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What Is The Most Essential Book? - Page 3

post #61 of 196
If every one of the members of Cheftalk were to cook the same recipe from the same book, it would come out different each time.

I suspect that your experience with the cookbooks has more to do with where you are in your development as a cook than with the cookbooks themselves. Keep cooking and tasting analytically and your food will improve.

Your husbands desire for simple food is not at all at odds with your desire to make the best food. When you have quality ingredients, the simplest cooking methods and seasoning are often the best way to highlight the food.

If you were to do a search on cooking steak here, you'd find lots of threads. Most of them treat steak very simply with salt and pepper and high heat.

For a change from cookbooks, read Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef. It's about his time as a journalist taking the first year courses at the Culinary Institute of America. What I remember best from the book is a discussion among the students towards the end of the book. They're talking about what most impresses them about food and cooking that they've learned. Lots of subtle nuance that can't come from a cookbook but only by experience.
post #62 of 196
Just to build a little on Phil's comments, good cooking depends on good techniques applied to good ingredients. That's the whole secret of becoming a great cook.

As you learn more about technique, and about what qualifies good ingredients from indifferent ones, you'll find that recipes and cookbooks serve more as guides and sources of inspiration than as something you slavishly follow.

I'd be interested, too, in what you found disappointing about the books you've looked at. Could you maybe list the titles, and what you didn't like about them? Might be a useful exercise.

As to the James Beard awards, keep in mind that the Foundation is, primarily, concerned with professionals in the culinary industry. As such, the criteria used for choosing books as the best of their breed may not be the same criteria used for judging their usefullness to a home cook.

I would recommend, too, that you check out Michael Symon's new Live To Cook as perhaps an ideal choice for you. Make sure to read the text as well as the recipes, because it's very home-cook oriented.
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post #63 of 196
Thank you phatch. I will go to Barnes and Nobel and sit down with that book.

I agree everyone adds something of themselves to all they do. Although I have been cooking for years-I am just starting to really cook and bake now. I have never baked before.

All my adult life I have followed the recipes in Mama Leone's cookbook. My in-laws (who are from Italy) thought my "gravy" (meat sauce for pasta) was the best they ever had.

I am trying to get that same reaction from American cookbook recipes.

But you are absolutely right-I should be learning instead of copying.

Yesterday I bought Cookwise. From what you have said, I think I might be on the right track with that book even though there are only a few recipes which will appeal to my husband.

My husband iis a very rustic man and I am a city girl. He likes food like his grandparents made. However, he cannot tolerate anything spicy and garlic makes him sick. When I cook, I halve the garlic and that seems tolerable to him.
post #64 of 196
I compared the recipes in the books I purchased and returned to recipes I have made with positive results-such as Waldorf Salad, turkey and Banana Bread. I thought the Waldorf Salad in CIA's Gourmet in Minutes was bland compared to Better Homes and Garden's version. Also, everyone loves the quick breads I make from BH&G-I don't get raves from similar recipes in other books. However, I disagree with my husband's opinion of the quick breads. I thought the whole grain version of banana bread in King Arthur's whole grain baking book had a great texture and the flavors weren't in your face but excellent. My husband prefers to taste sweetness.

It's hard to please everyone

I will take a look at the book you recommend also.

Thank you
post #65 of 196
Quote:
Originally Posted by shroomgirl View Post

Even professionally I use Joy of Cooking as the proportion template in many cases and adapt....that's how the pecan meal jelly roll or the sweet potato jelly roll were adapted from plain old jelly roll. I've gotten rid of the newest Joy....it did not EVEN have lemon bars!!!!


Which edition of Joy do you use?

post #66 of 196

I Read "The Professional Chef" from the CIA cover to cover and it is what made me decide to become a chef.  I think it has a lot of great use for home cooks and good reference for pros too.  so that would be my recommendation.

post #67 of 196

I was trying to decide which volume of JOC to buy. I found a copy of the 75th Anniversary edition in the library. It looked great but I wanted to try a recipe before purchasing it. I opted for the hard boiled eggs (how hard is that, I thought) wellllllll, following the directions exactly, I ended up with a dozen undercooked eggs with barely cooked yolks. Also following the directions for peeling them, I had to pick the shell, piece by tiny piece from the slippery white,

 

So, now I have made my decision as to which edition to buy=none!!!

post #68 of 196
Quote:
Originally Posted by jte1130 View Post

What book would you consider most essential for a home cook?

