Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Kitchen Libraries

This entry is for those folks that do not meet all of the following criteria:

1. You have sat at the dining table next to the kitchen while Nancy or John prepares a meal.

2. You have watched, fascinated, while they throw various and sundry vegetables, meats, and spices into pots, bowls, and pans.

3. You realized that there was nary a book in sight.

4. You felt that number three was a perfectly normal state of affairs. (No book, not the realization)

If you meet all of the above conditions, then you may move on down your blog roll to some other blog, thanks for your attention.

For the rest, what are the most used cookbooks, recipe collections, or sources that you use?
I have a weakness for older cookbooks and our kitchen shelves reflect this. But that is just curiosity. No, what I am looking for are the ones that have dog-eared pages, dark smudges throughout, and little bits of packaging material stuck in as bookmarks.

Debi and I have a habit of making a cookbook ours. On the flyleaves, we will list favorite recipes and the page numbers. At the recipe itself, we write the date that we first used it. We try to use the recipe as written the first time*. After that, any changes we make or want to make the next time, are written in, in the margins. That is why, when I write out recipes here on the blog, the basic recipe is there and our changes in (parenthesis).

So, the most used books at SapperHall (not in any particular order):

Cooking Under Pressure, Lorna Sass; William Morrow and Co, 1989
We use the heck out of this book. If you have not used a pressure cooker before, this is a great source. Easy to read, not real elaborate, and very complete.

The Complete Book of Soups and Stews, Bernard Clayton, Jr.; A Fireside Book by Simon and Schuster; 1984
Everything soupy. Again, very easy to use. Chock full of great recipes, from boiled water (garlic), to more elaborate preps. I write most of my recipes out using Clayton's basic form.

The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Fannie Farmer; Little-Brown and Company; 1st printing of the 1941 edition
There are some books that cannot be replaced. Copied, yes, replaced, no. It may lack in some finer details of dish assembly, but it has all the solid American recipes that I grew up on. None of this fancy Julia Child stuff in the Davis household. On the flyleaf of this copy is written "...10/15/42 To keep Bob happy - Ann". To me, the story here is that it was given by a mother-in-law to a new daughter.

The Minimalist Cooks at Home, Mark Bittman; Broadway Books; 1999
Not being a NYT (hack, gack) fan, I had no idea who Bittman was. I am sure glad that I found this book. Quick, simple meals. There are not too many dishes with more than about 10 ingredients. Every dish has a list of alternative ingredients to take it further or to adapt to what you actually have in the pantry. That formula is shared by our next entry,

How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman; Wiley Publishing; 1998
We use this a lot. Our favorite saying about this book is "...[Bittman] has never let us down." I have found a few items that are not mentioned in here and I have emailed Bittman at the NYT (hack, gack), but have not heard from him.

The New Professional Chef, Culinary Institute of America (various); Van Nostrand Reinhold Publishing; 5th edition, 1991
This was a gift from my mother-in-law and I cannot stop thanking her. Little by little I am learning some small skill at the prep table and it is all because of this book. And I do use it for the recipes, even when it makes a gallon of dressing. The beauty of it is that it can be easily adapted for smaller preparations without needing a math degree. Love the Ceaser-style dressing and the seviche recipes.

The Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking, Jeni Wright (Editor); Crescent Books; 1st English edition, 1981
We do not use this one as much as the others, but when we need it, I am sure glad that it is here. The only thing that I have really changed is that I do not make risotto in the pan, I use the pressure cooker.

So there you have 'em, the cook books that get the most use here. Unlisted are all of the Cook's Illustrated, the Saveurs, and all of the other collected collections that fill the shelves.

What do you use?

*True except for garlic. We are not afraid to boost the blessed herb. Most recipes seem to think that garlic is a spice instead of a vegetable.


Nancy DeCherney said...

Gee, I use cookbooks all the time! Love reading them, and figure if I find one recipe in a book that I like, it is worth the price.
Favorites (the ones that live in the cabinet above the stove)in recollected order:
Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Marcella Hazan, both the green one and the cream one

Laurie Colwin, the red one (pear crisp recipe and the shortbread recipe) and the green one (

Joie de Vivre, the potatos, the carrots, the chocolate at 3 in the afternoon.

Ken Hom's Easy Family recipes

Mirielle Johnston's Cuisine of the Sun has perfect potato salads and other vegetable salads

Cucina Rustica books

Joy of Cooking

several little notebooks with favorites copied into them

and I do use the Fiddlehead Cookbook all the time. Stuck in the 80s I guess.

Thanesmiths said...

Unfortunately, I must institute a "no-net-gain" rule on cookbooks for myself, or we would run out of room on the pantry bookshelf very quickly. So, if I want a new one, I have to give away an old one. Some that aren't going anywhere are: Joy of Cooking, the Original Moosewood, Silver Palates, two of the cookbooks from the Junior League of Denver, Colorado Collage and Colorado Colores. Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking. And, of course, the Fiddlehead Cookbook.