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The 7 - One Question... - What's Your Favorite Cookbook? Register and log in to post!
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Leroy
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#1 Posted on 8.8.10 1827.28
Reposted on: 8.8.17 1827.52

One of the things I really need to learn how to do in the next year is cook. I'm not terrible in the kitchen, I just don't have a ton of experience, and I really need to develop some ability to make a comprehensive meal (mostly for myself, but also for guests and whatnot). And given that my fiancé and I are spending the next nine months apart, it'll be good if I am not dining out 6 days a week (for a few reasons, not the least of which is it gets pretty expensive).

And at the risk of violating the one question rule, any "learn how to cook" pointers would be good as well.

I flipped through this bad boy yesterday: I Know How To Cook (The W at Amazon)

Pretty amazing - with detailed explanations for all standard cooking terms, when, where and how to use specific spices, and a bunch of other interesting tidbits (it's over 900 pages). Not sure about the recipes, though...
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emma
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#2 Posted on 8.8.10 2029.06
Reposted on: 8.8.17 2029.10
In reverse order:

1) What you want is Julia Child. From the drift that you've presented, I'd emphatically recommend The Way to Cook (amazon.com). (There is a paperback version of it that's cheaper, but I've heard those tend to fall apart with use.) Gives you details of techniques, all the basics, several different ways to do just about any ingredient you're likely to run into. It's a really good "learning how by doing" book.

2) As to the question in the title ... I'm good. (Damn good.) My friends & I all do some seriously hardcore cooking & entertaining. My current favourite is The French Laundry (amazon.com). Not in any way beginner or intermediate level. (Doesn't everybody have both a chinois & a tamis readily at hand?)
bash91
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#3 Posted on 8.8.10 2102.46
Reposted on: 8.8.17 2103.18
We've got several we really like and use regularly. As far as I'm concerned, you generally can't go wrong with any of Alton Brown's books. Let's put several in list form:

I'm Just Here for the Food (The W at Amazon)
I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking
Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking - Donald Link is a great book if you like, well, real Cajun food. This is the one I'm having a lot of fun with since our recent move to Louisiana has made a number of the ingredients much cheaper and easier to obtain. Boiled crawfish and jalapeno hush puppies with five pepper jelly is rapidly becoming a family favorite.
The Japanese Kitchen - Hiroko Shimbo is a really accessible primer to preparing Japanese food and has a lot of good and useful tips.
Mexican Everyday - Rick Bayless is another fairly accessible book with a lot of great recipes that are relatively easy to prepare.
The Well-Filled Tortilla Cookbook - Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman is another really good and useful book for the beginning cook.

As far as learning how to cook, the best pointer I can give you is just do it. I'm a pretty fair country chef (read I'm the one who gets called on to cook at most any gathering of family and/or friends where the menu is more involved than burgers and brats) and most of my best recipes aren't from cookbooks, they're from trying new things and being willing to eat my mistakes. Generally speaking, I'll follow a recipe once and then it is open season for me to play with it and see how I can make it mine.

The other advice I have is get a couple of good knives, keep them sharp and in good condition, and learn how to use and care for them properly. I've found in both line cooking and cooking at home that good sharp knives really do make prep a lot easier and safer. Plus, you don't have to spend a lot of money to get good quality anymore. My current favorite knife is a 7" J.A. Henckels santoku that I picked up for about $30 a few years ago. It cuts better than anything I've ever used and has held an edge with nothing more than regular use of a steel for several years.

Enjoy and have fun with it.
Tim
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#4 Posted on 9.8.10 1515.47
Reposted on: 9.8.17 1516.40
I know it's not a cookbook, but we've become big fans of the Food Network magazine.

There are always a number of recipes each month that become regulars in my dinner rotation.
samoflange
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#5 Posted on 9.8.10 1710.23
Reposted on: 9.8.17 1711.28
The internet. I'm not much a recipe guy, but if I want to use some stuff I have in my kitchen which I'm not sure about, I type whatever things I have into Google and plenty of recipes come back. Most recipe sites have reviews and ratings by now so it's easy to find something promising. I'f it's particularly good and is something I'll probably want to make on a regular basis, I'll jot down some notes and stick it on the fridge.

