Monday, February 21, 2011

An indispensable cookbook.

I think everyone that cooks and enjoys cooking has at least a handful of cookbooks.  I however have started to develop my mother's overwhelming urge to acquire cookbooks. Luckily, both my mother and I have determined that it's useless to get them and not make anything out of them, so I think we have both stopped.  Also, I'd just like to note that some of these were acquired upon marriage.  Below is the current collection:

The cookbooks range from random cookbooks that I/we have bought and have never made anything out of, slow cooker cookbooks, church cookbooks, cookbooks that were gifts that we've actually made stuff out of, and probably one of my favorites; the one my mom gave both my brother and I when we went to college.  

I'll give you a run down about some of the books.  The Bride and Groom one we received as a wedding gift and we love it!  We've only made one recipe out of it so far, and that was clam chowder.  The meal was oddly symbolic as it was made from a cookbook we got as a wedding gift to help us recall the delicious clam chowder we had on our honeymoon in Maine.

Another cookbook is a book from Emeril.  I think we've only made one thing out of it, of which I talked a little about here.  We love that one recipe and we've made it half a dozen times, but hopefully we'll get a chance to make some more stuff out of it.

The most meaningful cookbook is from my mom.  It's the one with a striped binding in the first picture.  I grew up in a house that my mom made the majority of the meals.  I remember many times wishing we could just order pizza, but she always made it.  Looking back, I can't be more thankful for that fact.  Being the wonderful woman she is, she put together cookbook of the recipes for my favorite foods (she also made one for my brother when he went to college). These included, homemade cocoa syrup (I never could enjoy the bottled stuff after getting used to this), our family's famous spaghetti and ribs, my Grandma Rosendaul's Ketchupy Hotdogs, my Grandma Fritch's Sloppy Joes, the Turkey Pot Pie recipe that was modified and featured here, apple crisp, the family Christmas cut-out cookies (this is my mom's kindergarten teacher's recipe), my Grandpa Fritch's Scotcheroos, mandarin orange jello dessert, cornflake clusters, and many more.  After that list, you can probably see why I love the book so much.  The most meaningful thing about all of these recipes is that I grew up with them, and I know that generations down the road, our family is still going to be making a lot of these recipes.  That, to me, is awesome!  If you also notice, I've lazily jammed a bunch of random recipes in the book too with the intention of some day recording some of them in it.  More than likely, I'll just find another place to keep some of these and just save that book for family recipes.  One of which, I still need to learn is my Grandpa Fritch's pickle recipe.  I wasn't around the last time he made them (though some of the rest of my family finally got to see how it was done), and it's one of those recipes that has never been written down, you just have to learn by watching.  I love it!!

Finally, and what this whole post is suppose to be about, comes our go-to cookbook:  The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  This is really, our tried and true cookbook.  My wife or I have never made anything out of it that didn't come out right or tasting great.  #1 example....a whole chicken.  The first couple of times we made one, we looked online and what do you know, it was never done when they said it should be.  Finally, we wised up, and check the ATKFC for a recipe, it was in there, and it turned out perfect and right on time.  After searching online for a sandwich bread recipe and making probably 3-4 loafs that were edible, but were only so so, we looked here and viola!  We found a recipe we liked and are now using that.  

I could probably go on, but I don't recall any other good examples, plus I probably don't need to.  If you already have this cookbook, I'm sure you'll agree with me. If you don't have this cookbook and cook all the time, are just starting to cook, or are even thinking about it, I can't suggest this book highly enough.  While it has a lot of recipes that are great, it also has a lot of information about kitchen tools, suggestions, techniques, etc.  It's worth the money.  Buy it!

Do you have an America's Test Kitchen cookbook or another "go-to cookbook?"  Have you found a recipe in it that corrects mistakes you've been making from random, online recipes?  Do you have any other cookbook or family recipe stories?  If so, please feel free to leave a comment below.  We'd love to hear about them!


Anonymous said...

Hello! This is a topic I can chime in on!