Check book, probably. La Rousse is a good resource, but hardly essential.

BDL
Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/5/11 at 8:59pm
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post #69 of 196

Gee, the absolute minimum, hmm.  In very roughly this order: Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking v. 1 & 2 (cooked my way through them); Joy (my mother’s WW2 ed.); Fanny Farmer (grandmother’s);  Julia’s Way to Cook; Kamman’s Making of a Cook, both first and second editions; 1950 Gourmet Cookbook; Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery; Beard’s American Cookery; Bugialli’s Classic Italian Cuisine; Kennedy’s Art of Mexican Cooking; Beranbaum’s Cake Bible; the Chez Panisse cookbooks; recipes from Cook’s Illustrated, though I distrust people who wear bow ties; .  That’s a start.  I like cookbooks.

post #70 of 196

I love my copy of "What's a Cook to Do" by James Peterson. This book doesn't really have recipes, but illustrated cooking tips instead. Love it!!

 

I also really love "Ad Hoc at Home" by Thomas Keller. Not only is it a beautiful book, it gives you a lot of useful tips and techniques throughout the book. (I got it with The French Laundry. That book is also beautiful, but pretty advanced for me.) 

 

I don't have The Joy of Cooking, but maybe I should? It sounds like it has a lot of good, basic information. I guess I'm just not so interested in cooking classic American fare, like roasts and pot pies and whatnot. (I'm only imagining that that's what's in this book.) That's definitely not my style. But I guess I'll still check it out the next time I go to Barnes and Noble to see what it's all about. 

post #71 of 196

I agree with most of the posts here. The Joy of Cooking is definately up there. Also America's test kitchen and cooks illustrated have many great books, very informative and user friendly. They all explain in detail the who's, what's, where, and why's. Larousse is a great reference to have whether your a home cook or professional. I consider it a must in any kitchen.

post #72 of 196

I've enjoyed following this thread and bought Fanny Farmer's cookbook as a result of the recommendations.  I read a cookbook cover to cover, using Post-it flags to separate the chapters

and to try a new recipe that looks interesting.  I read with interest how many recommend The Joy of Cooking.  Went into our library and see that I bought this book in August 2005 and made

one recipe on August 6, 2005, "Gratin of Fennel & Zucchini."  I made a notation, "tasteless, not a do again."  Once I've gone to the trouble to prepare a dish and it isn't any good, then I

don't return to the book again.  I'm not into wasting time.  I'd be most interested to know which recipes you have prepared to give the book such a high rating.  I found an excellent

recipe on the Internet and it is so tasty - that's what I'm looking for - a delicious dish.

 

Saw The Professional Chef was mentioned many times, too and I bought that book in September 2006.  Got as far as reading it and putting the ever familiar Post-in flags in it but the

quantities put me right off - 10 portions.  I have the Kitchen Calc Pro so I can resize the portions to four but not worth the trouble.  Same with Friberg's The Professional Pastry Chef - just

sitting there collecting dust.

 

As a 33 year vegetarian, I ignore the meat sections of cook books but I'd love to hear which recipes you liked so much as to give these books such high recommendations.  Thanks in

advance!

 

Happy

 

post #73 of 196

For baking, I like Baking From my House to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. She was one of the first to mention that you need to let madeleine batter chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours in order to get the characteristic bump.  Baking with Julia (Child) is also good and clearly written. 

post #74 of 196

I also went to the library to try this book based on the high recommendations. I made an ordinary macaroni salad and it too was tasteless-the perfect word for it. The previous time I made macaroni salad I used the red-checkered Better Homes and Garden I also got from the library and it was delicious. 

