Pros: Plenty of step-by-step instructions accompanied by lots of beautiful pictures.
Cons: All of the recipes are not listed alphabetically in the Index. Some of them are only listed as a subcategory under the ingredient.
Reviewed by Cami Rawlins
Does sitting down to a lovely gourmet meal every night of the week sound like your idea of culinary bliss? Are you wondering how your bank account and waist line can handle such frivolity? Look no further, the Culinary Institute of America has put out a true gem that will get you serving fancier food in the same amount of time it takes to do hamburgers or hot dogs on the grill.
No disrespect to those time honored grill traditions, but sometimes I want something considerably more, well, sophisticated. I guess it gives me delusions of cooking in a well-equipped professional kitchen like I see on Food Network – not to mention the far superior taste and healthiness factors. And there is a considerable difference between what is considered gourmet food and more standard fare.
In recent years, it has become possible for the rest of us mortals (i.e. not food professionals or the uber-wealthy) to become serious “foodies” enjoying far better taste, quality, and sophistication than previously. I know my husband and I don’t remember eating this well in our younger years, and we love being part of the growing ranks of skilled home cooks. Gourmet Meals in Minutes is part of the trend towards expanding the accessibility of gourmet food.
That being said, even though this cookbook is produced by America’s premier culinary school, I’m not sure it appeals to professional chefs, since it is simplified somewhat in order to make the recipes achievable for the skills, time constraints and budget of the home cook. However, I found it very appealing indeed, and believe it is beneficial to a wide skill-range of cooks.
Right from the start this book is beautiful. It is packed full of colorful pictures that inspired me to create meals I never thought I could. Don’t worry if you accidentally splash a little bit on the pages of this cookbook – as I sometimes do – they are made to withstand the occasional splattering from the over exuberant whisking of an excited cook.
Whether you want to ease into the gourmet scene with a simple Grilled Steak Salad with Horseradish Dressing (p.115), or dive into a Tenderloin of Beef with Blue Cheese and Herb Crust (p. 142), served with Gratin Potatoes (p. 304), and Pan Steamed Lemon Asparagus (p. 280) is up to you. One thing for sure is that whatever mood you’re in, whether laid back gourmet in your pajamas, or a formal Sunday meal that will wow your friends and family, this book is packed full of recipes for you to choose from. Your biggest problem will be choosing which ones to try first. In the end, I had to decide what basic ingredient I wanted to start with, like beef or chicken, and then select a recipe to try from there. I’ve experienced far too many cookbooks where the appealing choice was far too clear (I mean limited to one or two tasty recipes), and was pleased that I had such a difficult time deciding what to try in this one.
I tried several of the recipes from appetizers to desserts. Most of the ingredients, or acceptable substitutes, were available at my local grocery store. This is great, because I hate running all over town trying to find ingredients for a recipe. The recipes are easy to follow with detailed step by step instructions, and I was able to complete most of the recipes in the thirty minutes suggested. I also really appreciated that every recipe I tried worked. Other cookbooks and recipes I’ve tried frequently fail on some level or another – often because of too much or too little of a key ingredient or spice. In Gourmet Meals in Minutes, though, everything seemed to work and taste just as intended. One feature I really enjoyed was the section at the beginning of each chapter that shows you how to properly execute techniques found in that section. So, if you’ve never cleaned mussels before, don’t worry. There are instructions to show you the way. There are recipes for just about every taste in this book with sections for appetizers, soups, salads, meat, poultry, seafood, vegetarian, side dishes and desserts.
This is an excellent cookbook. I would recommend it to all aspiring home cooks and foodies – self-proclaimed or official – alike. At the start I commented on waistline and budget. Knowing the freshness, quality, and nutrients of your ingredients means you know exactly what you are eating – versus a restaurant that may cook a meal with inferior ingredients and excessive amounts of salt or fat for flavor. This means you have control over calories and nutrients for a balanced diet. It should also goes without saying that you can save a lot of money by eating gourmet meals at home, instead of in an upscale restaurant. For example when I tried the Tenderloin with Blue Cheese, I was able to get three tenderloin steaks for approximately $18.00. A single serving of the same cut at a steak house would easily run between $25.00 and $50.00 depending on the restaurant.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook. It not only appealed to me with dozens of well-crafted, tasty recipes, it also opened up new worlds and levels of cooking that I can achieve at home, in budget, and on time. As with almost everyone these days, my daily schedule is jam-packed, so it is a relief to be able to produce a tasty and healthy meal in a limited amount of time. It keeps my husband very happy too.
Gourmet Meals in Minutes was a great asset to my cookbook collection, and will keep me trying new recipes and learning new skills for some time to come.
Tenderloin of Beef with Blue cheese and Herb Crust
Yield: 6 servings
Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
3 tbsp butter, softened
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups beef broth
6 tbsp Madeira wine
2 ¼ lbs. beef tenderloin
¼ cup breadcrumbs
6 tbsp blue cheese
¼ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup chives, chopped
¼ tsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
Combine the butter and flour together.
Bring the beef broth and Madeira to a boil. Whisk in the butter and flour mixture until completely dissolved. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half. While the sauce is simmering, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray the rack of a roasting pan with nonstick spray and lace in the pan.
Slice the tenderloin into 6 portions that are approximately 3 inches in diameter and 1 ½ inches thick. Tie butcher’s twine around the beef medallions so they maintain their shape while cooking, if desired.
Combine the breadcrumbs, blue cheese, parsley, chives, and pepper to form a paste.
Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Sear the medallions until just browned, 2-3 minutes on each side. Arrange the medallions in a roasting pan. Coat the top side of each medallion with 3 tablespoons of the blue cheese and herb crust.
Roast until the crust is golden brown and the meat is cooked as desired, about 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare, depending on the size of the medallion. If butcher’s twine was used, be sure to remove it. Serve the medallions on a pool of the warm Madeira sauce.