My wife, on the other hand, loves cookbooks. In addition to owning plenty of them, she borrows them from the library and photocopies pages to get recipes that she wants, which then are put in a binder. She also takes culinary classes at the adult ed center and has a few binders from them.
CRZ
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#6 Posted on 9.8.10 1727.40
Reposted on: 9.8.17 1728.33
For freebies, you might want to consider getting the Penzeys Spices catalog mailed to you (penzeys.com).
Zeruel
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#7 Posted on 9.8.10 1744.19
Reposted on: 9.8.17 1744.22
    Originally posted by samoflange
    The internet. I'm not much a recipe guy, but if I want to use some stuff I have in my kitchen which I'm not sure about, I type whatever things I have into Google and plenty of recipes come back. Most recipe sites have reviews and ratings by now so it's easy to find something promising. I'f it's particularly good and is something I'll probably want to make on a regular basis, I'll jot down some notes and stick it on the fridge.


That is what I pretty much do. I haven't had too many problems with the Food Network site. There were probably 5 things that didn't come out to my taste but there are probably 10 hits for every one of those misses.
wmatistic
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#8 Posted on 9.8.10 2144.05
Reposted on: 9.8.17 2144.12
I'll second Mexican Everyday(or really any of Bayless's cookbooks, though they are repetitive). That one has very easy recipes that are great.

My current favorite is Rose Berenbaum's excellent Rose's Heavenly Cakes book, which I suppose is more complex stuff, but it's outstanding(as are her other books, Pie & Pastry Bible and The Cake Bible).

Best cooking resource to me though is a subscription to Bon Appetit. I've got a decade of issues, a lot of which can be found on their great website. $12 for a year, no brainer.





dunkndollaz
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#9 Posted on 10.8.10 2317.18
Reposted on: 10.8.17 2320.45
That's easy. Tried & True Quick & Easy by AllRecipes.com - I have 2 recipes in it.

http://astore.amazon.com/thewmessagboa-20/images/0971172323
Leroy
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#10 Posted on 11.8.10 1125.43
Reposted on: 11.8.17 1128.06
Thanks folks, this is all very helpful. I guess it's just a matter of "doing it", and learning from there - amazingly, just like anything else.



The negative reviews of this book on Amazon are HYSTERICAL.


    Can anyone really appreciate a meal or even a course with one or two bites? Kudos to those who can, I really need to taste more than a morsel to be satisified with any meal or entree



    Buy it if you hate to cook but love to impress your social-climbing pals.



    The etherial and gourmet spiritual pomposity really turned me away. ... I burned the book I was so mad.

And my personal favorite:


    It doesn't work in the kitchen or the living room.


(edited by Leroy on 11.8.10 0933)
tarnish
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#11 Posted on 11.8.10 1334.10
Reposted on: 11.8.17 1334.33

I've got way too many cookbooks and I love them all, but the one that I keep going back to again and again is "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times (his weekly column there is called "The Minimalist"). He's also got a vegetarian variant called, "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian".

In most cases his recipe for X may not make the best X I've ever had, but he covers so many ingredients with so many basic recipes that for day-to-day cooking I don't think the book can be beat.

I also heartily recommend buying regularly or subscribing to Cook's Illustrated. Although they'll occasionally print a complicated recipe involving better-than-basic skills and techniques, for the most part their recipes are achievable by almost anyone and contain a lot of information regarding how they arrived at that particular combination of ingredients and techniques.
Spaceman Spiff
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#12 Posted on 12.8.10 1206.04
Reposted on: 12.8.17 1208.04
(image removed)
emma
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#13 Posted on 12.8.10 1514.37
Reposted on: 12.8.17 1519.17
    Originally posted by Leroy


    The negative reviews of this book on Amazon are HYSTERICAL.

