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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Best Cookbooks

Mark Bitten is asking for help updating his "50 Cookbooks I'd Rather Not Live Without" cookbooks list.

417 comments so far.

I don't know what I'd do if I had to choose my fifty favorite cookbooks. I have bookcases filled with cookbooks elsewhere and maybe a foot-plus of cookbooks above the bar sink here. Are the cookbooks here the ones I'd rather not live without? Are there fifty of them?

On the shelf above the bar sink:
[* means that this blog post accomplished its purpose of making me think about the cookbooks I have here and I'm taking this book elsewhere and freeing up some shelf room ...]

  • The Microwave Guide and Cookbook (no author given) *

  • Eliason, Harward, Westover - Make-A-Mix Cookery - a classic used constantly while raising my family. I still pull it out to make cream cheese swirls, a coffee roll with cream cheese filling sort of like a cheese Danish, which I make for Easter brunch and other special occasions.

  • More Make-A-Mix Cookery ... vol 2. of the classic

  • Sunset Chinese Cook Book - this book falls open to the kung pao chicken recipe page, now stained and splattered and no longer attached to the binding it's been used so much

  • Sunset Cooking Bold & Fearless: a cook book for men *

  • Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes *

  • Betty Crocker's Bisquick Cookbook * - used constantly while raising kids. I'd make the biscuit mix from Make-A-Mix Cookery and use the Bisquick recipes from this book

  • Shinojima - Authentic Japanese Cuisine for Beginners - picked up on our trip to Japan last year. [or not. When I was going through it, I noticed the price information on the back was in $$$. Picked up where, then?] I need to sit down with it to see if it deserves to be kept in the limited space here. [Made the cut. Keeping here.]

  • Mabel C. Lai - Chinese Cuisine Made Easy - "Hot & Spicy Soup" (p32) 'nuff said. I always need to check how many golden needles, wooden ears and bamboo shoots the recipe takes. Gee, I haven't made the soup in a long time. Need to get some fresh tofu and check the cupboards for golden needles, wooden ears and bamboo shoots. The "Ginger Broccoli Beef" recipe is exceptional too.

  • Ranck, Good - Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: feasting with your slow cooker - another classic.

  • Shirley - Wonderful ways to prepare chicken - bought for $1.95 at some Gemco/KMart-like store more years ago than I can remember. (c1979). "Piquant Chicken" (made with honey, lemon juice and ginger) is a favorite. "Chicken Diva" (with a sherry-Parmesan white sauce and broccoli) is another. "Sherry Creamed Chicken." Maybe chicken tonight. Hm.

  • Sunset Recipes for Ground Beef - falls open to the splattered page showing "Cottage Cheese Meat Loaf." The recipe not only includes cottage cheese but also uses rolled oats instead of bread cubes. Delish. When the young ones were MUCH younger, I'd cook the meatloaf with carrots, beans and/or peas mixed in as the accompanying vegetable. I tend not to look at the other recipes for meatloaf (24 variations ...) but say, "Almond Studded Curry Loaf" using Major Grey's chutney sounds not half bad. Am I in a rut?

  • Killeen - 101 Secrets of Gourmet Chefs: unusual recipes from great California restaurants *

  • Goldstein - From Our House to Yours: comfort food to give and share - provenance unknown. I need to sit down with this one. I really liked Joyce Goldstein's cooking at Square One decades back and enjoy her articles in the Chron food section. [Made the cut. Keeping here.]

  • Duchess of Devonshire - Chatsworth Cookery Book. Signed. Picked this book up when we were back visiting the relatives last fall. Need to sit down with this book too. Should it be taking up space here? [Made the cut. Keeping here.]

  • America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook - a new classic. I love this stuff.

  • Rombauer, Becker - Joy of Cooking. 'nuff said. I love the nitty gritty detail but don't much love the "see White Sauce 111, 341" and "Please read About Doughnuts, 244" sorts of forward and back references in practically every recipe. Still. If you've never quite got the hang of preparing sweetbreads, the Rombauer clan will set you straight. Superb indexing.

  • The Best of Bon Appetit (1979) - Ginger Cream Chicken (p69) (madeira, ginger, chopped up candied ginger, cream -- what's not to like?)

  • Cooking Light 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook - Goodwill purchase. I don't know if I've ever cooked from this book. I need to sit down with this book.

  • America's Best Lost Recipes - I adore Christopher Kimball and his crew at Cook's Magazine and America's Test Kitchen and all the affiliated incarnations.

  • Betty Crocker's Cookbook - the classic. The cookbook I used most after I moved out on my own. Splattered. Marked. Oooh. Here's a piece of folded paper with a recipe for "Rasa Malaysia Portuguese Egg Tarts" Those were exceptionally tasty. BCC is my go-to book when I can't remember how long to cook a roast because it's been so long since we had one.

  • The Silver Spoon from Phaidon Press. 1263pp. Can't remember where this one came from either, but like the America's Test Kitchen books, it's just a fun read. Perch: four recipes. Octopus: six recipes Catfish and tench: four recipes. Cuttlefish: six recipes. How can you not like a cookbook with recipes for "Heart Kabobs" and "Cream of Fennel Soup with Smoked Salmon"?