I have been cooking since I was old enough to stand up on a chair to stir! Being the third of five children, I found my nitch in the kitchen early on! Late in elementary school, I graduated from oatmeal cookies and cake mixes to cookbooks and frequently tried recipes from my mom’s Westinghouse cookbook. In Junior high, I got into the habit of checking out cookbooks from the school library. The Fanny Farmer Cookbook was a popular classic book back then and I read and reread the pages in that book and copied dozens of recipes.

During high school and in my early 20’s, I was a true farmer wife “wannabee” and Farm Journal cookbooks became standards on my home shelf. When Ken and I married and moved to the west coast, my taste in food changed again, and the only thing I wanted to explore were international recipes! I remember trying a dessert while we were in Victoria and we scoured the city for a cookbook with a similar recipe! I had cookbooks for sugar free cooking, fat free cooking, high carb cooking - you name it - as research and diets changed so did our cookbooks!

Needless to say, I have collected quite a few cookbook over the years. Family and friends learned I enjoyed cooking and bought me books as gifts, or I picked them up myself. Now at midlife, I’ve pared down to just two shelves of my most favorite books. Gone are the 15 Southern Living Annual Cookbooks, a dozen Taste of Home annual cookbooks, and countless Martha Stewarts along with a plethora of others. This is what has remained:

Farm Journal Country cookbook: If you want some good home, country cooking, this is the book!

Betty Crocker cookbook – a reliable, everyday, cookbook with recipes that are consistently good. I think they must update them every ten years or so and I think have the editions of 1980, 1990 and 2000! Some recipes are the same; some are very different as our nation has changed. The pages are worn out in this book.

If I’m having folks over and want a special dinner, I have a few favorites to go to: Rebecca Rather has several cookbooks with great recipes; also Simply Classic and Savoring the Flavor of Oregon (both Junior League books) are very good for company recipes

The New Cooks Illustrated cookbook. I tried the rosemary scalloped potatoes and it is a new family favorite! I look forward to trying more!

I must admit though that my most favorite cookbook was only used once. You see, 26 years ago, a man I was dating gave me a gift he knew only he could rival. Easter Sunday morning, at 6:30 in the morning, he handed me a gift wrapped Fannie Farmer cookbook. As I ohh’d and ahh’d over the charm of receiving that golden book of long ago, I excitedly turned the first pages one-by-one, remembering the old recipes. Only when I was about one-third through the book, I realized that he had cut a small square through the pages and a blue velvet jeweler’s box was tucked inside where he proposed. Later that day as the story was told, my practical younger sister who knew of my love of cookbooks exclaimed “But he ruined your cookbook.” Somehow… it just doesn’t matter…

Enjoy these early days with your bride and all the great memories you are placing in your treasure box of life. And keep up the great blog. It's a pleasure to read!

Joy! (Snowville)

Lynette said...

Joy, thank you for your recommendations and sharing your story. Your proposal just made my day! Beautiful!

Sarah Dill said...

I love this cookbook. It's fatastic.

Eric said...

Thanks so much for the comment, Joy! We're glad your enjoying the blog!

I think I need to buy a couple more cookbooks now! :-) Also, rosemary scalloped potatoes!?! Now there is something I've got to try! They sound wonderful!

Lynette said...

Sarah, what cookbook? The America's Test Kitchen? Did Jeremy get it for you, too?

Sarah Dill said...

Am I able to follow your blog? I don't see a follow button and am new to all this :)

Sarah Dill said...

yes America's Test Kitchen...yes Jer got it for us :)

Eric said...

Sarah, I've added a Follow button just for you, but next time we hang out, I can show you a good way to follow any blog you want, through the Blogger dashboard.

Jeremy said...

Hey, I'm glad you like that cookbook! I think I've given it to at least three different people now :) I think it's the best general "basis" cookbook to build a library from, especially while you're still learning what foods you like to cook, what techniques work for you, and so on.

I try to be very conservative about cookbooks precisely because it's way too easy to fill a shelf with cookbooks where maybe one or two of the recipes are good, and the rest are duds. Apart from Cook's Country magazine and Cook's Illustrated's online membership, I've only bought two cookbooks to supplement ATK: Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and Molly Stevens' "All about Braising", since I've discovered that braising really is my favorite way to cook: cheap, easy, and so flavorful! Both books came highly recommended and remain so :)