Cooking at the Dirty Bird
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
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This debut cookbook from James Beard Rising Star Chef Gabriel Rucker features a serious yet playful collection of over 125 recipes from his phenomenally popular Portland restaurant.
Dining at Le Pigeon is a celebration of high and low extremes in cooking: Buffalo hot wings are elevated with the substitution of sweetbreads, a simple potato salad gets “dirty” with the addition of chicken livers, and a $3 Coors appears next to premier cru Burgundies on the wine list. Serious yet playful, this debut cookbook recounts the ascension of James Beard Award–winning chef Gabriel Rucker to the top of the Portland food scene and the shift of a modest neighborhood eatery to a must-visit destination. Offal-centric and meat-heavy, but by no means dogmatic, this collection of 125 recipes offers uncommon delicacies like Elk Tongue Stroganoff and Rabbit and Eel Terrine, envelope-pushing twists on classics like Beef Cheeks Bourguinon and Lamb Belly BLT, and surprisingly uncomplicated dishes like Simple Roasted Pigeon, Leek Carbonara, and Pork Tacos.
Featuring wine recommendations from sommelier Andrew Fortgang, stand-out desserts from pastry chef Lauren Fortgang, and stories about the restaurant’s raucous, seat-of-the-pants history by writer Meredith Erickson, Le Pigeon combines the wild and the refined in a unique, progressive, and delicious style.
GABRIEL RUCKER is the chef and co-owner of Le Pigeon and Little Bird. At eighteen, Gabriel began his career by dropping out of the Santa Rosa Junior College culinary program to work in his hometown of Napa at the Silverado Country Club. He left California for Oregon in 2003 and landed a job at the highly regarded Paley’s Place in Portland, where he would stay for the next two years. After soaking up as much as he could from the Paleys, he moved on and up to become the sous-chef at the Gotham Building Tavern. There he began combining straightforward American standards with classic French technique to resounding approval.
In June of 2006, Gabriel started at Le Pigeon, where his notoriety and career achieved warp speed. Food & Wine named him one of the country’s Best New Chefs in 2007. And in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, his name popped up on yet another high-profile list of overachievers, as a nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef. After three years of loserdom, Gabriel finally brought home the goods, winning the Rising Star Chef award in 2011. Though the award was a great honor, it was second to the birth of his son, Augustus Lee Lightning Bolt Rucker, also a 2011 surprise. When not at the restaurant, Gabriel can be found at home (usually watching the San Francisco Giants) with his son and his wife, Hana.
MEREDITH ERICKSON has written for the New York Times, Elle, the National Post, and Lucky Peach. She has worked as an editor and production manager for various magazines, campaigns, and television programs and was editor of The Family Meal by Ferran Adria. She is also x coauthor of The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. She splits her time between Montreal and London.
LAUREN FORTGANG found her calling early. After high school, Lauren left her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, and headed to San Francisco and the California Culinary Academy. In San Francisco, she worked at Greens, where she developed her love for both pastry and working with fresh seasonal produce. Then she went back to Alaska as pastry chef at the Marx Brothers restaurant. In 2001, she moved to New York and joined the opening team of Tom Colicchio’s restaurant, Craft. She worked there as assistant pastry chef, then held the pastry chef position at Hearth restaurant from its opening in 2003 until moving to Portland with her husband, Andrew, in 2007. She first worked as the pastry chef at Paley’s Place, before taking the pastry chef position at Le Pigeon and Little Bird. Since the birth of their daughter, Dora, Lauren has made Le Pigeon (and Dora) her focus.
ANDREW FORTGANG is the co-owner, manager, and sommelier of Le Pigeon and Little Bird. Born and raised in New York City, he began cooking at Gramercy Tavern at the age of sixteen. Following stints in the kitchens of Jean-Georges and Aureole, and upon the completion of his studies at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, he returned to Gramercy Tavern as a floor manager and director of the cheese program. He then moved to Craft restaurant, where he served as the beverage director overseeing the wine list and helped develop the beverage programs at Craftbar, Craftsteak New York, and Craft Dallas. Tom Colicchio not only hooked Andrew up with a job, but he also (inadvertently) hooked him up with his wife, Lauren, who worked at Craft when Andrew was at Gramercy Tavern. Andrew and Lauren live with their daughter in Portland.
DAVID L. REAMER is a food and lifestyle photographer whose images have appeared in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and GQ. Born and raised in New Jersey, David cooked for thirteen years before finally trading his chef’s knife for a camera. He first met Gabriel Rucker in 2001, when they cooked together at a small bistro in Aptos, California. Luckily, David convinced Gabriel to leave his home state in search of greener pastures in Oregon. The rest, as they say, is history. David lives with his wife, Meredith, and their dog, cat, and two chickens in Portland.
“Not many books have gotten my juices going as much as Le Pigeon; it’s a proper joy.”
—Fergus Henderson, founder of St. John restaurant and author of Nose to Tail Eating
"I’d heard nothing about this Portland, Oregon institution until the book landed on my desk and utterly awed me. The young chefs draw influence from the Fergus Henderson nose-to-tail school but introduce a whole layer of iconoclastic hipster inspiration. When reading the contents makes you salivate, you know you have a winner."
Tim Hayward, "Best books of 2013" Financial Times
“I absolutely love this book! A behind-the-scenes look at Portland’s beloved Le Pigeon restaurant, it’s fun, quirky, and delicious. With Gabriel Rucker guiding you through these beautiful recipes, you can’t go wrong.”
—April Bloomfield, chef-owner of The Spotted Pig and author of A Girl and Her Pig
“Gabriel once said to me, ‘We’re just trying to find new ways to get people to eat lots of butter,’ revealing his irreverent and over-the-top attitude to cooking (see his recipe for Bacon Butter, page 42) and life. What arrives on the plate at Le Pigeon is incredibly well thought out, sophisticated, and delicious. This is a remarkable collection of recipes and stories from one of the most hard-working and dedicated chefs I know, and his merry band of compatriots.”
—Andy Ricker, chef-owner of Pok Pok
“Gabriel Rucker, one of the hottest of the hot rock star chefs, has the humility to pay homage to the pillars of Portland’s dining scene and the brass to ‘Le Pigeonize’ every dish he cooks with his own high-spirited sensibility. Whether he’s dolloping oyster mayo on a hanger steak or turning lamb belly into a BLT, Rucker’s boisterous but disciplined cooking will both surprise you and charm the hell out of you.”
—Tom Douglas, owner of Tom Douglas Restaurants
“At Le Pigeon, Gabriel Rucker has the opportunity to cook in Oregon—a very soulful region where food and wine are in harmony with the terroir. His cuisine is all about balance, with a dash of American nostalgia. He gets it.”
—Daniel Boulud, chef-owner of Daniel