "I want people to use it, get it dirty, make it part of their kitchen life."

Voltaggio, the first chef to compete on both Bravo's "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," had collaborated on a previous cookbook, "Volt ink.," with his brother, chef Michael Voltaggio. That book focused on the sorts of high-wire cuisine the brothers create in their respective flagship restaurants: Bryan's Volt in Frederick and Michael's ink. in Los Angeles.

For "Home," which will be released Tuesday, Bryan Voltaggio drew inspiration from the meals that he cooks for his wife and three young children, as well as dishes for holidays and dinner parties.

The food is comforting and often rich; Voltaggio doesn't shy away from cream and butter. Think crab waffles smothered in poached eggs and malty "beernaise" sauce. Soft-shell crab tacos. "Everything" mashed potatoes with caraway seeds and cream cheese.

In addition to chapters devoted to breakfast, soups and sandwiches, and desserts, there are chapters that focus on Voltaggio's favorite times to cook at home, including Sunday suppers, Thanksgiving dinner, the traditional Christmas Eve "Feast of the Seven Fishes" and Super Bowl Sunday, which he calls "a food holiday."

For fans of Voltaggio's restaurants — Baltimore's outposts include the upscale Aggio in Power Plant Live and the homier Family Meal at Pier 4 — some dishes will be familiar favorites from menus.

Chicken pot pie fritters are a version of a popular appetizer from Family Meal. Sunchokes with bacon and caramelized onions resemble a side dish from Range in Washington.

"As much as I want people to make reservations, I want them to cook at home, too," said Voltaggio.

The recipes vary in difficulty. While some are quite simple, such as a version of the meatloaf Voltaggio's mother made her children when they were growing up in Frederick, others require a significant investment in time and materials.

You've got to be pretty serious about grits to prepare a Parmesan cheese stock — for an hour, in the pressure cooker — to boil them in. And while tomato gazpacho with a watermelon granita sounds delicious, not all home cooks will have the food mill and meat grinder that Voltaggio suggests using to process the tomatoes.

But for those who are serious about home cooking, "Home" offers a hundred ways to elevate daily meals and holiday dishes.

Voltaggio believes family meals are a sacred tradition. While he spends his days rushing among his restaurants, he makes a point to eat breakfasts and Sunday dinners with his wife, Jennifer, and children: Thacher, 7, Piper, 3, and Ever, 20 months.

"I try to get home as much as I can for dinner," Voltaggio said. But that's not always often enough for his wife.

"My wife wanted to call the book 'Occasionally Home,' since I'm always in the restaurant," he said.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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