Cook books--what's your favorite?

bean_counter_z4November 16, 2006

I enjoy this forum so much and lately it has been real slow. Searching for interesting topics to discuss.

Usually when I cook I donÂt use a recipe. I know the general ingredients and ad-lib extras that appeal to me. When I want to try something new, I search thru my Kraft recipe magazinesÂI get one 4 times per year. They have the best ideas for entertaining. I also enjoy looking thru those little cookbooks church groups and organizations put together of favorite family recipes. They remind me of the foods my Mom cooked when I was a kid. Any must have cookbooks you would recommend?

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I cannot say that I have a favorite, but the Time-Life Foods of the World series and the original two volume Julia Child books have never failed me. I haven't counted the number of cookbooks I have collected, but these are the ones that I can routinely count on for foolproof information.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 2:58PM
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Funny you should mention Time-Life cookbooks. A loooong time ago - right out of college - I worked for a large accounting firms and one of my clients was Time, Inc. in NYC. One of the perks of that assignment was that you could shop in the Company Store where books were deeply discounted. I bought a Holiday Cookbook that has recipes arranged by all the different holidays. Though I have alot of cookbooks, this is the one that I use the most. I guess good basic cooking just doesn't go out of style.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 4:53PM
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How does one pick a favorite from the more than 200 cookbooks on the shelves. It really depends on what sort of recipe I'm trying to find (or modify).

I read cookbooks the way other people read novels, though. So maybe I'm not a good respondent. But among modern cookbooks, some of my favorites would include: "New York Cookbook," by Molly O'Neill; the Williams Sonama "New American Cooking," and "Gardeners' Community Cookbook," by Victoria Wise.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 5:00PM
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Gardenlad, I just bought a copy of the "New York Cookbook"; unfortunately, the first recipe we tried was a bit of a disaster. It was Laurie Colwin's Baked Chicken recipe that had an unusually long cooking time of 2 1/2 hours, but Colwin claimed that "this is what makes it crispy and luscious." She was wrong: it was waaaay overdone.

I'm with you in your love of cookbooks. We've always been unable to resist them, but in the past year, we've really started collecting -- some very old, some new, some extremely expensive, some just little pamphlets -- love the really early Jello ones for their wonderful artwork. An eclectic cookbook collection has historical and sociological value above and beyond just the recipes. Fascinating stuff.

At last count, we had more than 750. So it would be very difficult to name a favorite. Probably our most prized one is a first edition of Charles Ranhofer's "The Epicurean," which was published in the 1890s.

But for actual use, we've almost worn out our copy of Gourmet's "In Short Order," which is geared toward quick meals for two. And of course, we rely on some basic ones, like Joy and Fannie Farmer, for standards like pie crust. Oh, and Julia Child's "The Way to Cook" is a masterpiece.

I could go on and on...:-)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 7:42PM
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For basic reference, The Joy of Cooking

For fancier stuff, Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'

For Italian, Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking"

You mentioned you like those church group/organization cookbooks. I'm a Louisiana native. Two of the best in that genre are 'River Road Recipes' (from Baton Rouge) and 'Talk about Good!' (from Lafayette)

And my all-time favorite Louisiana cookbook (better than Paul Prudhomme's, better than Justin Wilson's, WAY better than that upstart Emeril LaGasse's) is Richard Collin's 'The New Orleans Cookbook'

With these, you can cook anything that is worth eating.

Bon appetit!

Here is a link that might be useful: new orleans cookbook

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 7:52PM
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My favorite is The Gourmet Cookbook. Except for one, all the recipes I've tried are keepers. The instructions are easy to follow with times given for each step.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 9:25PM
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Sorry to hear you were disappointed, SuzyQ. I just reread that recipe, and, despite the disclaimers, would never believe it could cook for that long. Not at that high temp. Has to turn out like shoeleather.

But the book is a fun read, particularly for someone like me who grew up in that milieu.

Can I ask what you paid for your copy? Mine was 50 cents at a garage sale---for a book in like-new condition. A buddy actually found it, and loaned me the book. Little did he know it would be a permanent loan, heh, heh, heh.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 10:59PM
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gardenlad, I know, I know. But I had faith. :-) And the recipe was so easy. But yes, it was dried out, to say the least. I prefer dark meat, so mine was okay. My husband's breast, if you will, was pretty much inedible. She mentions that she made it so often that finally her guests asked her to stop. Now I know why.

I found a like-new hardbound copy with a dust jacket for $3.20 on Alibris. I believe it was a mistake, because the same seller had it up on other sites for about $15. Doesn't beat your garage-sale price but still a bargain. The original price was $27.95.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 11:58AM
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Well, anything that sounds too good to be true usually is. :>) She must have strange friends if they liked that dish.

But ya gotta admit, the book is a fun read otherwise.

Another great read is Terrance Brennan's "Artisanal Cooking." But after trying a couple of his recipes, I don't trust any of them. Mostly the book exists to sell his products, and promote his restaurants. But it's a fun book to curl up with. And you can, with a little effort, adapt the recipes and make them work.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 1:53PM
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There are few things more aggravating than slipshod cookbooks riding the coattails of TV personalities. The lack of interest in getting corrections out to those who pay the freight, those who have better things to do than figure out the typos and rewrite disconnects. When a recipe stinks it starts and ends with the names at the top and bottom of the book's spine.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 7:13AM
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Couldn't agree more, Laat.

