One of the most relaxing things that I do is to make a cup of coffee and read a cookbook. I realize that it's odd, after all cookbooks aren't really books to be read, they're books to be used. However I see a cookbook the same way I see an album. Sure there are individual songs on an album, but taken all together they mean something, the artist Is saying something. I feel the same way about cookbooks. You can take each recipe individually, but there's a reason they are collected together. The author is saying something.
For this reason I usually don't love anthology style cookbooks that feel like binders of recipes. I prefer a smaller book with anecdotes and stories. I have however found the exception. The New York Times Cookbook. If you're looking to get an expansive and definitive cookbook, containing all the classics as well as some nostalgic recipes, this is it.
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Over the years several relatives have given me giant anthologies (Better Homes Cookbook, etc) but I admit I have never used them. I've read through them, but the hallmark of a good cookbook is one you can actually...cook from. I found this book to be the most versatile to cook from. The recipes are easy to follow, but there are so many to pick from. There is a recipe for everything, the bread section alone is worth the price.
The Book: The New York Times Cook Book, Revised Edition. (c)1990 Craig Claiborne.
You can purchase the edition I have here.
The Author: Craig Claiborne was a well respected restaurant critic and food editor for the New York Times. Claiborne was a food celebrity before there were food celebrities. He really elevated the idea of food writing and what newspaper coverage of restaurants should be. In the same vein as Juilia Child he made French Cuisine and other foods accessible to American home cooks.
What I Like About It:
I find the book very accessible. I will admit that some of the recipes are a bit dated, but in a wonderfully nostalgic way. If you want to try something for the first time, there is probably a recipe for it in this book. You'll find the basic recipe (for example in the Pasta section, it starts with how to make a pasta dough) and then you are treated to every imaginable pasta recipe possible. If you feel like making mushrooms? There's over 20 different ways to prepare chicken, and an entire section on Turkey. Not to mention salads, soups, breads, dressings, desserts, appetizers, you name it!
The recipes are presented in no frills fashion. There are no pictures or illustrations, but you don't need them, they are easy to follow. Each page contains 2-3 recipes and there are over 800 pages. So as you can imagine this is an immense collection. You could cook a recipe a day and take years to get through everything.
I enjoy that the recipes themselves use a mix of easy to find ingredients (I should note that I live in a fairly metropolitan area and my grocery stores contain a variety of ingredients) and some specialty ingredients for elevated dishes. I also appreciate that the recipes really showcase the techniques of each section. In other words, if you wanted to learn how to make bread, working your way through the bread section would have you creating different types of breads (sourdoughs, croissants, biscuits, etc), and would guide you through the techniques for each.
Since this is the updated version it contains more global cuisine than previous versions, and as someone who is primarily familiar with French and Italian cuisine, I enjoyed the addition of these recipes and found they were accessible to a first timer. If your family had a comfort food unique to your culture, it's probably in this book!
If you enjoy cooking and like to learn classic techniques and try different recipes, this is a great book. It doesn't physically take up as much space as a traditional anthology style book, and it is easy to follow and find what you are looking for.
There are whole sections devoted to sauces, butters, stocks, pickling...you get the picture, if you want to try your hand at different techniques in the kitchen, you need this book.
I think this would make a fantastic gift for someone who just purchased their first home, or even an apartment warming gift for a first apartment. It's a great book for coming home, putting on some music, and losing yourself in the rhythm of the kitchen.
Flank Steak With Herb Stuffing
Vanilla Crumb Crust
Apple-Sour Cream Pie
Fresh Pasta With Spinach and Proscuitto
Beignets Au Fromage
Do you prefer one subject cookbooks or anthology style books?