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Jan 31, 2011 07:59 PM

February 2011 Cookbook of the Month: THE ESSENTIAL NEW YORK TIMES COOKBOOK, Amanda Hesser

Welcome to the general discussion thread for the February 2011 Cookbook of the Month, featuring THE ESSENTIAL NEW YORK TIMES COOKBOOK: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser

We will use this thread for general commentary, recipe planning, links, and any other issues related to this COTM.

If you're new to Cookbook of the Month, the COTM archive thread explains how it all works:

To post a full-length review of any recipe, please select the appropriate thread below.

Chapters 1-4
Drinks, Cocktails, Punches, Glögg, Hors d"oeuvres, Snacks, Small Dishes, Soups and Salads

Chapters 5-8
Vegetables, Potatoes, Corn, Legumes, Pasta, Rice, Grains, Stuffings, Sandwiches, Pizza and Savory Pies

Chapters 9-12
Fish, Shellfish, Poultry, Game, Beef, Veal, Lamb, Pork, Sauces, Dressings, Condiments, Rubs and Preserves

Chapters 13-14
Breakfast, Brunch, Breads and Baking

Chapters 15-18
Cookies, Candy, Frozen Desserts, Cakes, Pie, Tarts and Other Desserts

To review discussions from earlier threads, you can take a look at the nominations:, and the general discussion:

Finally, the Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Happy cooking!

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  1. Thank you smtucker! (for these threads and for your past 6 months of service to COTM!):

    For easier reference, the following are links to various helpful posts from the general discussion thread linked above:







    And, remember, this book is indexed on EYB. You can BROWSE THE LISTING OF RECIPES (AND THEIR INGREDIENTS) INCLUDED IN THE BOOK, even if you are not a member of EYB:


    Happy cooking!


    15 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      DQ, thanks so much for compiling and posting all these great references, its wonderful to have them all in one place and I know they'll enhance our cooking experience.

      This is going to be an exciting month with far more great recipes to try than there are days in the month! I'm glad to have EYB to help me through it. Last month I was able to make 34 different recipes from Grace Young's two books, many that I'd never have found without EYB because I was able to search ingredients on hand and find a dish I could make.

      With a huge snow storm on the horizon today I just did an EYB ingredient search through this COTM and learned I have (almost) all the ingredients for Le Cirque's Spaghetti Primavera so that's on the menu tonight!! Sadly, its not one of the dishes that I'd initially flagged (on that very long list I posted yesterday)!!

      I meant to add in my post yesterday that if folks need more help on how to use EYB to maximize their COTM or Chowhound experience, EYB does have a Forum for tips, tricks and Q&A.

      Happy cooking everyone!

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Anxious to visit those links and do some cooking this month. On Monday of next week, the 7th, I'll start the quest for the March COTM; already a lot of discussion on that. Should be fun.

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          I just received this book myself, it is amazing! I love just reading through it. Tonight I am going to try the shrimp creole (I believe that is the name), and make the De Luxe Cheesecake though it will not be ready until tomorrow. I also bought the stuff for quite a few more recipes, so I will be sure to post about them.

          By the way, I really want to try the chocolate chip cookies that have diamond kosher salt in them, but my store does not carry it. I would have to sub Morton. If you read the intro though it mentions Diamond specifically. What is the conversion again? Thanks!

          1. re: Becca Porter

            I am looking at the recipe on page 709 and see coarse salt, but no indication that it needs to be Diamond brand. Perhaps I am looking at the wrong recipe? If you own a scale, I will be happy to weigh my diamond salt. Just point me in the right direction.

            1. re: smtucker

              There are two chocolate chip cookies. I think these have flat in the name? Yes, I do have a scale that uses grams! That would be great.

              1. re: Becca Porter

                1 level tablespoon of Diamond kosher salt is 9 grams. For others, these are called Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, page 706.

                1. re: smtucker

                  Thanks so much... with the baby in my lap I just didn't want to get up and confirm the title. :)

                  1. re: Becca Porter

                    Hi -- the Diamond brand salt is for the Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. If you can't find Diamond, Morton is fine but just use 3/4 the amount of salt.

            2. re: Becca Porter

              If you do end up needing them, here are the conversion details:

              Essentially, you want 3/4 the amount of Morton than you would Diamond, by volume.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Hi Becca,
                This flat and chewy chocolate chip recipe is one that I developed with Amanda (we spent forever on it), and sure enough we both never thought to try making it with Morton's kosher salt. Big mistake, as it was way too salty with Morton's. Just made these again the other night to make sure they still work. You really do have to make sure that the batter is well-chilled before cooking.

