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Your most prized recipe book and why.

I have a small but good selection of cook books including of course the 'Larousse and 'Escoffier' books and Julia's and Jacque's books but the one I most prize and have been using for a decade is Thomas Keller's The French Laundry. The recipes are easy to follow and the results are always delicious. Do you have a really great cook book you'd recommend?

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    1. re: fourunder

      I do and apparently millions of other do to. I wouldn't cook a 'Keller' recipe every week or even every month but when I want to prepare a really special dinner I go to TFL.

    2. I have 3. The French Laundry is the one I would most like to emulate, but can't. The Ad Hoc at Home is the one I usually scan through to get a new idea, since Keller's recipies here are much more approachable, and the book is every bit as beautiful as the French Laundry cookbook. The one I use the most, when I want to know how to cook something basic, is the Fanny Farmer cookbook.

      1. New 'favourites' all the time as I experiment with sushi, Portuguese cuisine and 'fun with foam', but my constant culinary companions?

        -Joy of Cooking for 'how to'

        -Julia for anytime I need to fall in love with technique again.

        But my quirky favourite is a series from Farm Journal Magazine: the Farm Journal Cookbooks held my hand through the first meal I ever cooked for my husband, the wedding cake recipe we later baked together, my 'famous' homemade sausage, crabapple jelly and apple pie recipes, the first recipes I taught my daughter and the inspiration for a thousand other meals that celebrated engagements, homecomings, graduations, sustained pals through illness and divorce, and, yes, graced funeral receptions, too...all using home-grown local products...though they are American and I am Canadian, the timeless wisdom (and the smiles from out-moded ingredients) crosses borders and decades.

        4 Replies
        1. re: LJS

          lovely post, LJS; speaking to all the love and heart and memories that are the backbone of home cooking.

          It is in the memories made in the cooking, the eating, and the sharing of love and creativity that bring the kitchen to the heart of things fo so many of us.

          Is this series anything a person could get a hold of? I would appreciate any further information on a source that can bring you everything from 'famous' sausage to crabapple jelly:)

          I collect regional and those mostly-spiral-bound cookbooks put out by churches, grange halls, elks clubs, etc... many vintage ones. Your series sounds like it would be a treasure to have.

          1. re: gingershelley

            The Farm Journal series includes everything from specialty books like Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook (Buttermilk Pie in Cornmeal Pastry-page 118) to an all purpose recipe sources- Farm Journal's Country Cookbook (Homemade Pork Sausage-page 41).

            I bought one new in 1971 and then got the rest of my collection (8 titles in total) in second-hand book shops over the years. Mostly in small towns in New England, though the magazine itself was big with farmers and farmer's spouses in towns throughout the mid-West and in the South until the very early 80's, I believe.

            Admittedly, there is a tendency to drape things in jello or add a can of mushrooms, but there are also introductions to the lost art of rendering your own lard, and cooking a Brunswick Stew (real squirrels!).

            I never spend 10 minutes with this set of books without smiling!

            1. re: LJS

              I have several too and I treasure them.

          2. re: LJS


            I picked up the Farm Journal's Country Cookbook (1959) at a garage sale. To my amazement, my family's prized Christmas cookie recipes were all there! It's wonderful. Lots of memories.

          3. My most prized cookbook is my own binder full of recipes I love and find reliable. After collecting recipes and cookbooks for decades, I decided to type out the true keepers and put them in one spot, and I can highly recommend doing that. Only problem is that it keeps growing.....

            1. Paris Boulangerie-Patisserie by Linda Dannenberg. Because this book boils down and makes accessible wonderful recipes from the best bakeries in Paris, from an era when everything was really top-notch.

              1. "Real Fast Food" , Nigel Slater.

                Reason - the recipes are what I want to eat. And they work. Always.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Harters

                  For me...Slater's book Appetite fills the bill. Once I had cooking basics down, I went to Appetite more often than any other book.

                  Also great Minimalist Cooks Dinner and Minimalist cooks at Home both taught me how to cook.

                  Bill Granger's books are also dead reliable.

