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'Top Chef All-Stars' Winner Richard Blais' Cookbook Arrives in a True Blaze of Glory

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"Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate" by Richard Blais (Clarkson Potter, $30).

Even if you never watched Bravo's "Top Chef All-Stars," from flipping through his first cookbook, "Try This at Home," it's impossible to miss winner Richard Blais' super-sized confidence.

Even just a quick pressure-cooker bacon recipe is a work of art. "I love the backwardness of this recipe," writes the chef and owner of The Spence, Flip Burger Boutique and HD1 in Atlanta. "You take cured pieces of pork and then rehydrate them to make them velvety and soft. It's like painting a masterpiece and then painting over the canvas again, to make it more of a masterpiece."

Like all great artists, Blais is right on all counts regarding the thyme- and yellow onion-accented bacon, as well as 125 times over in this imaginative color photograph-filled cookbook.

Perhaps when Blais attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, he majored in creativity. Even though he's seasoned enough to own three restaurants and have an acclaimed history that led to them, his recipes (and the photo on the book cover of his head on a platter sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper) prove that he'll be eternally fresh faced.

He confesses about his iceberg Carpaccio that includes some of that dynamic bacon that he knows iceberg lettuce is already raw. However he calls it that (a la the famed meat dish) because he serves the lettuce in balls to resemble it.

Tuna is Blais' "other white meat," and he has invented show-stopping recipes for dishes, such as tuna prime rib, tuna tartare with sunny-side up eggs, tuna steak frites and tuna fillet au poivre.

Everything gets his unique treatment, from salads to sweets, such as cream cheese or sweet tea ice creams (as well as advice on how to create additional dry ice ice creams).

If some of this is slightly unnervingly unusual, Blais also includes the welcome touch of detailing possible menus with convenient page numbers attached, as well as a "Don't Eat This" section featuring helpful kitchen tools.

PRESSURE-COOKER BRAISED BACON

1 1/2 pound piece slab bacon or pancetta

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 1/2 cups water

Yields 1 1/2 pounds bacon.

Put the bacon, onion, thyme and water in a pressure cooker and attach the lid.

Set the pot over medium-high heat. When it begins to hiss, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes. If the pot is not hissing, raise the temperature slightly until it does.

Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and let stand until the pressure subsides before removing the lid.

Carefully transfer the bacon to a plate and let cool to room temperature (discard the cooking liquid). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Cut to the desired thickness to serve.

BUTTERMILK HERB DRESSING

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

1 teaspoon (preferably kosher) salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Yields about 2 cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients until well combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Note: Chef Blais often mixes with Sriracha and caviar. He serves it as is as a dipping sauce for French fries, a salad dressing for iceberg lettuce and even has "been known to freeze it into a savory ice cream and dehydrate it and pulverize it into a powder."

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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