James’ “Go-To” Culinary Books: A Peek Inside the CEO’s Kitchen
Updated: Jun 26, 2018
The mystery and intrigue of the culinary arts is something that society now thrives on along with the boom of reality television. Websites such as Pinterest enable people around the world to share every recipe imaginable and the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Ina Garten give us a glimpse behind the culinary curtain from the comfort of our own living rooms. We may be in sensory overload with so much of the once inaccessible knowledge at our fingertips, however one question that still burns the minds of every want-to-be chef is “What do the real culinary purists love?” With 30+ cookbooks to his name, extensive international travel and a life spent surrounded by a very “foodie” Italian and German family, it’s hard to comprehend where James O. Fraioli would even start to pick favorites. Although his palate may seem advanced on paper, James is an old soul at heart with a deep appreciation for traditional food and drinks, especially if there’s a story to tell behind the recipe.
As always with James, his responses are both surprising and thoughtful. It’s never just a fancy dish, nor is it just a unique cocktail. It’s two brothers coming together to make food inspired by a childhood full of family memories. It’s a simple cocktail served in a very specific type of glass. It’s the way he puts his own spin on a recipe or the way it reminds him of the fish he caught himself near his summer home just north of Seattle, in the San Juan Islands. James is passionate about every culinary project he embarks on and is equally obsessive about the food he chooses to make in his own kitchen.
(in no particular order)
The Palm Restaurant Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Classic American Steakhouse
If I could have only one cookbook in my kitchen, this would be it. It’s quality comfort food at its best, with recipes that happen to come from one of the most celebrated steak houses on the planet. The book is very similar to the Golden Steer Steakhouse Cookbook, which I assembled for the iconic Las Vegas establishment, but the Palm comes first because it was published before the Steer’s. The Palm Cookbook is not just for meat lovers either.
Chapters include: Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Seafood, Steaks and Chops, Veal and Poultry, Pasta, Sides, Dishes Made with Leftovers, and Desserts. My favorite recipes from this book, which I still make several times a month at home, include the table-side Caesar Salad, particularly their made-from-scratch dressing, and their house-made Marinara sauce, which I like to pour over my homemade turkey meatballs (a recipe I collected years ago from actor Joe Pesci).
Eva’s Kitchen: Cooking with Love for Family & Friends by Eva Longoria
This cookbook (Eva’s debut) features many dishes that the television star grew up on, as well as those inspired by her travels abroad and dishes she still serves during casual nights at home. Eva also showcases a number of international cuisines, including Mexican and Latin American, along with Italian and French, which is why I really like this book. When I want to spice up my dishes at home, I reach for her book. Although Eva has many recipes that do whet my palate, I always find myself turning to page 105 and her savory Flank Steak with Lime Marinade. The marinade includes olive oil, fresh lime juice, garlic, Serrano pepper, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Just make sure you thoroughly dry the steak before grilling. Otherwise, the steak will steam rather than sear, and you won’t get that nice crust.
In this day and age, with technology and all that high-tech gadgetry accelerating the world, not to mention traffic, congestion, and the hustle and bustle of city life, it’s nice to come home, turn on a Turner classic movie, and pour myself a drink…a drink that so happens to have survived the devastating years of Prohibition. And that’s what you get with Vintage Cocktails, savory libations from the 1920s, 30s, some even dating back to the mid-1800s. Stylish old cocktails mean fresh ingredients, quality spirits, and some with garnished culinary art. From an artist’s perspective, what makes this book especially inviting is that it’s meant for the coffee table and not tucked behind the bar. The vivid photographs were all taken at The Carlyle hotel’s world-famous Bemelams Bar, with most drinks in the book served in Baccarat crystal glasses. My favorite cocktails in the book: The classic Dry Martini, Manhattan, Mint Julep, Mojito, Negroni, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, and the Vesper, although the book’s recipe claims their Vesper is the original James Bond 007 martini. Not so…the original recipe is made with (to quote the Bond film Casino Royale) “…Three measures of Gordon’s (gin), one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.”
Brothers Cuisine: Recipes from Santa Barbara, California Wine Country
This is another one of my go-to books, which I happened to publish with restauranteurs Jeff and Matt Nichols. The pages contain a collection of the chefs’ favorite “comfort-food” dishes that they continue to prepare for their guests in the Santa Barbara area. The brothers, who’ve been influenced by the family gardens of their youth, have cooked in great kitchens and have been mentored by celebrated chefs like Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck. When I’m at home and want to make a special dish for family or friends, this is the book I’ll thumb through, as there’s something in here for everyone. Chapters include: Homemade breads, Cocktails, Burgers & Bar Specialties, Starters, Salads, Vinaigrettes & Dressings, Soups, Risottos, Fish & Shellfish, Meat & Poultry, Starches & Vegetables, Stocks & Sauces, and Desserts. The two dishes I prepare out of this book on a regular basis are their to-die-for Filet Mignon Crispy Tacos (don’t worry, you can also use diced Top Sirloin). Make these tacos and you won’t make tacos with hamburger again. The other is their Horseradish-Crusted Salmon with Vegetable Brown Rice & Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce. This recipe takes a little practice, but after a couple attempts, it will be your go-to salmon dish. The only item I eliminate from the recipe is the Horseradish Crust. I live in the Pacific Northwest and have access to abundant wild-caught salmon (which I often catch myself in the summertime). Because the fish is so fresh and literally hours old from being pulled from the icy waters of the Pacific, there’s no need to blanket the fish with a crust…but don’t eliminate the sauce. That’s what makes this dish so delectable (other than the fresh, wild salmon, of course)!
Golden Steer Steakhouse Las Vegas: Recipes, Tales & Celebrities from the Legendary Las Vegas Restaurant
Last, but certainly not least, is this cookbook, which I also assembled with a team of excellent and experienced chefs. I must say, after 30 cookbooks to my name, and a James Beard Award, I’m not always so easily impressed, but the Golden Steer Steakhouse blew me away. These iconic, old-school restaurants simply don’t exist anymore. It is where the old school goes to get schooled. After spending a week in the Steer’s kitchen, I broke down every recipe. Nothing is written down, so I literally went into their kitchen and learned to make everything. Well, the time paid off with a 215-page collaboration with Steer owner Dr. Michael J. Signorelli. The celebrated book shares recipes and pays homage to one of the city’s most important landmarks. Similar to the Palm Restaurant Cookbook, this book contains easy-to-make comfort food dishes from an iconic steak house. Chapters include Signature Cocktails, Appetizers, Stocks, Rouxs & Soups, Dressings, Salads & Breads, Prime Aged Beef & Chops, Seafood, Italian Specialties, Vintage Selections, Accompaniments, Sides & Sauces, and Desserts. My go-to recipes that I make at home from this book are the Narragansett Bay Clams Casino, Signature Garlic Bread, Bone-In Ribeye (with a ladle of beef stock, which is key before serving), Chicken Parmigiana, their phenomenal Twice-Baked Potato, and Cherries Jubilee for dessert!