                2. My most prized cookbook is the one my parents put together a few years back. All the family favorites but also the gems that my Mom culled from books like Larousse, Escoffier, Julia, Jacques old Gourmet magazines etc... and so forth.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rhoneranger

                    Mine as well. My book has 7500 recipes, cross referenced and indexed. If house on fire and all people out, may be first thing to carry out.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      Funny but sick story...my DH calls my book his cakey book. He jokingly says he wants to be buried with it, in case his next wife cannot cook.

                  2. I really like all three editions of my JOC collection. But I treasure the contents of The American Century by Jean Anderson. Almost all of the recipes I collected as a young wife and mother are in it, and the historical info is interesting. Most of the recipes date from the sixties through the late nineties. There are a few that seem to date from the earliest years of the century though. If you grew up eating typical American fare from 1950 on, you will recognize most everything. Which means I don't have to rely on old handwritten file cards for the stuff I used to make.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: sueatmo

                      An interesting choice. I had never heard of it but I checked it out on Amazon. 30 people reviewed it and they all gave it 5 stars. Apparently, it isn't a "high brow" cookbook and even has a lot of "back of the box" recipes but they all had to be quite popular at one time or another to make the book.

                      This book is available for as little as $0.63 used. I'm going to get this book. Thnk you for bringing it to my attention, sueatmo.

                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                        You are welcome. Enjoy!

                        I recommend the Banana Bread. If you decide to make it, let me know and I'll give you my adaptation.

                        1. re: sueatmo

                          Hard to believe her banana bread recipe is as good as CI's. It calls for 4 bananas but extracts most of the juice out of the bananas and then you cook it down to concentrate the flavor.

                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                            I wouldn't know. If you are satisfied with the CI recipe, you shouldn't mess with another one, I think.

                            I ate banana bread in Hawaii, and decided I could bake better banana bread with one hand tied behind me! So I came home, found that recipe and proceeded to do so. I changed it slightly to please myself. It is by far my favorite recipe from that book.

                      2. re: sueatmo

                        It is Jean Anderson's The Food of Portugal that I am delving into right now! Published in 1986 and purchased second-hand in the early 90's by me, it languished on my book shelf until about a week ago. Now I am SO into it-her description of the country using food, her discussion of wines and some very fine step-by-step descriptions for this under-valued cuisine. I am going to check out more of her writing.

                        1. re: LJS

                          Interesting. Several years ago I bought her Process This, a cookbook for food processors. I've barely used it. But I've been going through it, and I intend to use some of the basic tips. She has adapted some basic recipes specifically for the food processor. So, like you, I'm rediscovering one of JA's older cookbooks.

                      3. I turn to 'Larousse', 'Joy of Cooking' and 'The Essential Cookbook' more than anything. I also have a bunch of ethnic-specific books that get a lot of use, such as 'Cooking of SW France', 'Essentials of Classic Italian', 'Foods and Wine of Spain', 'Art of Mexican Cooking', 'French Chef Cookbook' and Bourdain's "Les Halles". It really depends on what I'm cooking, but 'Essential' is my most prized, only because my grandmother gave it to me.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Jeebs

                          Bruculinu , Remembrances of Sicilian - American Brooklyn ,Told in stories and RECIPES by Vincent Schiavelli..........Why? It's from the neighborhood in Brooklyn that I grew up in as well as with foods and scenario's that I've experienced. I bought a copy for my sister as a gift .Bushwick Brooklyn at the time was a real "Little Sicily" with out the restauraunts,gift shop's and tourists . Schiavelli an actor and since deceased captured the character and flavor of this community.

                        2. Sun-Drenched Cuisine by Marlena Spieler. I bought this book in Palo Alto, Calif. when it was published in 1986 and by now I have cooked almost every recipe in it several times. She draws very interesting recipes from literally around the globe with adaptations from traditional recipes...Africa, Asia, Italy, Provence, Spain, Brazil.....easy to do every day with huge bursts of flavor and her writing is seductive and sensual you almost want to eat the book. Includes salsas, soups, condiments, relishes, as well as meat, fish, veggie, desserts, eggs, cheese. When it went out of print I bought several of the British edition at bargain prices for gifts and everyone who as received one...including a new bride last year...has been wowed. She's written lots of cookbooks and used to write for the SF Chronicle newspaper...this is by far her best, in my opinion.