  • Eichelbaum - Cooking for Heart & Soul: 100 delicious lowfat recipes from San Francisco's top chefs * a cookbook to benefit the San Francisco Food Bank - this was a prize from a drawing at a Food Bank event. I need to sit down with this one. [Made the cut. Keeping here.]

  • Bon Appetit - Too Busy to Cook? Also kept (it seems ... page falls open) for the Ginger Cream Chicken recipe. That is one delicious recipe. I make it these days with boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts, but then I make most of my chicken recipes with thighs instead of breasts. I don't hack up whole chickens like I did back when now that there are only two of us to feed so we have neither chicken breasts nor chicken livers as much as we did then. A large bag of chicken thighs from Costco is in the freezer and we take what we need for whatever we're cooking. Buy a new bag when the current bag is getting near gone.

  • seven different editions of the Presto pressure cooker recipe book and a Wards Cooker (pressure cooker) recipe book from 1947 and a Wards Magic Seal Pressure Saucepan recipe book. How many books do I need to look up how long to cook artichokes or beets or pot roast in a pressure cooker? I think I need to re-think this stash.

  • Royal Cook Book (from the Royal Baking Powder Co)(1925) - classics like "Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Cake" "Lady Baltimore Cake" "Royal Sponge Cake" but also a bunch of recipes that don't use baking powder at all. I'm assuming the Royal Baking Powder company wanted a free giveaway that the fickle homemaker would hold on to, that would keep their name front and center even if she didn't =yet= use their baking powder..

  • Recipe Finder Index - a critical item back in the days before I could find a recipe for just about anything on the Web. Once the number of cookbooks in the house reached a certain point, there were times when I was all,"Oh, I'd like to make that sausage pie thing with spinach and basil again but which cookbook has the recipe?" The Finder Index is broken into categories (Appetizers & Snacks, Beverages, Desserts -- Pies). Space for recipe name, source & page#, date tried, and notes. I'd forgotten about most of these: "Nanking Liver" from the New Poor Poet Cookbook, "German style Kidneys" from Sunset Cooking with Wine, "Migg's Fish" from the Southern Junior League Cookbook, "Sherried Chicken Livers" from Sumptuous Indulgence on a Shoestring.

  • Law - Pacific Light Cooking. Another Goodwill purchase. Need to look at this one.

  • Child, Bertholle, Beck - Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A classic. I have no idea why it falls open to the section with onion recipes. Looks like something spilt there once upon a time. Heavily stained page: "Navarin Printanier" [Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables] I love this cookbook for its sense and its recipes and the way they laid out the pages. Its sequel is over with the other cookbooks,as is Simca's Cuisine and two and a half shelves of books on French cooking: Beck, Child, Pepin, others.

  • Dailey - The Best Pressure Cookbook Ever - so why all the Presto recipe books? Oh, look! There's yet another Presto recipe book inside! That settles it. The batch listed earlier is going elsewhere.

  • McLaren - Pan-Pacific Cook Book: savory bits from the world's fare (1915) e.g. #63 Tchi - a Russian national soup. "Chop fine half of a small cabbage and a large onion and fry in dripping for a few moments; stir in two tablespoons of flour. Cook for three minutes, then add slowly two quarts of beef stock. Simmer for half an hour, add a few forcemeat or sausage balls and a wineglass of white wine. Simmer twenty minutes more and serve." Fun. His nibs' great great aunt was involved with committee work for the 1915 Fair so we pick up books and whatever we can find about it, if they can be had for a reasonable price. This cookbook was $15.

  • The Daily Echo (Halifax) - Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book. Very beat up. Of uncertain age. Falling to bits. First six pages gone, which is probably where the date information was. Recipes provided by the Daily Echo, plus handwritten recipes inside in various hands and pasted-in recipes cut from papers or magazines. A look into the past.

  • Small-ish book with many pages, separated by alpha dividers. May have been intended as an address book but used instead for recipes. Recipes written in different hands. Provenance? Recipes assigned to letters higgly-piggly. "Pots de creme" recipe under "P" and a different "Pot de Creme" recipe under "D" for "dessert" Also under "D" "Iced Tea" ... "drinks," I suppose. Also in "D" "Daiquiri" with a note, "Edie, Ethel and Emily liked"

  • Robertson, Flinders, Godfrey - Laurel's Kitchen. (1976). This book was my second go-to book after Betty Crocker. Vegetarian. The younger ones consider "Chillaquillas" (or ChileeKillees, as we called them) comfort food. Cheap, tasty, good.

  • Ayer y Hoy de la Cocina Navarra - with a handy dandy translation of the recipes into English. A goodie gift from the Kingdom of Navarra during a meet the winemakers of Navarre event. I need to check out the recipes. This book probably belongs elsewhere.

    and last but not least

  • Stewart - The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. 1200 recipes. Tasty.

What does that add up to? Thirty-plus. I'll weed through the ones I set aside and take them elsewhere, opening up space for other cookbooks I'd be happier to have close by. For now, here's what the shelves above the bar sink look like.


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