                I have since wrote a story about the difference between Morton's and DC kosher salt. I did a lot of weighing and came up with this conversion:
                1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt = roughly 1 1/4 teaspoons Morton's kosher salt = roughly 1 3/4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
                Using a scale is a great method, but with such small quantities of salt, the scale often doesn't pick up the weights properly. So I had to weigh the salts in larger quantities. For this recipe, 1 Tablespoon of DC would be about 2 teaspoons Morton's.
                Here is the article.

                Good luck, and I hope you like the cookies!

                1. re: jsantopietro

                  Thank you, Jill! I appreciate the reply and I cannot wait to try them. I wish I could just find Diamond, but no luck yet. I will use 2 teaspoons of the Morton's. Salt can make or break a recipe so I want to get it right!

                  1. re: jsantopietro

                    I'm in the UK and we don't have kosher salt at all, not to mention Diamond or Morton's. I'd probably use a coarse sea salt, like Maldon. Any ideas as to how much I should use?

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I came up with 9 grams. That should remain the same regardless of salt type.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        With Maldon, I'd just the amount called for in the recipe. Since Maldon is light and flaky you shouldn't have a problem with it seeming over salty.

                    2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      Oh -- ha! -- hadn't read your comment but answered this above, guessing that it would be about 3/4. Glad we're in agreement!

                2. Thank you so much, smtucker, for your six months of service. I'll be starting mine early next week and looking forward to lively discussion and good cooking. Plan to read through a few months of nominations to get a feel for it; you're a hard act to follow!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bayoucook

                    Thanks to smtucker for your service and to bayoucook for stepping up to take over! You guys are awesome!

                    1. re: greeneggsnham

                      Ditto! Thanks smtucker and bayoucook!

                  2. Great job dividing up the chapters for this month, smtucker. I wondered how that would play out. And, thank you for your superb COTM coordination in general. The past six months were lively to say the least and this month promises to be the same if all the enthusiasm is any proof.

                    1. I know this month has just barely started but it seems to me that about 1/2 of the recipes so far have not been considered successes by their makers. The book's non-recipe content is so cool, I hope the "meat and potatoes" part lives up to it.
                      I'm trying a couple more today.

                      22 Replies
                      1. re: blue room

                        I don't know why, but I'm completely overwhelmed by this book. At first I loved all the notes and history but as I read through the chapters I thought I'd start with: vegetables, poultry and meats I feel stymied for some reason. I've listed 2 pages of recipes but am finding it difficult to choose. Nothing really pops out at me to say, "Cook me..." The weather is terrible here today. A good day to spend re-reading and deciding.

                        1. re: Gio

                          You don't know why? I'll tell you why! There's in excess of 1000 recipes! It's a totally overwhelming book. I havent' cooked from it yet, so I'm hardly the poster girl for "having it under control", but I'll tell you, I tried to start at the beginning and work my way through. That was too overwhelming, so, I started in the middle with fish and worked my way through poultry and meats and then started to backtrack to vegetables (I think), then grains, pastas and next pizza and sandwiches. I'll probably do soups and salads after that.

                          The fish, meat, and poultry sections are actually somewhat short. I've been doing the thing where I mark recipes with post-it notes, then circle back and put them in EYB. I've also been doing okay just sitting with the computer next to me and bookmarking recipes in EYB with a note or two here or there as I go along. Most of the recipes I'm bookmarking as "Feb COTM". There are a few recipes that jump out at me that I want to try when ingredients are in season. I have a few "ingredient" categories set up in EYB for certain vegetables that really overwhelm me and for which I can never seem to find enough recipes. I bookmark those out of season recipes to those specific ingredient bookmarks.

                          In the master thread, I've included links to some Hesser interviews/articles. I might just start trying some of the "favorite" recipes mentioned in those stories, just as an entree into the whole overwhelming project.

                          I hope that helps.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Thanks for your persistence! I didn't mean for the book to be consumed all at once, but enjoyed (hopefully) over time. I wanted it to be a source for all the recipes you'd ever need to know. And to help people navigate it, I give serving suggestions with every recipe -- since I've cooked everything in the book, I wanted to help you pair recipes and even land on a few that you otherwise might miss!

                            1. re: amandahesser1

                              The serving suggestions are particularly interesting, thank you for them.

                          2. re: Gio

                            You know, Gio, practically any other new cookbook I'll start at the beginning and go through it page by page--some faster, some more slowly, but I look at every page. I never did that with this book. I decided more or less what I wanted to make and then looked in the book to see if there was anything in that category that appealed to me. I wanted to make a cake that visitors could have with coffee for breakfast and Teddie's Apple Cake seemed to fill the bill. One of the guests is a lasagna aficionado so I've just come back from the market with the ingredients to make the lasagna that Hesser thought was better than Ed Giobbi's.

