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April 2010 Cookbook of the Month: How to Cook Everything

Our Cookbook of the Month for April will be Mark Bittman's HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING.

There are two editions, the original from 1998 and the 10th anniversary revised from 2008. I think it makes sense for people to cook from either (or both), so perhaps we should just mention which one we're using when we make our recipe reports. As of now, I've only used the original, so I for one, would welcome any discussion comparing the two editions.

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  1. Thanks Caitlin... a virtual shoo-in wasn't it?
    Here's a link to many of the on-line recipes:
    http://www.howtocookeverything.tv/rec...

    1. This is probably a good thing for me - I have the book and have used it a little, but not as much as such a huge book merits (I hope). Mine is the original, so I do hope that we don't find there is TOO much of a difference.

      1. Love this book. It's replaced Fannie Farmer as my go to. I have the original version and I have yet to make something from it that wasn't simple, delicious and easy to prepare.

        1. This book is so large - if anyone has any particular raves, I would love to hear them.

          1. If you don't have the revised edition, get it! Even if you already have the first edition. From the Introduction:

            "Much has changed in the world of food and cooking since 'How to Cook Everything' was first published in 1998... There are now more good ingredients available to all of us than ever before... Now you can buy nam pla (Thai fish sauce), shallots, fresh herbs, tofu, ginger, curry paste, and scores of other once-exitic ingredients at supermarkets all over the country. This expands our potential repertoire enormously. Where 'American' cooking once drew largely from northern European cuisines...we now routinely enjoy food from the rest of the world. This new edition of 'How to Cook Everything' reflects that.

            "It also reflects my further disenchantment with what was once called 'haute cuisine' - fancy food. This, I think, is best left to restaurants. So where int he original 'How to Cook Everything' I made some attempts to address the needs of those who like to replicate restaurant food as a hobby, here I'm leaving most of that behind. Home cooking is best when it's simple, straightforward, unpretentious, and easy."

            Cards on the table, then.

            "Simple" doesn't mean plain, or predictable, certainly not boring. Of course the standards are here, with quantities and timings that eliminate the guesswork in more loosely written cookbooks, though of course not the need to taste and make your own decisions. But the 2,000 recipes and variations also include exotica like braised oxtail with garlic and white wine, seafood and vegetable pancake Korean style, naan, and tarte tatin. I haven't made any of these yet, but I've made and liked "Mom's Pan-Cooked Peppers and Onions," and the variation with Italian sausage as an Italian sandwich or with pasta..

            One of Bittman's strategies is to offer lots of variations on a basic dish, encouraging home cooks to try their own. "Anything-Scented Peas" comes with 11 varieties, from the usual herbs to miso and "minced flowers, like lavender, rose petals, or anise hissop." If ever there was an invitation to experiment...

            Some Bittman dishes I've made and liked, in alphabetical order: anything-scented peas with miso; balsamic-glazed carrots with garlic; braised and glazed brussels sprouts; chicken and sausage jambalaya; fried chickpeas with chorizo and spinach; Italian sausage with peppers and onions; pan-cooked salmon with vinaigrette; rice pilaf with currants and pine nuts.

            62 Replies
            1. re: armagnac

              Well, since I have the original edition of How To Cook Everything and The Best Recipes in the World (I think that's the title) by Bittman, I don't think I'll be buying the new edition of HTCE.

              I love his COTRIADE recipe (p. 71 in the original HTCE).

              1. re: oakjoan

                Just what I was thinking: I need another book that huge like I need a hole in the head. Especially just an updated version of one I already own. No offense to armagnac!

                1. re: LulusMom

                  No offense taken, of course. But this is not "just an updated version," it's a major revision. If you've only room for one huge cookbook, this should be it, not the first edition. Have a browse at your local bookstore and see for yourself.

                  1. re: armagnac

                    Actually, I think having people report back on either version of the book this month could be very helpful. Maybe we'll get a real sense of how different the two versions really are and those who have only the older version of the book will get a specific sense of how the recipes have been updated or what's in the new version that's not in the old version, and vice versa, in case they want to "trade up."