 

As I previously posted, I followed Joy's recommendations for hard boiled eggs exactly as printed and got under-cooked yolks and a shell that was the most difficult to peel I had ever encountered.

 

In this day and age, I prefer to buy cookbooks for the recipes and use the computer for reference; just saying.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Cooker View Post

I've enjoyed following this thread and bought Fanny Farmer's cookbook as a result of the recommendations.  I read a cookbook cover to cover, using Post-it flags to separate the chapters

and to try a new recipe that looks interesting.  I read with interest how many recommend The Joy of Cooking.  Went into our library and see that I bought this book in August 2005 and made

one recipe on August 6, 2005, "Gratin of Fennel & Zucchini."  I made a notation, "tasteless, not a do again."  Once I've gone to the trouble to prepare a dish and it isn't any good, then I

don't return to the book again.  I'm not into wasting time.  I'd be most interested to know which recipes you have prepared to give the book such a high rating.  I found an excellent

recipe on the Internet and it is so tasty - that's what I'm looking for - a delicious dish.

 

Saw The Professional Chef was mentioned many times, too and I bought that book in September 2006.  Got as far as reading it and putting the ever familiar Post-in flags in it but the

quantities put me right off - 10 portions.  I have the Kitchen Calc Pro so I can resize the portions to four but not worth the trouble.  Same with Friberg's The Professional Pastry Chef - just

sitting there collecting dust.

 

As a 33 year vegetarian, I ignore the meat sections of cook books but I'd love to hear which recipes you liked so much as to give these books such high recommendations.  Thanks in

advance!

 

Happy

 



 

post #75 of 196

Hi, SP!

 

Glad to read I'm not the only one that encountered "tasteless".  Again, I'm curious to hear from all those who recommend Joy and exactly which recipe blew their dress up.  

 

I go to a cookbook first and then scour the web to find a recipe and more often than not, like the one on the Internet better.  

 

My favorite 'go to' book is  BH&G 1992 New Cook Book.  It's so worn out from use, I removed all the pages from the binding and put it in a loose leaf notebook.  I have their newer

cookbook but don't like it either - something familiar about my old one and I've had such great luck with the recipes - except the fudge recipe was awful.  

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sweetie pie View Post

I also went to the library to try this book based on the high recommendations. I made an ordinary macaroni salad and it too was tasteless-the perfect word for it. The previous time I made macaroni salad I used the red-checkered Better Homes and Garden I also got from the library and it was delicious. 

 

As I previously posted, I followed Joy's recommendations for hard boiled eggs exactly as printed and got under-cooked yolks and a shell that was the most difficult to peel I had ever encountered.

 

In this day and age, I prefer to buy cookbooks for the recipes and use the computer for reference; just saying.

 

 



 

post #76 of 196
Joy is tricky. Many if not most of the recipes are more outline than actual recipe. It helps a great deal if you know how to cook going in, so you can edit Joy's recipes as you cook them, and are comfortable enough to improvise their flaws away. Joy doesn't make much of an effort trying to teach you techniques, it almost never gives you enough information to get anything right on the first or even second try. And it certainly won't remind you of the basics like adjusting seasoning. Those are things you have to learn and do for yourself.

It's not a good beginner's cookbook. If you learned from Joy, you by God had to persevere. It is, though, a wonderfully comprehensive source of American cuisine recipes -- a great many of which aren't particularly well tested.

The best way to use Joy may be to find a recipe, read it a few times, then put the book away before cooking. The exact ratios and sequences probably aren't that good; so working off the idea is usually enough. Lots and lots and lots of good ideas in Joy of Cooking. But if you like working off a well-tested recipe and following it exactly, it's not the book for you.

