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Favorite recipes/cookbooks - for hounds who are also maniac cooks

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Made Marcella Hazan's recipe from "Marcella's Italian Kitchen" for cabbage rolls with beef, prosciutto, and Parmesan cheese filling last night (I know, not very summery, but...)and was musing on the fact that I've never made anything bad from one of her books. Anyone have other particular can't-fail, total favorites they would like to discuss?? The veal with hazelnits and pork scaloppine w/onions, balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, and currants from the same book are also divine.

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    Michael Lewis

    Bernard Loiseau's 'Trucs, Astuces et Tours de Main' is an excellent general food book, full of tips for dealing with all kinds of ingredients. For practical recipe books of the non-coffee table kind the Roux brothers' are pretty useful, very well tested and easily adaptable recipes, practical standard preparations and a minimum of close-ups of dewy bunches of spring-onions, they also have the added advantage of being written in English.
    Ones to avoid would be any of Charlie Trotter's. They are designed to strike one with awe, confuse and make one feel incompetent while at the same time making him and his restaurant seem so much the cleverer with their execution of the seemingly impossible dishes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Michael Lewis

      Thanks to all for responses - most things ring a big bell with me too, especially Sunset magazine (former Californian still subscribes...) but occasionally their recipes are a little twee (I remember a risotto w/persimmons that was unthrilling - come to think of it, why did I bother)???
      Also - Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is very good - the shrimp recipes esp. so.
      Brother Juniper's book on bread baking which came out in 98 or 99 (formulas for various types, the baguette prime among them) has replaced most other bread books in my affections, and for brownies, NicK Malgieri's Chocolate book's supernatural brownies, ditto.
      So much cooking to do, so little time.

    2. Agree with the Hazan assessment. A fixture at many of our meals is her totally elegant,simple chicken with lemon. And always a hit with company, too. We often serve it with a pasta w/pesto side starch. Brownie recipe in Joy of Cooking is also a staple, never fail. (In fact my 13 year old daughter has become very adept at baking, starting with this recipe.)

      1. Marcella's recipes always seem to work for me. I make her two roast chicken recipes from "Essential Classic Italian Cooking" (lemon chicken, and w. rosemary & garlic) repeatedly and never tire of them. Try her Bolognese sauce from the same book some time; it takes a while to do and is a heart-attack special but tastes terrific and is actually quite easy.

        But there are lots of other cookbooks that work. I'm fond of Jacques Pepin's stuff. A recipe for a sauteed chicken in one of his books gave me a whole new slant on any chicken saute. (I'll put this in a separate post sometime). That recipe included "steak sauce," and this from a French restaurant chef. One reason I like his stuff that he's willing to adapt to ordinary American home kitchen requirements and that he also realizes people are unwilling to spend all day shopping and can't always afford truffles.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hobokenhenry

          You're right about the wonderfully unpretentious frenchman. Probably comes from his many years as a "culinary engineer" for Howard Johnsons - I wonder if he was the one to come up with those perfect clamstrips....

        2. Cookbooks--my favorite things next to the tools in my kitchen. Yes, Marcella Hazan is a treasure. The recipe that popped into my mind while reading your post is penne with spinach and ricotta sauce, probably because I make this fast and easy dish from "More Classic Italian Cooking" relatively often. (Add a grate of nutmeg.) Patricia Wells too. "Bistro Cooking" in particular has inspired many a menu when my own brain clicked off. Paula Wolfert's "Couscous And Other Good Food From Morocco" has served me well over the years. And I dare not leave out Julia Child or "The Splendid Table" by Lynne Rossetto Kaspar. "Larousse" and "Le Cordon Bleu At Home" have been good resources too.

          For the past few years, though, James Peterson's books have been getting the most use. I have all of them and refer to them frequently. Sometimes in search of a specific recipe and other times for guidance on a technique or how to improve a recipe from another source. They're packed with sound advice and information that inspire confidence.

          When I was little I'd take all of my stuffed animals to bed at night because I didn't want to hurt any of their feelings. (My parents stopped getting me stuffed animals.) I'm feeling kind of like that now. Did I leave out a trusted friend?

          1. I've said it before: Julia Child is God. She had more impact on the way people cook--and eat--in this country than any single person of the century. (She always demurs and says "There's Before Beard and After Beard," but I've thought about this for a number of years.) Her books are lively, fun to read, intensely informative, and I have yet to be anything less than thrilled by my results with her books by my side.

            But there are many, many others, as you've all indicated. Marcella Hazan is phenomenal--those recipes ALWAYS work!! Jacques Pépin, who, second to Julia, has taught me the most. Yes, he is delightfully unpretentious. I love Tom Colicchio's new book--thinking of him because he actually learned to cook from Pépin's LA METHODE and LA TECHNIQUE--I'm cooking my way right through Colicchio's THINK LIKE A CHEF and learning all sorts of wonderful techniques.

            THE JOY OF COOKING was my first cookbook, and I'm not alone in adoring it in all its incarnations. Mark Bittman's books---with and without Jean-Georges Vongerichten--are marvelous. Rick Rodgers and I seem to have the same palate--his books, esp. FONDUE, FRIED AND TRUE, and PRESSURE COOKING FOR EVERYONE--are intensely delicious. Lynne Rossetto Kasper's two books are sublime. Rozanne Gold's 1-2-3- books are simply amazing--you think her concept is going to be simple stuff for people who hate to cook or who can't afford certain ingredients.They are nothing of the kind! And yes, James Peterson is irrepressibly great to cook with.

            Two that true chowhounds should check out: THE BAD FOR YOU COOKBOOK by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller (authentic recipes for the BEST stuffed cabbage, all sorts of forgotten and/or forbidden recipes) and EAT DANGEROUSLY by Benjamin Lewis and Rodrigo Velloso. I think i'ts available only at their web site of that name.

            Two patron saints of chowhound hood are surely Jane and Michael Stern, and their books are all treasures.

            Oh, I feel like Dee and those stuffed animals--I know I'm leaving someone out in the cold. Sorry most of these are so familiar--they are for very good reasons well-known.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Tom Steele

              See, I DID leave one out. How could I have forgotten "Joy of Cooking?" When I first went solo in this life, I bought two cookbooks, "Joy of Cooking" and "From Julia Child's Kitchen." Even though I'd started cooking at an early age, Mom had always been a phone call (local) or a yell-down-the-hall away when I needed advice. But long-distance calls every time I had a question weren't in the budget. "Joy" was much more than a cookbook for me in those days..."she" was substitute Mom.

              Thanks for the recommendations on the Maynard/Scheller and Lewis/Velloso books. I'll check them out.

              1. re: Tom Steele

                Great list, Tom! I printed it out and will take it on my next trip to the bookstore.

                1. re: Tom Steele
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                  Caitlin Wheeler

                  I love the New Joy of Cooking and all recipes from Gourmet (I have never had a recipe from Gourmet come out badly). My favorite beginner's cookbook is the Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes -- It's simple and delicious. I found it in a little tiny used bookshop in the English countryside, but it may be worth poking around on the internet (half.com) to find books of hers.