                    I don't have either version. I checked them out of the library last summer, back when Bittman was "Expert in Residence" for a week. While I could see how they could be helpful for someone who only wants to own one or two bookbooks, I am a person who owns a lot of cookbooks. If I want to cook Sichuan or Vietnamese, I'd rather cook from Dunlop or Pham or Nguyen than cook a "Chinese'ish" or "Vietnamese'ish" recipe from Bittman. I guess I just didn't see the point.

                    But, nevermind, as I won't have time to experiment much in the kitchen in April anyway. Instead of a book called, "How to Cook Everything" I think I need a book right now "How to Cook ANYthing!". Thank goodness for my crock pot. I've been having great luck with Bayless' "Mexican Everyday" slow-cooker recipes...

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I looked at it when I was in the States last year, and it's not for me either. As I've been away for most of March, I might have a look at Kennedy in April instead.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        A few other veteran COTMers are going to do that as well, GG. I might just tag along for another month of Kennedy since I didn't get to cook as many recipes from her book as I anticipated. Also, I have the big green Gourmet Today book which I think is absolutely wonderful.

                        1. re: Gio

                          I'm a veteran now - how marvellous!

                          1. re: Gio

                            I want to start cooking from that Big Green Gourmet book, too! Love it! But, again, I'm going to be pretty scarce in COTM, probably until June. Such a bummer. But I love reading what everyone else is cooking!

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: Gio

                              Can you tell me more about the Big Green Gourmet book please. My cookbook antennae are twitching!

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Good Morning Greedygirl...
                                Well they might twitch! 1,000 recipes selected by Ruth Reichl, quick and simple ways to prepare tasty week-night meals, lots of vegetarian dishes, international favorites, shopping advice for farmers market produce... I just think it outshines any other large compendium of recipes on the market today. Everything we've made so far has been delicious.

                                Here's the link to the book's website with a review from the New York Times. I can't say it any better than this:
                                http://gourmettodaycookbook.com/reviews

                                Also, a few sample recipes are on another page.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Now you've done it Gio. I had successfully managed to avoid reading/buying this book until now ...

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Ain't that the truth. It's going on my birthday wish list, along with the new Ottolenghi, which is out in April or May (can't wait for this one).

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      You won't be disappointed, I assure you... and LLM.

                                      BTW: For the life of me I can't remember the title ot Ottolenghi's new book. I want to pre-order it and am at a loss. Can someone put this poor old brain out of its misery?

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        It's called Plenty and all the recipes are vegetarian. Out 5 May.

                                        http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/blog/2010...

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          Thank you! I see I've already signed up at Amazon USA to be notified when the book becomes available here. I'm wondering if I should open an account with the UK counterpart. Shipping from the UK is easy, isn't it?
                                          I love his first book. Now I have to have Plenty. Of course, DH would say i already have....

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            Given that the first one isn't available in America yet, it may be a long wait. I'm not sure that you need to open a new account with Amazon UK - I think you can just go on the UK site with your existing one and spend, spend, spend. ;-)

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              Busting in here to say that you can indeed order from the UK on a US account (to my chagrin) - and shipping is reasonable and reasonably fast (a week or so). I paid under $40.00 all in for the first Ottolenghi from Amazon UK.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                Oh thanks You Two! That's just what I wanted to hear...(This opens up all kinds of possibilities. Doesn't it.) Oy vey.

                                                3:20PM Edit to add: Done.

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  If you only knew...but you soon will!

                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                      Considering I already have 3 "May" books currently pre-ordered at Amazon US, May is going to be a doozey.
                                                      I need a tin cup and matchsticks.

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          "Brunetti's Cookbook: At Table with the Brunettis" by Roberta Pianaro, Donna Leon. And 2 Italian mysteries in a series I've been reading: 1 by Donna Leon. (Her latest to be published in the US. Main character is Commissario Brunetti), and 1 by Andrea Camilleri. But as with most Italian mysteries, it's all about the food. I've actually cooked some dishes just from the author's description of the meal.

                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                            I'm very fond of those books too. If you ever want to book-chat without a CH smackdown, my email is on my profile.