                            I think in the end I may cook from this book somewhat less because of this approach, but so far at least it's working for me.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              OMIGOD! Something is better than Ed Giobbi's? I can hear and feel Pierre Franey and Craig Claiborne revolving in their graves! Dunno if I spelled their name's right. Too lazy to check it out.

                              I was going to skip this month due to overwhelmingitis, but this got to me. Now to see if it's in the local libs.

                            2. re: Gio

                              I wouldn't say I was overwhelmed - I'm underwhelmed. Usually I'm raring to go with the COTMs, but I can't work up any enthusiasm this month. The perils of buying a book sight unseen! Am hoping once things get under way I will get a bit more motivated.

                            3. re: blue room

                              I'm getting that impression, too, blue room (although I haven't had a chance to cook anything from the book myself, yet). I mean, there have only been 1 or 2 total losers, but ir's clear that not all of them have been smashing successes. I think there might be some limitations in a book like this. First of all, her source material is already defined/limited. She can only choose recipes from the NYT pool and she's trying to get a good cross-section of recipe types (eg., meat, vegs, grains, etc.) and a good cross section of history. Even if she doesn't love a recipe perhaps she has included it because she thinks it's pretty good and particularly representative of an era she's trying to ensure gets included?

                              Not sure. I do believe she was trying to be pretty faithful to the original recipe, sometimes publishing exactly as is, sometimes re-writing it to make it more clear, but then added some of her own comments and preferences as a footnote.

                              It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I guess if you feel that the majority of the recipes are good (even though maybe not the best ever) to exceptional, with very few outright dogs, then that's a pretty solid collection.


                              1. re: blue room

                                I've been cooking from it for about 2 weeks, and so far no failures -- everything has been at least "good." (I'm just now starting to post about what I've tried.)

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  I think that's a pretty good outcome actually. If all of the recipes are turning out good to exceptional, I think that's about the most one can expect of a cookbook such as this where the "pool" of recipes is restricted to those already published by a specific source. It's not as if, given the parameters of the project, Hesser can go find the best X recipe ever, she is limited to choosing the best X recipe ever published in the NYT, all the while trying to present a cross-section of the paper's entire history.

                                  I'm already enjoying your reports!


                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    Yay -- pikawicca vs. pessimism -- pikawicca wins!
                                    I actually went through the first 21 reports posted this morning to see if my theory was correct, and I came up with 11 thumbs up and 10 tiny-to-biggish problem recipes.
                                    I guess I'm used to some pretty enthusiastic reviews from COTM.

                                    1. re: blue room

                                      I think expectations are high for this book.


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        It's so big and so red and so important looking. And the word "essential" and the "New York Times" in that very familiar font -- and knowing it draws on 150 years of cooking--solid and reassuring. Yes, I subconsciously expect better than average from this hefty one!

                                        1. re: blue room

                                          Oh, I don't think a "good" recipe is necessarily average. I've cooked from cookbooks where more than a small number of the recipes have been seriously lacking, less than "good". Some of these books have even been COTM's: Bittman's How to Cook Everything, Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Wells Vegetable Harvest.

                                          And then there are a ton of books out there that have plenty of mediocre and lousy recipes. THose books just usually don't make it to COTMs status.

                                          I think if a book has recipes that are mostly good to exceptional, that's a good book.


                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            And that's why we all have our own private databases, libraries, folders, rotations, and shoeboxes!

                                  2. re: blue room

                                    I think, part of my problem, is that I picked out recipes that I could easily make on a weeknight and ones that were on the frugal side, not necessarily ones that I was ecstatic to try. (Although, I was very intrigued by the bulgur salad.) We've been doing a much better job of cooking at home lately, so I selected things I could make when I got home from work. Funny, even though the amount of recipes is overwhelming, I find the amount of dessert recipes to be underwhelming, even though she mentions something about calling it 'Chicken and Desserts'! Guess that shows you what I gravitate towards!

                                    1. re: Katie Nell

                                      Ha -- no money, no time, that *does* dampen the flame, I know!

                                      1. re: blue room

                                        I'm finding it very difficult to find recipes I want to make too, but for three reasons - cost, time, and calories. Maybe add portion sizes to that. Almost all the chicken recipes are for a whole chicken, cut up or not. We just don't tend to cook whole chickens. It's too much food, and we're not big on meat on the bone, too hard to eat while feeding a baby and jumping up to get things for people (like my grandmother and mother before me, sitting down for a whole dinner is not my lot in life). I really have been making an effort to eat more like Michael Pollan and now Mark Bittman recommend - less meat, more plants. So few recipes are one pot meals that have a little meat and a lot of vegetables, and that's how I tend to cook.

