Cookbook review: Big recipes from the Big Aristotle

“Shaq’s Family Style: Championship Recipes for Family and Friends” by Shaquille O’Neal with Rachel Holtzman, Matthew Silverman, and Matthew Piekarski (Ten Speed, $29.99)

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“Shaq’s Family Style: Championship Recipes for Family and Friends” by Shaquille O’Neal with Rachel Holtzman, Matthew Silverman, and Matthew Piekarski (Ten Speed, $29.99)

‘Shaq’s Family Style: Championship Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends’ by Shaquille O’Neal with Rachel Holtzman, Matthew Silverman, and Matthew Piekarski (Ten Speed, $29.99)

Shaquille O’Neal studied basketball greats like Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Wilt Chamberlain to learn his moves on the court.

He credits his mother, Lucille, for keeping him well fed as he filled out his 7′1″ frame. Mac and cheese, fried chicken, barbecued chicken and banana pudding were in regular rotation. So was spinach, he claims, “because I thought I was Popeye, and it was the only vegetable I’d eat.” Even on a lean budget, his mom had a knack for stretching inexpensive ingredients like Frosted Flakes — one of his favorite foods to this day that turns up in the milkshakes of his restaurant chain, Big Chicken, and in the recipes for chocolate chip cookies and French toast smothered in cinnamon-whiskey maple syrup in his new cookbook.

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In the introduction to “Shaq’s Family Style: Championship Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends” (Ten Speed, $29.99), the 15-time NBA All-Star admits that when it comes to cooking, he came late to the game. But having spent much of 2020 at home with his family in the Atlanta area, he’s had time to get up to speed — with help from his executive chef partners Matthew Silverson and Matthew Piekarski, who shared their culinary expertise for his book.

Recipes are inspired by O’Neal’s upbringing, personal tastes and career on and off the court. If you didn’t already know that Shaq owns the flagship Krispy Kreme in Atlanta, you will when you read the recipe for Coffee and Doughnut Bake with Peanut Butter-Dulce de Leche. And while no special equipment is required for Shrimp and Beer Bake, he lets you know that the Shaq Smokeless 2-in-1 Indoor Electric Grill and Griddle might make the task easier.

While these recipes are designed with larger-than-life appetites in mind, he does include a chapter called “Shaq Diesel — Fuel for When You Want Things Healthy(ish).” I can’t say I felt any lighter after feasting on Garlic-Citrus Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Black-Eyed Pea Succotash. But from a taste standpoint, it was a slam-dunk.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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