                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                              I need some translation here, Gio. Doozey? Tin cup and matchsticks? I'm with you on Camilleri, btw.

                                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                                Doozey = above and beyond expectations.

                                                                Tin cup & matchsticks = Picture a poor waif standing on the corner of a busy street wearing a tattered frock with ladders in her stockings, trying to sell fagots and holding a metal cup into which she expects buyers will deposit their coin. I'm channeling Charles Dickens here....work with me.

                                                              2. re: Gio

                                                                Ah, I was wondering when Donna Leon's cop was going to get his own cookbook! Or, more correctly, when his wife was going to get her own cookbook.

                                                                Gio - did you read the one about the waste disposal by the U.S. Army? A great read....although a bit of a disgusting topic for this website.

                                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                                  I've read everyone of Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti's books in order and now await the lastest one. His lunches are legendary but don't compare with the Sicilian Commissario Moltobano's trattoria meals and his housekeeper's dinners...He's the one who should have the cookbook, IMO

                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                    Gio -- which is the first one?

                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                      I hope the Mods allow this to stay....if not shoot me an e-mail. C: my profile.
                                                                      Death At La Fenice (1992).
                                                                      http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/d...
                                                                      http://www.groveatlantic.com/leon/tou...

                                                    2. re: Gio

                                                      In my experience, husbands are the absolute worst judges of the necessary size of a cookbook collection. Ignore him, and the next time he complains, inquire (sweetly, of course), "But didn't you like the ... I made last week, dear? That was from my newest cookbook."

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        Diversion, and confuse, I find these work well for me.

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    Gio: What if you (read "I" here) don't really like Ruth Reichl? Since I trust you guys a lot, I'll give it a look in the bookstore, but I think I have enough quick and easy meals books to last a lifetime...Ken Hom quick recipes (or something like that, too lazy to look), Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food, lots of stuff in Bittman, along with Cunningham's The Supper Book.

                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                      Hey Joan... I do agree with you about there being plenty of "quick cook" books out there.. I too have the Slater book and one other by him..and the Bittman the Best Recipes, etc. But does the personality of the author of cookbooks impact the good food produced with the recipes?

                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                        Sadly, due to my immaturity, the personality of the author does impact. I read Reichl's autobigraphical book about her mother and didn't like it at all. I also remember her reviews because I still DO live in Oakland. She's too googoo-breathy for me.

                                                        I have some gift certificate cash to spend at Moe's on Telegraph...maybe I'll give it a look over.

                                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                                          Let me know what you think.
                                                          Did you know that today is the 13th anniversary of Moe's death?

                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                            I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Googooiness (my problem with her too) suppressed. Ah, Moe's, many a happy hour spent there.

                                                        2. re: oakjoan

                                                          My two cents worth: I haven't been able to abide Ms Reichl since the days of her restaurant reviews a million years ago when we lived in Berkeley, and I love the green Gourmet book and am going to get the yellow one. The authorial voice in the green book is more general, not specifically hers, a pleasant mix of breezy and cosy.

                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                            I caved and got the Green one for £15 on Amazon and am waiting for it to be delivered. Shakes head sadly. There really is no hope for this hopeless addict!

                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                              Relax and enjoy it, it's a very good book. I'm still on cookbook-buying-hold pending The Move, it's killing me.

                                                            2. re: buttertart

                                                              What was it about Reichl's Berkeley-era reviews that made her so unlikable? I only ask because I really enjoyed her first three memoirs; all I know about her Berkeley days is what she has written--so I am just curious.

                                                              I'm always interested in reading about how people develop their attitudes/approaches to food, whether food celebrities or Chowhounds, but, like Oakjoan, I disliked Reichl's last book about her mother. (I guess I was expecting it to be ultimately about food and thus felt cheated.)

                                                              At any rate, I agree that Reichl the Personality, however one feels about that, doesn't really come through in the yellow Gourmet (and since I've made some of the recipes in her memoirs, I trust her recipe decisions). I think it's a great cookbook. I've avoided buying the green--so far--but only b/c I'm trying to practice some restraint, and my shelves are sagging!