I don't think Brennan is a TV type. But he has two or three restaurants, and an "artisanal cheese" mail order shop which carries some of the most overpriced products I've ever seen.

The problem with books like his isn't with the experienced cook. It's the just-folks cook who wants to step up to something gourmet; maybe for a special occasion, maybe just because it's time. Whatever.

That person has a right to expect that a "famous" chef, and an expensive book (Brennan's book cost $35 in the bookstores, more if you get it from him), provide recipes that have the ingredients, prep methods, and cooking times right.

Someone like me, who cooks that way all the time, can read a recipe and, usually, spot the flaws. But the person stepping up to "fancy" cooking lacks the experience to do so, and, thus, becomes very disappointed. And wastes both time and expensive ingredients.

It just ain't right!

I'll get off the soapbox now.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 10:30AM
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The Barefoot Contessa
I have the first 4 books and everything from them has been wonderful. There's a new one now, but I haven't made anything from it. The recipes aren't fussy, rely on good ingredients, the pictures are beautiful, and the books are a joy to read.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 1:57AM
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DH says we're at 420 cookbooks and counting. (I'm with G-L on the cookbooks-as-novels thing). Nevertheless, the oldies but goodies are the ones to which I return over and over. The first New York Times Cookbook (best leg of lamb!). The Junior League of Houston's Stop and Smell the Rosemary is a pretty one, and I've used a few of those recipes. Some of my favorite recipes come from Fine Cooking Magazine, one of which I'm using, again, for Thanksgiving. It's a cheesecake with cranberry-Cointreau topping. Big hit last year. Some cookbooks are for inspiration, others are for actual directions.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 3:18PM
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Something to keep in mind, for those who haven't discovered it, is that most library's have rather extensive cookbook collections.

Even my local library---not particularly known for having much of anything---has 5 bookcases with nothing but cookbooks. Plus they can order anything I want on the ILL.

The real problem with reading cookbooks for recreation is that there are so many recipes you then want to try. And your "to try" files get way out of hand.

That's even worse, I think, with the cooking magazines.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 4:15PM
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I was a bit of a fanatic for a few years when I finally got interested in cooking...I too haunted the library and bookstores for cookbooks. But then I ran across a marvelous book, "Impromptu Cooking" by Glenn Andrews. In it, she describes how she went from a strictly "follow the recipe" cook to one who can wing it. And best of all, encouraged me to try. I reread her book often...(she does include recipes and variations) but mostly for inspiration.

First, you have to get all the basics of course, (and a favorite along those lines was, for me, Rene Verdon's "French Cooking for the American Table" for the "why" of things.

I've still got quite a few cookbooks, but I've quit acquiring new ones ...or if I do succumb, pass it along after reading. Enjoy the Cooking Forum here and several other sites to get my "reading recipes" kicks nowadays. josh

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 12:53AM
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Aside from the usual suspects, my favorite this week is *Flatbreads & Flavors* -- this one's a sleeper because there are the expected breads from around the world but also great dips, spreads, curries & casseroles to "go with."

Having 3 new bookcases delivered tomorrow to hold cookbooks that grow & grow...

And yes, there are great cookbooks at the public library. I get a new one every couple weeks, it's great fun & gives me a chance to try new things I'm not ready to invest in. I know a lot of folks prefer the internet for recipes, but I still love a book in hand, preferable with great photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flatbreads & Flavors

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 2:09PM
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Well now you've gone and done it, Athomein. I thought I was done for awhile, but this sounds like a must-have.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 3:21PM
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My favorite book is Steaks, Chops, Roasts and Ribs. It's by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. It's not just recipes, they discuss why a certain cut of meat should be used over another one for a specific type of recipe. For instance, should you use pork shoulder or butt for a specific stew. There's also discussions about ingredients, etc. They go over all the different methods of cooking a specific dish and talk about what was good and bad from each method. They also talk about what type of cookware works best for each type of dish. There's sections just explaining the differences on cuts of meat and a review on mail order steaks. It's taught me a lot about meat.

Some of my favorites from this book are Prime Rib, Steak Au'Poivre with Brandy Peppercorn Cream Sauce, Pork Vindaloo and Meatloaf.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 9:21AM
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Hands down my favorite cookbook is Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Maddison. IÂm not a vegetarian! In fact DH and I are in love with meat lol! ;) We just never grew up on deliciously prepared veggies and when I got pregnant I knew I needed to bring them into my diet. The book is very wholesome and nutritious.

I also love Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, and The Essential Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy


    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 11:33AM
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Joy of Cooking and Craig Claiborne's Kitchen primer, Beard on Pasta and a little pamphlet called "The Impoverished Student's Book of Cookery, Drinkery and Housekeepery" are my favorites.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 8:30PM
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My favorite cookbook of all time is my Madame Benoits' Encyclopedia of Canadian Cuisine. It was published by Canadian Homes Magazine in 1963. It is good for the novice ccok, as well as, the well experienced chef. It is an encyclopedia in every sense of the word. I just love it.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 10:47PM
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I agree about the Barefoot Contessa books. Julia and Jacques, Cooking At Home--everything works. I also love my 1950's Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book for technique. Lastly I love my Sassafras Junior League cookbook. It was my first, and I still make my carrot cake from that recipe.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 11:28AM
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