For TBR Challenge this month I am sooo cheating. Well, sort of. I had intended to read The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel, but I completely forgot about the deadline (note to self: add a one week reminder to my TBR Challenge calendar). But Misfits by Garrett Leigh, the book I’m reviewing today, also qualifies. In fact, it DOUBLE qualifies. My friend Sarah Lyons recommended it to me in the fall of 2014 long before it came out and sent me an ARC. She thought with all the food that it would be perfect for me. Since she’s the one who recommended Alexis Hall’s Glitterland, which is now one of my favorite books, you’d think I’d have just trusted her. But there was something about it that made me hesitate. I think maybe the blurb sounded like a love triangle? Which honestly I’m not totally opposed to. I’ve seen even that done well. But I guess I wasn’t in the mood for a drama-fest. Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago when the book went on sale at Riptide (where it is still 50% off) and my friend Liz prodded me until I finally picked it up. I’m glad she did because I’m kicking myself now. Not only is this NOT a love triangle book, it’s quite sweet and romantic and sexy and just darned terrific.
Misfits is the story of a young man with Tourette Syndrome, a business-minded restaurant chain owner and his chef partner. Tom and Cass have been together as a couple in a committed, but open relationship for a very long time. They even own a chain of restaurants together with Tom taking on the business aspects and Cass handling the menus. While Tom and Cass love each other very much, they’re both busy with their thriving business, have three separate houses and don’t see each other very much. There’s not a sense that the relationship is really in trouble yet, but I did feel some anxiety for them when I saw how separate their lives had become.
When Tom meets Jake, a waiter in a terrible corporate pub, they have instant chemistry. Tom brings him home and they share a night of passion, but in the heat of the moment, Tom fails to explain that he’s not single. So when he goes to work in the morning and Cass comes home, Jake is understandably perturbed and doesn’t stick around long enough to find out that Cass isn’t. Then when Jake loses his job and goes to work for their company, the three men find that they have a lot more in common than just sexual chemistry. Tom gives Jake space to figure out what he wants out of his career. Cass makes room for Jake in their home. And Jake makes both Tom and Cass make promises that draw them closer to each other and to him.
There are a couple of directions ménage romances can go. There is often jealousy among the partners, drama with their families and a ton of insecurity. Another popular trope that I can’t stand is “make the boys kiss” where the writer takes two “straight” guys and places a gay guy or a girl in the middle and makes the story all about that. There was absolutely no hint of any of those cliched plotlines in Misfits. Instead we get a book that works through the emotional and practical implications of inviting more love into an already loving relationship. While Tom and Cass worked as a couple before, the addition of Jake makes them realize where they could be better–for themselves, for each other and for him.
The only thing annoying about Misfits is how long it took me to get around to reading it. I won’t be making the same mistake with Between Ghosts, Leigh’s new book that came out this week. It’s honestly another case of the blurb not totally appealing to me–the story of a journalist and a solider in Iraq–but this time I won’t be fooled. I think Leigh has a wonderful voice and a sensitivity to her characterizations that might just carry me through any plot.
Most of the time if I really love a book, I can find some way to work in the food angle, even if it’s a stretch. And then there are books like Misfits. This is one of those books that I could cook from for the rest of the year. So, uh, there will be another recipe post tomorrow because I got just a little bit excited about how much I loved the book and how much I loved the food in the book and went just a little bit overboard.
The main plotline of the book (aside from the romance) is that Tom and Cass are in the process of opening a new restaurant in the Camden neighborhood of London. When Jake comes on board, he takes the project and really makes it his. They end up calling it Misfits and the restaurant is basically a metaphor for their whole relationship. They all feel like Misfits, but somehow when they get everything together it works like nothing else.
And can I just say that I found myself desperately wishing that this restaurant was a real place? The concept they come up with is burgers and champagne! With a choice of two of six ice creams and three of twelve toppings for dessert! And gourmet jelly beans with the check! All served on mismatched plates! There are not enough exclamation points for how delightful I think this is! So, uh, I did it. All of it.
Truly the burgers and potato wedges are pretty simple. The only specific burger they reference in the book is a Thai chicken burger. I took some of my favorite Thai flavors and put them into a chicken burger on a brioche bun and then roasted some loosely Thai-inspired potato wedges in the oven. And then added a vinegary mayonnaise dipping sauce for the fries, which also serves as one of the spreads for the burger.
You’ll have to come back tomorrow for the ice cream because including them here was just too much food for one post. Or should I say ICE CREAMS. I made two. Because there are two in the book. After thrift shopping for all the mismatched glass.
No, it’s okay. I absolutely do know how utterly ridiculous I am.
- 3 medium Russet potatoes, cut into wedges
- zest and juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- cooking spray
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 Thai chili (the skinny little red kind), minced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 inch of peeled, grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 brioche rolls
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 carrots, shaved lengthwise into curls
- 2 small handfuls watercress
- 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce, divided
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise dipping sauce, divided (see below)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon course salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a cookie tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray
- In a medium bowl, combine the lime zest, lime juice, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and olive oil and whisk to combine.
- Put the potato wedges in a large plastic zip-top bag and pour in the spice mixture. Shake until potatoes are thoroughly coated. Spread the wedges evenly on the cookie tray.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping the wedges halfway through.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ground chicken, fish sauce, Thai chili, garlic, ginger and breadcrumbs mix with your hands. Form into four equal balls. (Yes, I know it's gross. I'm sorry.)
- In a large skillet or grill, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken balls and cook for three minutes. Flip, then squish flat with a large spatula. Cook for 5 minutes, then flip and cook an additional five minutes. Continue to cook until there is no pink when you cut into the burger or a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.
- Spread both sides of brioche buns with butter and heat on the grill or in another skillet over medium heat, moving the bread around so that they brown evenly.
- Place one burger on each bun and top with shaved carrot, watercress and half a tablespoon each of mayonnaise dipping sauce and sweet chili sauce. Service with potato wedges and more dipping sauce on the side.
- Combine mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and minced garlic in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- With chicken burgers I find this method leads to the best results. If you have an outdoor grill and want to cook them there, that would be even better but you might want to form them into patties first. Make sure your grill is thoroughly greased or you will hate your life.
- These recipes are on the spicy side. If you prefer less spice, leave out the Thai chili and cut back to a pinch of cayenne pepper on the potato wedges.
March 15, 2015
eARC from the publisher