                                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                They were gushy, icky-poo, self-referential, wannabe MFK Fisher without any of the reserve and discretion.
                                                                Her reviews in the Times were not quite as over-the-top (and she did review places like the Tang Pavilion and the first Grand Sichuan that were beneath Bryan Miller's lofty purview, I have to give her that).
                                                                I read the first memoirs and found them interesting, but haven't read the one about her mother (the parts about her mother in the others having rather dissuaded me from wanting to know more).
                                                                I have to say that my dislike is doubtlessly tainted with a bit of "I coulda been a contender" - I would have liked to have had the breaks she did and the career she has...
                                                                I was very pleasantly surprised by the green book - tone and recipes - and look forward to owning it and the yellow one as well.

                                                      2. re: LulusMom

                                                        Yes, I had to avert my gaze from Gio's post as I, too, so far have managed not to buy the newer Gourmet.
                                                        I'm hopeless. Sigh.

                                                      3. re: Gio

                                                        I have the big yellow Gourmet cookbook (which I love). Please tell what's the difference (besides color), is it revised or a whole other book?

                                                          1. re: nvcook

                                                            Yes, all new, as beetlebug says, with emphasis on contemporary and more "everyday" kinds of dishes. From all accounts, worth its weight . . . and it is just as big as the yellow-jacketed Gourmet. Hard to resist though I have, so far.

                                                          2. re: Gio

                                                            I love that one, use it all the time. If it has Ruth's name on it, I want it!

                                                          3. re: greedygirl

                                                            Hi gg! I was resistant to it but got it out of the library and found scads and oodles of recipes I wanted to try. Am buying it as soon as I get everything else settled in its new home. Apparently the YELLOW Gourmet cookbook is also worthwhile (recipes from the 40 years the magazine was in existence) and I am planning to buy it too.

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              I own both yellow and green Gourmet cookbooks. I've cooked lots from the yellow and have had only 1 miss (the pasta with fresh herbs, surprisingly bland). It's my go to, I don't know what to cook, so let's see what's in here, book.

                                                              I haven't really explored green yet, but I have faith that it will serve me as well as the yellow one.

                                                              1. re: beetlebug

                                                                How much of the yellow one isn't on the epicurious website? Or the green one, for that matter? Just curious before I break the kitchen bookshelves.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  Well, it's just one data point, but we had a discussion about the four recipes that were featured on the DVD that accompanied some editions of the yellow book; two are on epicurious, two were not. (see Caitlin's post with the link to the 2 recipes that were on epicurious.)

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6763...

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    Thanks TDQ, I'd missed that discussion. I think I just found something to put on my mothers' day wish list. The lot of you make my husband's job much easier.

                                                                    Just wish I had some time to cook; things have been very busy recently, and when I get into the kitchen (IF I get into the kitchen) I find I'm going for the tried and true easy stuff these days.

                                                                  2. re: LulusMom

                                                                    I got the green one from the library and wanted the coconut cake recipe (and one other??) and rather than type/copy, I checked on epicurious -- and there they both were so just printed them out -- they were exactly the same. I definitely must stop myself from buying more cookbooks.

                                                                    1. re: walker

                                                                      And this is the green one (the newer one)? Thanks for the info walker.

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        Yes, the green one. I guess if you can get it from the library, then you can decide if you REALLY need to buy/own it.

                                                          4. re: greedygirl

                                                            I'll be trying to work from Kennedy in April too, I hope; I voted for it and bought it and then March turned into one of the busiest months I've had in a while. I haven't tried even one of the recipes from the Kennedy book yet though I've loved reading others' reports. (Of course, if I could drag myself away from this site, I might have more time for actual cooking.)

                                                  2. re: armagnac

                                                    i just don't love the book, and am unconvinced people need two versions of it. it's a useful reference--i have a total mental block with the right water to quinoa ratio, for example. but i've had some real misses. there are books that i've learned much more from (sunday suppers at lucques, zuni) and enjoyed much more (hazan's essentials, and the sullivan street bakery guy's bread book).
                                                    that all being said, it's been a long while since i last participated in COTM, i have the book, and i'm excited to learn from everyone's experiences.