BDL
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post #77 of 196
Jacques Pepin "La Methode" and "La Technique," for sure, along with "The Joy of Cooking" (not the current, dumbed-down version, but the edition before that one).
post #78 of 196
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post #79 of 196
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques

Whoops, forgot to add, use the Amazon link from ChefTalk!
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post #80 of 196

Thank you for taking the time to explain your thoughts, BDL.  When I buy a cookbook, I want instructions for the

recipe.  I don't want an outline.  I want precise instructions which I follow to the letter and I expect it to be good.  It's like

I expect a car mechanic to have a step by step book from the car manufacturer on how to repair something.  Not just a book

that he can use as a "guideline"  on how to fix brakes and he can fiddle around with until they work!  

 

 

post #81 of 196

I live in Australia and when I married 40 years ago, I really couldn't cook at at all. My very first cookbook was the Margaret Fulton Cookbook, which was recommended to me as the one essential book for newbie home cooks. I loved that book - it taught me everything. The book has been in print since 1968 and Margaret (one of our most respected and loved celebrity chefs) has a new revised edition available. I'd still pass on the advice that was given to me - buy this book and it will teach you to cook. For non-Australians, I would suggest the same thing to any new home cook - buy a good, basic cookbook by a reliable cook that covers everything you need to know. Then you can start collecting cookbooks. My next purchase was a Chinese cookbook.

 

 

post #82 of 196

Happy Cooker,

 

To be clear, I was neither recommending Joy of Cooking nor trying to dissuade anyone from it.  It sounds as though Joy isn't a good choice for you. 

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/20/11 at 12:07pm
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post #83 of 196


Hi Happy Cooker,

 

Thank you for your reply. I thought I must be crazy not to like that book. 

 

At one time BH&G was my favorite book too but then I got into America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated and recently Cook's Country. I hope you give their books a try. You won't get pretty pictures but you will get in-depth recipes. 

 

They take recipes and redo them. I've even seen a re-do of a recipe from Zuni Cafe. They tell why one thing works and why something else didn't work.  You can skip all that information and get right to the recipe if you want.

 

Good luck!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Cooker View Post

Hi, SP!

 

Glad to read I'm not the only one that encountered "tasteless".  Again, I'm curious to hear from all those who recommend Joy and exactly which recipe blew their dress up.  

 

I go to a cookbook first and then scour the web to find a recipe and more often than not, like the one on the Internet better.  

 

My favorite 'go to' book is  BH&G 1992 New Cook Book.  It's so worn out from use, I removed all the pages from the binding and put it in a loose leaf notebook.  I have their newer

cookbook but don't like it either - something familiar about my old one and I've had such great luck with the recipes - except the fudge recipe was awful.  

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

 

 

 



 

post #84 of 196

Hi, Sweetie Pie (*.*) -  

 

Love the name!  After tallying the number of people that recommended Joy, I didn't want to add my 2¢ worth - until I read

your post.  I can't imagine someone being happy with a cook book that you turn to to fix something delicious - and then

expect it to turn out badly and start tinkering with the recipe to make it yummy.  Jeez, they wrote the book and isn't

that the point of a cook book in the first place?

 

I subscribe to Cook's Illustrated, have done for years.  Bought their vegetable cook book and didn't like that either.  It's

beginning to look like I don't like a lot of books - but for baking, I adore Pillsbury's The Complete Book of Baking (out of

print but got it from amazon.com) and Kraft's A Taste of Heaven - and KitchenAid's Great Baking and More (also out of

print but available from amazon.com).  

 

I'm an 'ooh-er and ahhhh-er' and want something to be out of this world and not a recipe I have to adjust.  I'll look at

the Cook's vegetable book again and see if I can't find something to like.  I try one recipe a book - if it's no good, I

don't pick up the book again.  

 

It would be pretty difficult to explain to a customer why their order wasn't delicious - I could blame it on the recipe and

see how that would fly!

 

Take care - good chatting with you!

 

Happy Cooker

post #85 of 196

Thank you :) I didn't even know they had a specific vegetable book. If you are looking for vegetables, have you seen Plenty?  http://www.amazon.com/Plenty-Vibrant-Recipes-Londons-Ottolenghi/dp/1452101248/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318535338&sr=1-1  A lot of different recipes in there.

