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Recently, I've been conducting research for an intermediate cooking class (topic here), and that's led me to both books I hadn't read, and a couple that have been on my shelf for quite a while but that I'd forgotten about. They're worth mentioning here, since they're great resources for those of us looking to improve our techniques and our ability to improvise, and I don't think there are discussions on them already.

The first is one that I'd heard of but never read: Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef. It was published in 2000, about the same time as Colicchio opened Craft. It opens with a series of technique lessons: roasting, braising, blanching, stocks, sauces. What lifts the chef's approach above the ordinary is both his straightforward style and his clear appreciation for (pardon the expression) craft. He also defines -- for example -- roasting, in a way that makes sense but isn't necessarily how everyone thinks of it. Finally, he doesn't stick with the tried and true: he roasts salsify and tomatoes and braises artichokes (an old technique that needs reviving) and snapper.

The second section is called "Studies." In places it seems like an excuse to toss a few more recipes into the book, but there are lessons along the way: caramelized tomato tarts (he does the same thing with mushrooms) and polenta gratin with mushroom "bolognese" are really lessons in how to think in new ways about taste, texture and technique.

"Trilogies" are groups of three ingredients (asparagus, ramps and morels, for example), which Colicchio puts together in different ways, again to showcase flexibility and imagination.

Finally, the chef explains what he calls "Component Cooking," where he engages seasonality and tries -- with modest success -- to put everything together. This final section has some terrific recipes for elements designed to elevate a meal. What's most interesting about this section is how, without saying so, it describes much of what goes on in terms of menu planning and production at good restaurants. If you've got endive chutney, pickled ramps and pan-fried zucchini blossoms in your repertoire, it's that much easier to put a compelling menu together.

All in all, I'm not sure you'll come away from the book thinking like a chef. But you'll be thinking a bit more like Tom Colicchio, and if you're a cook, that's a good thing.

I've got a couple more to talk about, but meanwhile, what's on your shelf gathering undeserved dust?

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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David Rosengarten's 2004 Beard winner It's All American Food is a chunky 487 pager, and when I'm considering the contents of my pantry and fridge trying to, well, think like a chef, I often remember it too late. This is a majorly useful book, studded with historical sidebars and useful how- to illustrations. The tone is breezy and proletarian and every recipe I've tried is a winner.

By far the longest section is "Ethnic America" and it could replace several single-cuisine cookbooks I own. Soup dumplings, Chicken Parm, Duck a l'Orange, American-style Lasagna, Cholent, Ajiaco, Tex-Mex Rice,Tostones, Liptauer Cheese, Ceviche, Goulash, Crepes Suzettes, Side Dish Dal. I made Chinese Restaurant Sprareribs from this section last Saturday. I thought one rack for two people would be enough. It wasn't.

Next up is "Regional America" and it's similarly encyclopedic. Boston Brown Bread, Barney Greengrass's Scrambled Eggs with Cheddar Cheese and Horseradish, Egg Cream, Philly Pretzels, She-Crab Soup, Memphis Dry Rub Ribs, Pickled Okra, Oysters Bienville, Carne Adovado, Granola, Crab Louis.

Then there's "Classic America". Tuna Melt, Homemade Sausage patties, Pot Roast, etc.

I hope I've given you the scope of the book, but the sheer number and breadth of the recipes is, well, vast. If you can't find something good from this collection for breakfast, lunch, dinner and frequent snacks from the 400 recipes therein I won't believe you. This book provides me quick inspiration when I'm at my most jaded.

Dave: "Great topic, man!"

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Maggie~

I love that book, too. ('Course, I'm a big David R. fan anyway...) but haven't cooked a whole lot from it. I'll need to pick it up again !

Dave~

I get the feeling that there's gonna be a BIG order from my house to Amazon within the week. Thanks a lot, man ! :hmmm::wink:

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There oughta be a law against topics like this. :biggrin:

It's not like I can afford more books. It's not like I NEED more books. But I just ordered Rosengarten's book on Maggie's advice. Looked on Amazon.ca and was able to get a used copy for very little and since it's shipping from Canada, the postage was not prohibitive.

A quick check of the TOC and it seemed to be exactly what Maggie said - inspirational for the days when I am brain-dead as far as what to make for breakfast/lunch/dinner.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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At the top of my list of overlooked cookbooks would have to be James Beard's "Theory and Practice Of Good Cooking." Published in, I believe, 1977, the book is organized by cooking method. Chapter titles are Boiling, Roasting, Braising, Baking, etc. Within each chapter are sections on applying that method to various main ingredients. The recipes in the book flow from that structure -- they're not isolated, one-off instructions but, rather, illustrations of technique. It's truly an ahead-of-its-time book.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Not a truly deep cookbook, but I've always found Nigel Slater's "Real Fast Food" a great resource. It reminds me in style and cadence of those funny wartime ration book cookbooks, but many times more delicious. I can't even think how many times I've leafed through it for a quick pantry style meal rather than go out for a burger.