                                                    1. re: rose water

                                                      Please, please share your misses with us.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        the most salient in my memory was the carrot muffins. flavorless lumps of sad flavorlessness. other things haven't failed so spectacularly, but just haven't inspired--i'll browse the book to see if i can remember more specifically what falls into this category.

                                                        1. re: rose water

                                                          Thanks rose water. Just as important to know what the losers are in the book as the winners.

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            pasta with cauliflower and saffron. delicious flavors but way too mushy .
                                                            persian style rice must've been inspired by a creative iranian friend of his-- it may draw on iranian food prep, but isn't iranian food. and the details are totally insufficient--folks would learn much more from following plum's excellent directions on chowhound a few years ago than from bittman's instructions.
                                                            from plum: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2963...

                                                            it's an odd book. on the one hand, there are detailed instructions on how to buy measuring cups and spoons, but a novice won't necessarily have the skills to add flavor or improvise where the bittman recipes are lacking.

                                                            1. re: rose water

                                                              Thanks very much rose water. I know that I've had those experiences with some of his other books, so it makes lots of sense.

                                                  3. I have the original and love it. The pizza dough and ice cream recipes are great staples. And people love the gingersnaps so much that I usually just take credit without telling them they probably have the recipe at home.

                                                    1. I'm glad we've chosen this book. I like the more specialized or off the beaten track books the group has done before very much. But this is a good change of pace and will help me take better advantage of this book.

                                                      I have the original too, so I will be looking for tips and recipes from the new one.

                                                      1. From the original edition, I have done the "Classic Osso Bucco" in the "with tomatoes, garlic and anchovy" variation (450-51). It's awesome, if you're into beef.

                                                        1. I have the original, so well-used it's falling apart. The recipe for the dry rub for ribs ("Chris's dry rub) is my standard and very good. I also use his recipes for pizza dough, corn bread, biscuits. I use his recipe for apple or rhubarb crisp quite regularly. Kosher pickles "the right way" (no vinegar) are amazing. In general I find it very useful as a starting point for almost anything I want to make if I have the urge but am not sure of the ingredients or method. I can take a quick glance, get my bearings, and then use his recipe or do my own variation.

                                                          1. I'm surprised, even a bit shocked, that somehow this thread has more posts about other cookbooks than HTCE. It's as if Bittman's thousands of recipes and foolproof, can-do approach to home cooking were useless or too boring to speak of. And yet a majority of Hounds who voted, chose this as the Cookbook of the Month.

                                                            Somehow I've become the only supporter of the 2nd edition - well, not quite the only one, as Mario Batali calls it his desert island cookbook; and Jean-Georges Vongerichten says "it's a must for every kitchen." Publisher's blurbs, for sure, but these prominent chefs wouldn't risk compromising their reputations if they didn't think this book worth their endorsement.

                                                            Well, April hasn't yet begun, so maybe the discussion will pick up. I'd like to hear which Bittman recipes others have succeeded with, as I've already done, and which have caused problems. Please speak up!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: armagnac

                                                              Oh gosh, I didn't mean to come across as against the 2nd edition, more as against buying yet another version of the same very thick book (I'm dealing with cookbook overload as it is). I already have 3 recipes picked out to try next week from my 1st edition.

                                                              1. re: armagnac

                                                                armagnac: I only have Bittman's first edition, but have found it a wonderful and very useful cookbook. It has almost anything you could think of in it, and I also use it because I can never remember how to make the perfect hard-boiled eggs, etc. Since this book I've never had a sulphuric-smelling hard boiled egg!

                                                              2. I sold this book at a yard sale last year before moving. Maybe a stupid move, but I just couldn't get excited about most of the recipes (maybe the lack of photos? but that can't be it...I love "Cuisine of the Sun.")

                                                                Doesn't Bittman generally get some flack for imprecise/off-the-cuff recipes? [I remember him claiming that throwing a couple carrots and celery sticks in a pot of water would give you better results than using bullion/canned broth. Someone tested this theory and proved otherwise.]