 

I didn't notice you are a pastry chef.  I am very into baking myself-although I am just learning.  I'd be interested to hear what you think of The Cake Bible and Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Two books I totally rely upon to make people say, "who baked that!!"

post #86 of 196

Yes, thanks, understood.

post #87 of 196

Oh, thank you - just went to amazon.com and ordered the book you suggested - looks like a great book chock-full of recipes and the photos are knock-outs!  Having grown up in London,

I'm sure it will be a double pleasure for me to prepare some of the vegetable dishes.  How very kind of you to send the link.

 

Here's a link for you:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_14?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=perfect+vegetables&sprefix=Perfect+Vegeta.  It was published in 2003

and I bought it in June 2005.  No glossy photos and very few photos.  I tried one recipe - a corn fritter that was in their magazine that I've subscribed to for many years - and I thought it

was horrible.  So I've never made anything else that they offer.  I do like their magazine and their equipment comparisons.  I may have said, I give a cook book one try and if something

isn't good, I don't use it again.  I'm not a 'negative Nellie' - more like 'critical Christina' - if it isn't good once, not going to waste my time again.

 

I have Rose's Heavenly Cakes - and not made anything from her book.  Subscribe to her newsletter.  As for The Cake Bible, I didn't buy it based on some of the customer reviews that

I read.  I wasn't taken by her Heavenly Cakes so I stopped there.  (http://www.amazon.com/Cake-Bible-Rose-Levy-Beranbaum/dp/0688044026/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318541591&sr=1-1).

 

I'm happy to hear you've had such great results with her books.  There's nothing better than watching someones reaction to what you have baked!  That's my fun~    I have my favorite baking books that I always turn to, they just don't happen to be Rose's books but I know she is in the big leagues.

 

Take care and thank you again!

 

 

post #88 of 196

Joy of Cooking was my starter, I would have to say its a great book, its simple and has a lot of good recipes and advice that includes little tricks of the trade. Thats my opinion.

post #89 of 196
Quote:
Originally Posted by sweetie pie View Post

Thank you :) I didn't even know they had a specific vegetable book. If you are looking for vegetables, have you seen Plenty?  http://www.amazon.com/Plenty-Vibrant-Recipes-Londons-Ottolenghi/dp/1452101248/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318535338&sr=1-1  A lot of different recipes in there.

 

I didn't notice you are a pastry chef.  I am very into baking myself-although I am just learning.  I'd be interested to hear what you think of The Cake Bible and Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Two books I totally rely upon to make people say, "who baked that!!"



Aha! another Ottolenghi fan!

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #90 of 196

Before I downsized from 7 1/2 foot of cookbooks/pamphlets and assorted booklets, the ones I took along to my new home--Betty Crocker looseleaf cookbook, The Woman's Home Companion Cookbook (excellent reference for terminology, service etiquette, handling of food, etc. but not great recipes), my mother, grandmother and aunts, church collections, Ida Bailey Allen books and booklets, Consumer Guide books, on and on. After I downsized I've added many more, it called an addiction.  I have saved all of my Taste of Home magazines, as well as Cook's Illustrated and Cuisine at Home.  Betty Crocker always afforded the best tasting, consistent product of all of the different cookbooks, the Woman's Home Companion was my goto book for reference for how to serve.  Thirty or thirty-five years ago, Safeway grocery had a series of booklets, I think numbered about 20 or so different topics, dinner parties, ethnic, food type, that I found to be very good, excellent recipes that have become family favorites.  But, I'm a much better cook because of Food TV.  I've learned more from watching, Sara Moulton, Tyler Florence, Julia Child, Two Fat Ladies and others that freed me from cookbooks, opened the mind to the possibilities of food combinations.  And, the computer, oh how widely I use it to search for recipes.  I have been using MasterCook computer program for at least 15 years.  Being able to search for ingredient recipes, being able to downsize recipes as I grow older and live in a one person household is a most welcome facet of a computer cooking program.  I'm always open to a new cookbook because my taste changes, the ingredients available expand, new friends have different tastes as well.  It's an adventure, never static. 

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