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At the top of my list of overlooked cookbooks would have to be James Beard's "Theory and Practice Of Good Cooking." . . . It's truly an ahead-of-its-time book.

For me, rather than ahead of its time, it was the right book at the right time. In 1977, I was becoming interested in cooking as more than just sustenance, and my sister-in-law gave me T&P for Christmas. I practically slept with it; here's how close it stayed to my stove:

gallery_6393_149_2057.jpg

Outside, it's burned; inside, the spine is broken. Thanks to this book, though, I landed a job in a first-class kitchen -- without experience, without schooling (and without any idea of what I was getting into!)

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I love the "classic" recipes - they are recipes I remember from my childhood - both at restaurants and homes, but they aren't studiedly 'retro' - just good food.

Yes! I can always find the recipe for Perfect Cinnamon Rolls because the pages are stuck together. And the Braised Short Ribs with Carrots, Parsnips and Red Wine on page 438 ... !

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Damn you, Dave, this is a truly crack topic. But it's a pleasure to introduce neglected cookbooks to the eGullet Society literati.

I've talked up this book for a few years on single dish topics, but now I'm just gonna say it. Go to Amazon and order Cooking From Quilt Country. Marcia Adams is a brilliant food writer.

1) It's a beautiful book . The photography rivals the great days of the Time-Life cookbooks.

2) Marcia Adams describes, intimately and respectfully, a culture most of us don't know -- the Amish and Mennonite communities of NW Indiana .

3) Oh God, the recipes. They all feel as if they're just under your hands, simple and bursting with flavor. Pickles, pies, preserving, the best ham loaf you'll ever taste, the best coleslaw dressing (yes, she's serious about that cup of sugar!) , the tomato fritters, the Burnt Sugar Cake with Two Frostings. Your palate feels as innocent and virginal as it was when you were six. Green beans with Peanut Sauce? Lemon Sponge Pie?

4) Every single recipe deliverers.

5) It's a Heartland riposte to the current food writer magnolia- scented fog that talks smack about how Southern is the real American cuisine. I love it and all, but it's wrong.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Marcia Adams :wub:

Says the home-kitchen caterer who made about a hundred of the chocolate balloon tulipes from her TV show once. With little short matches. And I STILL like her.

She's probably the only cookbook writer who could publish her books-on-tape and get a good audience. If she read them.

And I never heard that about Southern cooking.

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The second book I came across is Rocco's Five Minute Flavor: Fabulous Meals with 5 Ingredients in 5 Minutes. Ignore the titular promise, because it's wildly misleading. But it's a fun look at the challenge of bring great flavor to the table in a little time, on a budget. It's also an implicit examination of the value of prepared ingredients. Rocco shamelessly invokes jarred pasta sauces, canned and powdered soups, pre-made salsa, rotisserie chickens and the like, but tends to use such ingredients when they support the dish, rather than carry a starring role.

The emphasis is on efficiency and flavor. Chicken and Wild Mushroom Streudel goes together in minutes, looks luxurious and tastes great. Fusion dishes (Cod Flash-Fry with Mint uses General Tso's sauce; Goya Sofrito and clams round out a jambalaya) work more often than not. There's clearly a clever and talented cook at work, and the focus of the title is relentless, if not always accurate.

It's not perfect, but it's a great resource for pantry cooking. I don't care for the design, and the organization is lackluster. Luckily, it has a great index. Also, lucky for us to have this memory of a time when the mention of Rocco invoked the word "food" before "foible."

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I think what tops the list of overlooked cookbooks are the out of print Time Life Good Cook book series from the late 1970's. The series editor was Richard Olney. The books cover separate topics such as poultry, beef & veal, sauces, lamb, pork, etc. The book entitled Variety Meats, is simply one of the best books written in English covering the topic of offal and one of my most cherished cookbooks in a 300+ collection. The series is phenomenal on a number of levels. Firstly, the detailed instruction accompanied by photographs is a great learning tool. Secondly, the recipes are so refreshing in that they bring you back to a time before the obsession with what is deemed "healthy" and all of the cooking trends of the last 20 years. It is nice to read a recipe that calls for an addition of a calf's foot as something matter of fact and not something out of the norm or part of some offal eating trend.

Other overlooked books:

La Varenne Pratique, by Ann Willan. A very good comprehensive guide to ingredients and technique.