                                                                All that said, I'm going to try his pad thai rice salad recipe next week. Is it in the book?
                                                                http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/din...

                                                                1. Just a heads up if anyone wants to get a copy of the new edition - Home Goods had it reduced by $10 the other day.

                                                                  My addiction kicked in and it came home with me. A quick comparison between old and new turned up a number of differences. They seem similar to the differences you see between the different editions of Joy of Cooking........bones are the same, but individual recipes can change a bit. So far my take is that having both would not be redundant. I'm hoping to have more time to compare the two.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                    I'm curious about the listing of books in the back. Did he update it for the new edition? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5086...

                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      It looks like the list is not included in the new edition.

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        The list of "50 Cookbooks I'd Rather Not Live Without" is gone. Instead, Bittman provides index guides to recipes in his own book:

                                                                        The 102 Essential Recipes in This Book
                                                                        My Top 100 Fast Recipes
                                                                        My Top 100 Make-Ahead Recipes
                                                                        My Top 100 Vegetarian Recipes

                                                                        More useful to the owners of HTCE, and appropriate to a book on how to cook everything.

                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          Didn't he update it in the Times a year or two (or three? - sorry, memory going fast) ago?

                                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                                            My recollection is that he posted a "call" for updates to the list, but never updated the list. (See that post of JoanN's that I posted above...)

                                                                            But, if I'm mistaken and you have a link to the new list I'd love to see it!

                                                                            Thank you!

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                      2. I won't have a chance to post the HTCE threads until tomorrow afternoon or evening, Pacific time. Just a heads-up.

                                                                        1. Does anyone know what Bittman's background is? He is clearly not a chef (at least I think not given his interactions with chefs in various TV shows I've seen him in), so where did he come from? Is he just a maven or does he have actual food creds? I have his first edition How to Cook Everything, and I have never made a single thing from it. I am increasingly disinclined to buy these "everything in one" cookbooks since I find that they can, in the case of Bittman's tome, be awfully simplistic in some places and in other cases only useful when you are looking for something outside the scope of one's other, trusted cookbooks. I agree with Rose Water -- I clearly don't believe that having two copies of this book is necessary particularly since I've never cooked from the first one!

                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                            He's pretty self-made. Bittman is a journalist, with no formal culinary training, or, apparently, journalistic training (his degree appears to have been in psychology). He started his career as a community organizer. http://www.observer.com/2008/o2/makin...

                                                                            So, there you have it. If you want to be President or a big-time NYT columnist and cookbook author, you first need to be a community organizer.

                                                                            I love Bittman's column in the NYT and have enjoyed the occasional recipes from it that i've tried here and there, but I just haven't been able to get into his monster cookbooks. No personal stories, no photos and, I suspect, no intensive testing of recipes.

                                                                            Actually, to be honest, I've grown disillusioned with "encyclopedic" cookbooks of any sort, Bittman's HTCE and Best Recipes in the World among them, but also books such as Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and A New Way To Cook.

                                                                            Instead of a thick, uninspiring volume of everything for everyone, I'd rather have a book that is less ambitious in scope and has some charm and character, with stellar, well-tested, spectacular recipes. I want to know when I crack open the book, every single recipe is going to work.

                                                                            I think these encyclopedic type books get a lot of accolades and attention for their ambitiousness, but I'm almost always disappointed by them. Sure, if you put 1000 recipes in a book and only 90% of them work, yeah, that's a lot of recipes that DO work, 900. But, 100 recipes that don't work is a lot of crappy recipes and, with my luck, I'll try all 100 of them.

                                                                            If I were a minimalist and owned only one cookbook, sure, BIttman's Best Recipes in the World or HTCE would be a good choice, I suspect. But, clearly, my sagging bookshelves are a testament to the fact that I'm not a minimalist.

                                                                            But, this isn't the reason I'm not participating this month. I would really like to get the book from my library and try it out and see what I'm missing about this book that a lot of 'hounds really enjoy, I've just got no time.