                                        Most of the vegetable recipes have a lot of fat in them - mayonaise, cream, butter. The Most Voluptuous Cauliflower (p241) sounds amazing, but it's not exactly a good way to get more vegetables into your diet! I'm not a fat-a-phobe by any means, but many of these recipes go past my limits. Everything seems to have a stick of butter or a cup of cream in it. It seems like she was going for the very best way to cook things. Sure, mashed potatoes with lots of butter, cream and whole milk taste better than ones with modest amounts, but the better taste isn't worth the massive amounts of extra fat and calories to me. A restaurant doesn't care how much fat goes into things, but I think most home cooks do.

                                        Then there is time and difficulty and cost. The Smoked Mashed Potatoes require you to have a smoker, or to create one and get ground woodchips for indoor smokers. Maybe you can get them at Target, I've never looked, but it's not exactly something most people have on hand. I have a decently stocked liquor cupboard, but not as well stocked as Amanda Hesser's! So many recipes have types of liquor I haven't even heard of. I'm not buying a whole bottle of yet another type of liquor so I can use 1/4 cup of it in a recipe. My liquor cupboard is full and we don't really drink it, just bought it for previous recipes that called for 1/4 cup, and I don't want to add to it. Call me unsophisticated, but I just don't buy or cook goat, antelope, veal, or lamb. I just don't think my family or friends would appreciate Roasted Marrow Bones (p 576). She says the pork and watermelon salad (p 574) captures what diners want in the first years of the 21st century. Maybe in New York, but personally deep fried pork belly and watermelon rind isn't the first thing that jumps out at me when I think of what I'd like to order at a restaurant. It just makes me feel like I must be a total hick or something. Like I should throw in the towel and start making crockpot chicken (1 chicken, 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 8 hours) like the midwestern housewife I am. It's a shame, because I love the commentary for each recipe, the history, and the drink and dessert sections.

                                        1. re: sarahcooks

                                          sarah, your post illustrates perfectly what I've been saying this book doesn't seem to be for everyday cooking. The way we eat at my house, this book is more for "special occasion" meals. It's a book I'd turn if I were going to entertain (which I do little of in winter) or just want to splurge (calorie, cost, and time & effort-wise) for Saturday or Sunday dinner.

                                          It's great to have some awesome "special occasion" recipes, though, so I'm still glad I have the book.

                                          But, like you, I'm not finding a ton of "every day" type recipes. I had about 20 bookmarked in EYB that didn't call for too many exotic ingredients, seemed relatively quick, and didn't call for too much fat. Based on various reports, I've deleted some and added some, so now I'm up to 30 or so, although I haven't circled back to check the newly-added recipes to see if they fit my dietary needs. Several are desserts so, those don't really count because I don't have dessert everyday either (but, when I do, I want it to be REALLY GOOD).

                                          I don't have the same "serving size" limitation you have, so I'm fortunate that way. We're okay with leftovers and I'm not holding an infant in one arm.

                                          picawicca reported on her success with several vegetable recipes. I've bookmarked those she mentioned. I hope they aren't too rich!

                                          I still want to finish going through the book, though. Hopefully I'll find more.

                                          I know it's sort of beside the point, but here's a thread that might help you with wood chips in MSP if that's a recipe you really want to try.


                                          1. re: sarahcooks

                                            It's so interesting the different perceptions we're having about this book. I have been following COTM for awhile now, but haven't really had much time to be cooking along or posting, but I am very enthusiastic about this book as COTM. I feel like with over 1000 recipes, there are many that I can find that work with my lifestyle and diet and I like having multiple different cuisines represented. With two picky toddlers, I felt like some of the other COTMs didn't really have much in them that I could make without modifying so much as to lose the point of the recipe.

                                            I'm sure part of my enthusiasm is that I have been on maternity leave during the first part of the month and so have been home more (albeit with a newborn), but I started back to work and I am still planning on getting some weeknight and weekend cooking done out of this book.

                                            I agree that there are a lot of impractical recipes in this book for me. There are tons I just skip over because I know either its going to take too long, or no one is going to be willing to eat it, or it calls for a million ingredients I don't have on hand. And I totally agree with sarahcooks about the well-stocked liquor cabinet. Those recipes are out, too. But I feel like I'm still left with more than enough to be excited about. I wouldn't say "tons" of recipes, but enough. And the recipes I've made so far I've been happy with.

