Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Nook - The Best Recipe

I suspect that most people who cook homemade meals on a regular basis have some sort of tried & true cookbook that they refer to over & over for some of their favorite recipes.  Probaby more than one cookbook,  really.  I am no exception.  The following is one of my go-to cookbooks:

I love The Best Recipe because it provides tons of basic recipes that you're going to need if you cook regularly.  This would be the perfect gift to give someone just starting out on their own, or maybe a bride-to-be at her wedding shower (or, you could give it as a gift for the happy couple, along with a gift certificate to a cookware store).  But this book is not for newbies-only.  More established cooks would probably appreciate the book's take on all the standards.

When I say "take on all the standards," this is what I'm referring to: each recipe comes with a lengthy introduction that explains how the cookbook authors took a bunch of recipes for any given subject (say, mashed potatoes) and broke down what works, what doesn't work & why.  So, for mashed potatoes, they explain first of all which kind of potatoes work best for mashed potatoes (high starch potatoes) & the science behind this ("the full starch cells of high starch potatoes are most likely to maintain their integrity and stay separate when mashed").  They go on to explain the best methods to cook the potatoes & what happens when you don't follow those methods!  That's what makes this book so great: instead of just giving you a recipe, they provide a recipe with explanation - why this works best, why you should do this or not do that, etc.  They are arming the home cook with knowledge, so you'll know the hows & whys behind the recipe.  They do this all throughout the book, for every recipe!

Here are some of my favorites, recipes that I go to again & again: the mashed potatoes, (as previously mentioned) are great!  This is a really yummy, basic recipe that every cook should probably have up their sleeve. I know it sounds silly, but not everyone knows by instinct how to hardboil an egg!  I love the egg salad recipe because they give you the instructions on how to do it right.  I use the master recipe for pizza dough every time I make homemade pizza - it couldn't be easier!  The banana bread recipe is really sweet & yummy.  It's perfect for when you have a bunch of over-ripe bananas demanding your attention!  The Quiche Lorraine recipe is great & could easily be made vegetarian if one chooses.  The rich & creamy cheesecake is wonderful!!!  Beware if you make it, you won't be able to stop eating it.  I purposely don't make it very much because of this, but when I do make a plain cheesecake, this is the one I make (and devour)!  One of my favorite recipes here is the creme brulee recipe: it's my dorky little tradition to make "creme brulee on New Year's Day" every year!  So that's coming up & I'm really looking forward to it!  It's a very easy recipe & the authors give almost a whole spread of discussion on all their creme brulee trials - again, making it all the easier for the reader to learn from their mistakes!

There are more recipes that I've tried from the book, but these are the ones that I have post-it-notes marking the pages, or that pull open to that page easily from all the use it's gotten over the years.  I should mention that this version is the older one - the Cook's Illustrated people came out with an updated version a couple of years after I purchased my book.  I checked it out at the library once & there are lots more recipes in it.  The one for oatmeal is really good, I've used it so much that I don't need to refer to the actual recipe anymore!  But the older version is great in its own right (and it's cheaper now, I think)!  The only complaint I can give is that there aren't photos of the recipes.  But since many of them are standard recipes, you probably don't need a photo to know how it should look (like the mashed potatoes).  There are excellent black & white illustrations given when there's a technique that needs to be enhanced by a visual.

All in all, this is a really excellent cookbook.  I highly recommend it!

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