Hartwood by Eric Werner & Mya Henry

As I was preparing a promotion for The Outdoor Kitchen: Live-Fire Cooking from the Grill by Eric Werner. I pulled my review written in 2015 for Werner’s debut cookbook, Hartwood: Bright, Wild Recipes from the Restaurant at the Edge of the Yucatan and wanted to record it here. Hartwood is such a gorgeous book that its praises warrant repeating. Learn more about The Outdoor Kitchen and enter our giveaway here.

Hartwood is the debut cookbook of husband and wife team, Eric Werner and Mya Henry, named after their restaurant located at the edge of the Yucatan.

The Overview

Hartwood is not only a stunning cookbook but the tale of two Manhattan natives who move to Tulum, Mexico, between the jungle and the sea, and open a highly acclaimed restaurant off the grid. Sounds impossible, right? With the help of a generator, solar panels and several deliveries of ice a day, they make it happen and have long lines every night to boot. The restaurant’s roof is a canopy of stars and the walls are the jungle and whether Hartwood is open, depends on the weather.  

Many of the restaurant dishes start on the grill and are finished in the wood-burning oven but the recipes in the cookbook have instructions for traditional home ovens. The main flavors used in the Hartwood kitchen are simple – honeys, salts, fresh and dried herbs and chiles, pickles and flavored oils. Exotic recipes such as Grilled Nopales Salad with Queso Cotija and Ceviche de Aguja with Ginger and Mezcal counterbalance with Roast chicken with Poblanos and Tomatillos and Grilled Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.

There are many online recipes to enjoy from this title.

What I Loved

I have fallen hard for the spirit of the restaurant and the cookbook – reading it was a mini-vacation for our souls. Beautiful photos and recipes along with the heartfelt passion of the authors who wished to forge their own path to a simpler life in the beautiful Yucatan make this book a standout.

Werner begins the recipe portion with pickled foods, roasted oils and descriptions of the ingredients that are in the Hartwood pantry (The Larder) and then branches out into recipes organized by The Market, The Sea, The Land, Desserts and Drinks. There are many recipes in the book that are relatively easy to replicate at home Pork Chops with Amaranth Porridge and Grilled Leeks, Creamed Yuca, Maya Prawns with Chipotle Mezcal Sauce are a few examples.

What Inspired Me

Hartwood’s menu is inspired by the sea and farmers in their little section of the world and changes daily based on what they are able to harvest. Jicama Salad with Mint Crema, Blistered Platanos (bananas) with Honey, Pan-Roasted Grouper Cheeks with Radishes and Tomatoes and Slow-Grilled Pork Belly with Cacao Beans and Melon de Milpa tempt us to use what is local and fresh and create flavorful unique dishes.

The passion of the authors is palpable in their words and in their recipes and inspire us to weave what is indigenous to our areas to create thoughtful food.

What Seems Intimidating:

Werner began as a pastry chef at Payard in New York City and also worked with Wylie Dufresne so he certainly has the culinary chops. He states his dishes are a cross between sweet and spicy, fresh and dried and includes oil and acid in every dish. We might be intimidated by a book that features dishes from a restaurant in the jungle with tropical ingredients and cooked with wood-burning ovens but we shouldn’t. The recipes are adaptable to home kitchens and some of the more exotic ingredients are optional. Think: dried grasshoppers – no thank you. There are suggestions for ingredients that we might not be able to locate easily – for the Zapote Negro Sauce — if we cannot obtain zapote negro (a species of persimmons) – we can use three to four prunes.

Pick up this lovely book and bask in the spirit of the Hartwood restaurant, make the recipes at home and be transported to the heart of the Yucatan.

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  • hibeez  on  April 16, 2020

    Grilled romaine with smoked fish dressing

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