Because I still have a around one
hundred cookbooks stashed openly in the kitchen/dinning room of my too
small, 100-year old ex-farmhouse, people have asked me which are my
favorites. So, here's a list of what I think are must-haves, from basic
to advanced. And, unless you like to spend money, check out your local
flea market and garage sales first. Great deals on a world of cookbooks.
Joy of Cooking (Irma and
Marion Rombauer and Ethan Becker/Scribners). This is kind of the McGuffey
Reader of cookbooks. If you're a beginner, you have to have it. It's
strong on the American comfort foods like tuna casserole, twice-baked
potatoes, macaroni and cheese. I prefer the older editions, but the
recently revised edition is more up to date in terms of how we eat today.
It's well organized and pretty fail-safe. It's not a gourmand's bible,
far from it. But if you're just starting to cook or looking for a recipe
that your mama made, it's probably in Joy.
Best Recipes or Classic Recipes (Boston Common Press). From the great test kitchens of "Cook's
Illustrated" (the cooking magazine subscription to have if you're
having only one), this covers a lot of bases and tells you how the recipe
works and why you have to use heavy cream instead of whole milk because
they tried that and this is what happened. The instructions can be a
little hard to follow occasionally, but this is close to my bible. This
is a cookbook for readers. You learn stuff. It's a cooking lesson with
a simplified chemistry class on the side. And there are almost no pictures.
Just little line drawings. So you have to read and pay attention. But
the rewards are great. There's no fussiness and very little exotica.
Just your basic foods, with the why and the how. There's a bunch of
these out there and they're all good. I just bought Baking Illustrated at Cosco for eighteen bucks. ( A lot for me.) It looks great, as
Any of the 'Quick' Martha Stewart
series (Clarkson Potter or Martha Stewart Omnimedia). Say what you will,
she knows her stuff. And although some of these recipes I swear would
take a staff of ten a whole day to pull off, there are fast, incredibly
delicious meals here that I repeat over and over. And she does a surprisingly
good job of pairing sides and desserts with entrees, which can be very
helpful to the less experienced cook. Her directions are always clear
and concise. Watch out though for the odd expensive ingredient that
can dent your cooking budget.
The Short-Cut Cook: Make Simple
Meals With Surprisingly Little Effort (Jacques Pepin/William Morrow).
As the title says. Great, simple recipes that one of the world's great
chefs uses to feed his family everyday. Great salad dressings, especially
his mustard vinaigrette that I have been using for years. He works hard
to create dishes that you can build from your pantry. It's less fussy
and technical than his step-by-step books, directed more at family-style
Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Julia Child, Simone Beck/Knopf). Hailed as the book