With those assessments of FL, I'd live to see what they thought of Alinea (amazon.com). Actually, they're probably all institutionalised, just from glancing through! :-)

{ Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! }

(edited by emma on 12.8.10 1352)
Leroy
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#14 Posted on 14.9.10 0045.20
Reposted on: 14.9.17 0046.20
    Originally posted by emma
    I'd emphatically recommend The Way to Cook (amazon.com).


So as I am waiting for this book to arrive (I got a slightly used hardback), I decided to take bash91/Tim's advice, so I looked for some basic guidelines online, and dove right in.

I made some pretty decent vegetable and bean enchiladas last week (good but not terrific).

Tonight, I decided to extend myself a bit, and try a baked feta and pesto stuffed chicken breast with lemon pepper. I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

(image removed)

(It's my iPhone's camera with no flash, so... oh, and please excuse our plates - we're not buying anything new until after we move to New York next year.)

It wasn't perfect - I over stuffed it a bit and it wasn't even, so there were portions that didn't have any of the stuffing, but other than that this was DELICIOUS. And the kicker is that this wasn't terribly difficult, and it wasn't from a recipe - I just kind made it up from some ideas I found online.

I could easily make a dish like this almost every evening without much hassle. I can see myself getting pretty into cooking once the book arrives.

Anyway, the advice here was great, so thanks everyone.

(edited by Leroy on 13.9.10 2246)
PaulKTF
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#15 Posted on 18.9.10 0428.17
Reposted on: 18.9.17 0429.01
101 Things to Do with Mac & Cheese. It takes Kraft Macaroni And Cheese (which is already awesome) to a whole new level.
Oliver
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#16 Posted on 19.9.10 2120.29
Reposted on: 19.9.17 2121.10
    Originally posted by PaulKTF
    101 Things to Do with Mac & Cheese. It takes Kraft Macaroni And Cheese (which is already awesome) to a whole new level.
Great....now you've got me craving it. I gotta get my hands on that cookbook.

Believe it or not, the WWE cookbook...Can You Take The Heat. It's been beat up and abused, the cover has been torn off and it's covered in a LOT of sauce and whatever stains...but it's very, very good. There are some great things in it. Outside of the "Pepper" recipe, but lets not get into that.

(edited by Oliver on 19.9.10 2022)
spf
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#17 Posted on 21.9.10 1544.52
Reposted on: 21.9.17 1545.00
The thing I take from this thread is that it is good to be on emma's dinner party invite list.

Anyone who speaks ill of The French Laundry should be shot on sight. Best meal I have ever had in my life, and likely ever will have was there.
Tenken347
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#18 Posted on 22.9.10 2024.59
Reposted on: 22.9.17 2025.05
Leroy, you did absolutely the best thing you can do when it comes to cooking - you thought about the flavors you like to eat, and about the ways you could put them together. That's really all cooking comes down to.

As far as my favorite cookbook goes, I absolutely love my copy of Fanny Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cook Book from 1942. I picked it up at a flea market, and I find it absolutely fascinating. It predates toasters and refers to avocados as "alligator pears."
Leroy
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#19 Posted on 22.9.10 2159.05
Reposted on: 22.9.17 2201.59
    Originally posted by Tenken347
    Leroy, you did absolutely the best thing you can do when it comes to cooking - you thought about the flavors you like to eat, and about the ways you could put them together. That's really all cooking comes down to.


I think the thing that surprises me the most is that I am having fun cooking. I didn't really expect that. My second attempt at the stuffed chicken breast:

(image removed)

This time, I flattened out the chicken with a meat tenderizer (well, a ladle actually, as I don't yet have a meat tenderize), and wrapped it around the feta and pesto, toothpicked everything into place, and baked it for 30 minutes.

The chicken was a little drier, but I also had to defrost it, which may have played a part in that. I also added some parsley flakes for more color, which also tasted good. My vegetable enchiladas are also coming along. The photo of that isn't nearly as impressive, however.
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