Alan Davidson's trilogy on seafood, Mediterranean Seafood, North Atlantic Seafood and Seafood of South-East Asia

Innards and other Variety Meats by Jane Allen & Margaret Gin. Long before Nose to Tail Eating, this book is a gem for any offal lover.

I am not certain if it is overlooked now that it has been re-published in one volume, but Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques is an essential teaching tool.

French Regional Cooking by Ann Willan. I do not know why this is out of print, but it is her best book and a great text for lovers of French food, with detailed descriptions of each of Frances regions, foods and recipes.

Another out of print gem, The Classic Pasta Cookbook, by Giuliano Hazan, Marcella's son. If you enjoy pasta, this is the book to own.

Goose Fat and Garlic, by Jeanne Strang. Released again in 2006, great book on the cooking of South-west France.

The Lutece Cookbook by Andre Soltner. From one of the greatest chefs to ever cook in Manhattan (in my humble opinion) Nothing like most of the cookbooks from today's restaurant owning chefs. The book is incredibly thoughtful, well written, with great recipes and background and very much geared towards the home chef. A very interesting section is his recipes based on the cooking and traditions of the Jews of Alsace.

I could go on, but I need to get back to work.

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One book that I really love that no one seems to have heard of is Eric Ripert's and Michael Ruhlman's A Return to Cooking. Really good read, great recipes (a good mixture of "cheffy" stuff and simple home cooked stuff) and, just overall, really well done.

Think Like a Chef is great, as is Craft of Cooking.

For high end cookbooks, a great one is Susur Lee's A Culinary Life.

the Fredy Giradet's book is also quite good. Love that one.

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One book that I really love that no one seems to have heard of is Eric Ripert's and Michael Ruhlman's A Return to Cooking. Really good read, great recipes (a good mixture of "cheffy" stuff and simple home cooked stuff) and, just overall, really well done.

I love this book in concert with "Happy in the Kitchen" and "Bouchon". Lovely to look at but also excellent to cook from. I guess I like cookbooks that

#1 are a bit unusual

#2 seem to tell a story, of sorts, not throw down a handful of recipes

which brings me to

TASTE

One Palate's Journey Through the World's Greatest Dishes, David Rosengarten

those who pay attention know that it broke my heart when Taste went dark, and I've never gone back (to Food TV) but this helps, a little. Love the conversational tone, good recipes, too....

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David Rosengarten's 2004 Beard winner It's All American Food is a chunky 487 pager, and when I'm considering the contents of my pantry and fridge trying to, well, think like a chef, I often remember it too late. This is a majorly useful book, studded with historical sidebars and useful how- to illustrations. The tone is breezy and proletarian and every recipe I've tried is a winner.

. . . .

Maggie,

I just had to tell you that this book arrived yesterday and I can't put it down! There's at least a year's worth of recipes I want to make in it and the reading matter is totally engaging. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Damn you, Dave, this is a truly crack topic. But it's a pleasure to introduce neglected cookbooks to the eGullet Society literati.

I've talked up this book for a few years on single dish topics, but now I'm just gonna say it. Go to Amazon and order Cooking From Quilt Country.  Marcia Adams is a brilliant food writer.

1) It's a beautiful book . The photography rivals the great days of the Time-Life cookbooks.

2) Marcia Adams describes, intimately and respectfully, a culture most of us don't know --  the Amish and Mennonite communities of NW Indiana .

3) Oh God, the recipes. They all feel as if they're just under your hands, simple and bursting with flavor. Pickles, pies, preserving, the best ham loaf you'll ever taste, the best coleslaw dressing (yes, she's serious about that cup of sugar!) , the tomato fritters, the Burnt Sugar Cake with Two Frostings. Your palate feels as innocent and virginal as it was when you were six.  Green beans with Peanut Sauce? Lemon Sponge Pie?

4) Every single recipe deliverers.

5) It's a Heartland riposte to the current food writer magnolia- scented fog that talks smack about how Southern is the real American cuisine. I love it and all, but it's wrong.

This is one of my PRIZED books out of a collection of hundreds. As you say, gorgeous, and recipes are incredible. To add to your list: the spicy meatloaf, the oven-fried chicken, the half-a-pound cake (perhaps the greatest tasting cake ever): you cannot go wrong. This is a brilliant book.

Other favorites that I use over and over again (I do have and like the Beard, but the original NYT Cookbook is also great) are these--most out of print, I'm afraid:

--Charles Virion: French Country Cooking. For satisfying French home cooking

--Lenotre: Desserts and Pastries. A photo for almost everything, great recipes

--Jim Fobel: Old-Fashioned Baking Book. I absolutely love this book; many recipes are from his family

--Katherine Plageman: Fine Preserving

I could go on...great topic. Bad on the pocketbook!

My WebpageLittle Compton Mornings

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