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              I definitely get your point, and pretty much agree with it (although I think having one of these kinds of books around is good for when you forget how long it takes to hard boil an egg or roast pieces of halibut). One thing that COTM has brought home to me is that having a book that specializes (on say Vietnamese or Szechuan food - just to name two favorites) has taught me a lot more than these big books. And these more focused books are my favorites.

                                                                              That said, I cannot resist a book that gets the kind of praise that the big green Gourmet book is getting.

                                                                              Finally, weirdly, I've had much better luck with Bittman's recipes in his weekly column than I have with the ones I've tried in his books (more the other books than HTCE). Not universally true as I've had some successes with the books and some failures with the columns, but pretty much it is a good rule of thumb for me. I'm looking forward to trying this week's pasta with sardines, capers and breadcrumbs too.

                                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                Interesting about your having more luck with the recipes in Bittman's column than in his books. I suspect that the ones for the column are thoroughly researched.

                                                                                And, by the way, that's why I like the Gourmet cookbooks, even though it is a giant volume of recipes of the kind I just said I didn't like. I know that Gourmet tests the heck out of their recipes, so, I have confidence they will work 99% of the time.

                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                  I'm not a Bittman fan because of his NY Times column. I've tried a number of them and I've found every one to be BLAND, BLAND, BLAND. This has probably led me to the (unfair) conclusion that Bittman has bland tastebuds.

                                                                                  I also like the specialty cookbooks better and I include Zuni and Lucques in. But, I do love my two big Gourmet cookbooks. Probably because every recipe that I've made from them (except one) has been delicious. That's hard to say with a big compendium book. Also probably because they've tested and re-tested. And, I also wonder if they take reader's comments (from the website) into consideration.

                                                                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                    I'm laughing a little bit to myself because your point is so well taken beetlebug. In thinking of a couple of our favorite Bittman recipes, I'm realizing that we've learned to amp them up. The pasta with broccoli rabe recipe that was in his column about a year ago is wonderful IF you add some anchovies or anch. paste to it. And the roasted scallops in HTCE is great if capers are added (not looking at the recipe rightn now, and this is one my husband usually makes, but I know we added something, and I dont' think capers were in the original). With these additions both recipes are def. very good. But the need for the changes does sort of point to a bland palate (sp?).

                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  I'm actually really looking forward to exploring HTCE for the very reason that it IS encyclopedic. However, not for myself, but to evaluate it as a first cookbook for the teen Chowpup, who will be flying solo in the kitchen in a couple of years. I have checked it out of the library and so far I've noted a few things to try. Or um, to have her try...

                                                                                  1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                    I can completely understand how an "encyclopedic" book would be fantastic for someone as a first or primary cookbook. As I said, I think this would be a fine kind book if I had only one.

                                                                                    And to LuluMom's point--I can also see how it might be a good "reference" cookbook, even for someone who has a lot of books, on how to boil an egg, but, personally, when it comes to those basics, I turn to the book I learned with because I know how to navigate it, etc. I guess I'm just an old dog. :).

                                                                                    I hope this turns out to be just the book your chowpup needs!

                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                      That is what I like about this book. My SO is attempting to do more cooking and I find that this Bittman book is very accessible and user friendly for a cook at this stage. You look around the kitchen and notice sweet potatoes and can have several recipes with variations, all of which are fairly straight forward and the pantry items are generally already in the pantry. The writing style doesn't make a beginning cook glaze over or get intimidated.

                                                                                      For me it is a handy way to jump start my creative process if I'm kind of blah about ideas. I take an ingredient I'm interested in and immediately have a number of ideas to start from.

                                                                              2. I can't imagine overwhelming a new cook with this book. I know I would have been intimidated by his vagaries and having to figure out how to combine the instructions/recipes with the variations.
                                                                                I appreciate it to some degree now, though nothing has stood out in my cooking to make it a "must have" (besides my own pack rat tendencies). In my experience, new cooks need simple recipes, laid out with simple instructions. Perhaps once they are feeling some confidence, this can be read like a text and used to start to increase skill.
                                                                                It has been an interesting read, to see his "essential recipes" and how he categorizes. My 5 yr old loves to flip thru the pages, fascinated by the "cookbook with 1044 pages" as he calls it.