The New Best Recipe
editors of Cook's Illustrated, 2004
This is a 1000-page cookbook that, instead of merely presenting recipes,
goes through several possible approaches to every dish, tries them all out,
and reports back which one worked out the best and then tries permutations
on that approach until finally arriving at the single "best" way to make
the meal. Frederick Winslow Taylor would weep with joy. There are many
interesting sidebars covering everything from the chemistry of pasta
dough to which brand of soy sauce is best. And the book as a whole ranges
from cauliflower to scrambled eggs to chocolate cake, along with many many
many meaty chapters.
And in fact that is part of why in the several months I have had this
cookbook, I have rarely found myself using it: all too often its solution
to how to make a particular dish is "add pork!" Furthermore, even when
this isn't the case, I find that my idea of what is "best" diverges
significantly from those of the editors. Sometimes this is apparent
just from the description — "gleaming soft wobbling curds" —
and sometimes only after trying out the recipe. I tried this book's
version of chocolate chip cookies a couple of times, following the
directions very carefully, and both times came up with exactly the same
sort of cookie... one that I found pretty gross.
Vegetables Every Day
Jack Bishop, 2001
Though I live in the Bay Area, reputed to be one of the premier places
for food on the continent if not the world, the best food I've had here
comes not from any restaurant but from my own kitchen, thanks to Jack
Bishop's cookbooks. For the price of one mid-range dinner for two,
Pasta e Verdura and
The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook have fed me
magnificently for five years now. The one Bishop cookbook I hadn't
bought was Vegetables Every Day, because it appeared to be geared
toward the preparation of vegetable side dishes, and since I'm almost
always cooking only for myself, it's extremely rare that I make a side
dish. But completism got the better of me, and I ordered the book...
and it was pretty much exactly what I thought. Almost none of these
recipes really works as a main dish, and so I haven't gotten much use
out of it.
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