                          To offer context, I also love Paula Wolfert and the other cookbooks listed in this thread but if I had to pick one as all-purpose for the way I cook, it would be this one.

                          1. My adored, spotted, stained, recipe book is the one my grandmother hand-wrote out for me when I went off to college in 1969. I have since put the pages in sheet protectors so I can remember where and when those stains were acquired. Since my grandmother has been gone 40 years, I am the "go to" for anyone that says, "Does anyone remember how Nanny made ____"

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: randyjl

                              Yeah.. well I have a church cookbook from Alaska. It includes a recipe for Jellied moose nose and begins with scraping off the hair.

                              I bet your nannie didn't have a recipe for that. :-)

                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                I have recipes for that but then I live in Canada where game is common. Moose is delicious, as is elk and caribou. Beaver? Not so much. :-)

                            2. Larousse and Escoffier for inspiration but for cooking? French Laundry as it is the style I enjoy cooking and eating most. Food for Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies is one of my new favourites because it has been revelationary and eye opening. Peterson's Sauces is a favourite classic that is beaten, stained and worn. Turquoise uses ingredients I love to find in special ethnic stores. Country Cooking of France when I want rustic French. Gluten Free Asian for obvious reasons - though I have celiac I can enjoy pot stickers, etc. I use this book at least weekly.

                              1. The River Cafe Easy books are my most used books. Big, gutsy flavours with only a few ingredients. The pasta recipes are easy to make on a weeknight.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Frizzle

                                  Any particular recipes? I had the original River Cafe book and sold it, as I did not see any chance of me installing a wood burning oven in my backyard. I hear some people have had real success with these books, but I am not sure what I would make out of them.

                                  1. re: Westy

                                    I prefer the easy series. I also have the harder ones - like the one you sold and seldom use them. In fact now I think of it I've never cooked from them. From the easy series there is a chicken in milk recipe which is good. A zucchini and caper spaghetti, a fig and chili tagliatelle and a broccoli, pancetta and chilli orecchiette that spring to mind as fantastic tasting recipes.

                                    1. re: Frizzle

                                      Anything by Roy de Groot particularly Feasts for All Seasons and Paula Wolfert's books on Moroccan Food. My Feasts for All Seasons, long out of print, has been my standby for 50 years.

                                2. Jeannette's Secret Recipes by Jeannette Seaver . It's the book that made me want to cook, not just eat. French food demystified. Every recipe turns out every time.

                                  1. 'Most prized' for most people would be the recipe collections that are irreplaceable -- personal binders, family pass-alongs, community cookbooks from the past.

                                    But "a really great cook book [to] recommend": not for late-afternoon 'what to cook tonight', but for inspiration for a cooking session -- Paula Wolfert's Slow Mediterranean.

                                    1. My favorite go-to book is "Kitchen Express" by Mark Bittman. Over 400 recipes separated into the four seasons. Each recipe is a paragraph -- no ingredient list -- and can be made in 20 minutes or less. I keep it in the car to refer to in the grocery store on the way home from a busy day. I made the Grilled Angel Food Cake with Fruit Salsa for a company dinner, and one dieting woman had two helpings!

                                      1. 7th grade Home Economics Folder. You cannot beat those middle-school recipes.

                                        Although I have made great cakes from Sky High Cakes!

                                        1. The one I use more than any other is "Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures and Glazes" by Jim Tarantino. My "Spice and Herb Bible" gets used very regularly as well for spice blends especially.

                                          1. http://www.amazon.com/American-Countr...

                                            Still my favorite cookbook. Covers comfort food, easy menus, highlights all the usual B&B fare (muffins, breads, egg bakes, soups) by state. Alaska and Arkansas are my fav's. It's been reprinted a few times but it's a treasure.