                                            1. re: sarahcooks

                                              I just had a quick suggestion for you on a point you were making about buying "yet another bottle of liquor we'll never drink, just for 1/4 cup for a recipe". I have had great luck with buying the little taster/airplane size bottles of odd liquors that I needed for various recipes at our local BevMo. You might look into that as an option to save on the price of a whole bottle yet still be able to try the recipes.

                                              1. re: Kuisine

                                                This is a great idea Kuisine. That's exactly what we've been doing for a few years now. Even if you have to buy 2 or 3 tiny bottles it's vastly less expensive than a full bottle of something you'll never drink again. When you go to the liquor store be prepared to have a list of adequate substitutes, though, in case the exact liquor is not available in those small bottles.

                                      2. I was so surprised to find this book waiting for me at the library today. I'd gone in to pick up another book on hold for me(Steven's All About Braising, for the second time. I need to buy that one for sure), and there it was, as big and red as can be.
                                        I've looked at Hesser's book in a bookstore last week and wasn't compelled to buy it. I am glad to have it for a few weeks to cook along with you all though.
                                        Happy last of Winter cooking everyone!

                                        13 Replies
                                        1. re: rabaja

                                          All About Braising is one of my most tattered cookbooks, love it. It's on my "hurricane" list - make it safe or take it with me if we have to run from a hurricane.

                                            1. re: bayoucook

                                              I just got the braising book for xmas, haven't made a lot from it yet, but what I have made I really like. and btw, I had checked out of the library like 3 times before I bought it (for myself):)

                                              1. re: bayoucook

                                                Wasn't it a COTM way back when? I mean the Stevens.

                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                  Yeah, it was the second one, in October 2006, the revisited in 2009. Here's its thread:

                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                    I'm not cooking from this COTM because I can't find many recipes online and there are numerous holds on the book at my local libraries.

                                                    I have searched for recipes online to no avail....does anybody have any ideas? I'm certainly not buying it sight unseen and probably wouldn't anyway since I have 2 Bittmans and a Craig Claiborne (old food editor) already. That's enough NYT...oh yeah, and we subscribe so I get the Wed. Food Section.

                                                    8 HOLDS at the library!!!! EIGHT!

                                                    OOOOPS, just saw the links to recipes above. Thought it was just links to discussions of recipes. Thank you soooo much TDQ as usual.

                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                      I got a message from my library this morning that the copy of the book I reserved is in - will try to pick it up tomorrow - snow and slippery tonight - and hopefully will start cooking from it this weekend. Very excited as this will be my first COTM:)

                                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                                        Since all the recipes in the book were originally published in the NYTimes, it would be theoretically possible to go on Eat Your Books, look for a recipe that appeals to you, and look it up in the Times archives. Or, just search the Times archive for any recipe already reported on that you think you'd like to make. The caveat, and it's a major one, is that those of us who have the book and have looked up the original recipe for reference purposes have discovered that not all the recipes in the book are exactly the same as originally printed in the Times. But most of the recipes seem to be close enough for COTM purposes. In my experience, the differences seem to be more in technique than in ingredients.

                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                          Yes, you can look them up in the Times archive, although you'll have to pay for any recipes that were printed before the 1980's, which is about half the recipes in the book. But then, doesn't that seem to contradict a thread that's meant to celebrate cookbooks?

                                                          1. re: amandahesser1

                                                            Thank you for jumping in and answering our questions. Everyone who posts in these COTM threads prefers to cook from the actual book vs. online recipes, but many people also rely on their libraries to provide them copies of the book. Since yours is a new book, it is in hot demand at libraries right now. There are waiting lists! Often, folks will try to participate via online recipes while waiting for their copy of the book to arrive. The good news is, these COTM threads stay active forever, so we will continue to cook from and report on the book long after the month is over. Hopefully, those people will get their copies of the book soon. It's still early in the month.

                                                            I am lucky enough to own your book. Even so I like to look up recipes online from my office sometimes, because people are discussing it in a thread and I want to see what they are talking about or because I'm meal planning or whatever. I love having the online option.


                                                        2. re: oakjoan

                                                          Joan, i've had really good luck picking recipes out of EYB, then googling on the titles, sometimes the title+Hesser. Many of the recipes are online, especially the past couple of decades of course.

                                                          You do not have to be a member of EYB to browse recipes.

                                                          I also linked to a bunch of recipes in the master thread.

                                                          EDIT: whoops, I realize this IS the master thread.


                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                            oakjoan, this is a whole other ball of wax from the old NYT cookbooks (of which I have a passel, including the original and the new, several Claiborne's favorites, the Virginia Lee and, etc). I really think you'd enjoy it. The timelines etc are very interesting and I don't think too many of the recipes have been published in the books.