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Favorite Cookbook to NOT Cook From


weinoo
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  • A day at El Bulli - beautiful to look at, but can't cook from it
  • ad doc at home - another beautiful book, but strangely do not feel like cooking any of the recipes. BTW I love the French Laundry and have used it loads
  • thai food - David Thompson. Really informative and interesting to read, but rarely (never!) used. In to-use list for 2011!

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, I collect pamphlet cookbooks (mostly baking) for the illustrations of the food. No intention whatsoever of cooking from them. The artistry of the illustrations of say, petit fours on a cut glass plate is stunning. I have a chocolate book that I think is printed in at least three colors -- all of them brown, and one of them metallic. They don't make them like that any more.

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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Alexandre Dumas' Dictionary of Cuisine (1958 ed.). I love flipping through it--some of the anecdotes in it are hilarious--and probably will try some of the recipes someday, but haven't yet, perhaps because the measurements are so vague. More probably, it's just my poor time management: I start skimming it, and the next thing I know, a couple of hours have been spent browsing, and eh, it's pasta again tonight.

Edited by Mjx (log)

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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The original Big Fat Duck book, it won't ever even get close to the kitchen or anything else that might splash on it. Luckily there's a much cheaper and usable version, though I have yet to cook from it. There are some whiskey (I think?) gummy things in there that look delicious :-)

Alinea - never even planned to cook from it, I bought this straight as a picture book. Way too much work for way too little food in the end. Not to speak of all the equipment needed. I'd love to eat there some day!

French Laundry on the other hand, I find most of the recipes quite doable. And you can adjust things, you don't have to strain things 200 times and go all out on all the fancification (not a word I guess?) but you'll still get fantastic food. Even though it's more about the process of playing with food all day long :-) Haven't looked at the book in quite a while, might just have to get it down again :-)

Sushi and Japanese cooking. Sushi simply makes no sense on a small scale, I can't just buy a tiny bit of this fish and a small cut of that one over there.

Oh, and dim sum and some other Chinese things, I'll never have the patience to make all those little balls and pockets and rolls.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I have made over 30 dishes from Alinea and all but two have turned out fantastic. Lots of work with somewhat challenging techniques but well worth the effort.

French Laundry is also challenging but well worth the effort. No special equipment required as mentioned above. I have cooked over 30 dishes from FL and everyone has turned out fabulous and tasty.

I have only attempted two recipes from Fat Duck and one came out great and the second did not come out as expected. A bit more complicated than Alinea in my opinion.

I have made over 50 recipes from the El Bulli volumes and they ALL came out great.

Books that I only look at and have not cooked from.

The Charlie Trotter series. Not sure why. Every recipe is complicated but nothing jumps out at me.

Clorofilia by Adoni Luis Adruiz. Even after translating the recipe into english, I back away. I will find the courage someday.

Quique Dacosta. Eventhough it is in english, I have only looked at the photos and admired the dishes. I will find the courage.

Lastly, Morimoto..way too complicated even though most of the ingredients are available here in the bay area.

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The French Laundry Cookbook, since I am sadly lacking a vacuum sealer, immersion circulator, and army of knife wielding sous chefs.

That was my choice also. It is a fasciniating read and I'm dying to try sous vide, but it is a bit on the complex side. I did take away some very useful techniques but cooking a straight recipe is not gonna happen any time soon. Ad Hoc is much more accessible, and I think that was by design.


I have simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best - Oscar Wilde

The Easy Bohemian

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  • 1 month later...

The TIME LIFE Foods of the World food books (and recipe guides) that I'm slowly collecting. 5 out of ??? so far. Japan, New England, Scandinavia, France and China.

I don't understand. These are some of the easiest, most basic recipes to cook. They're the foundations of each of these cuisines.

Are the recipes too difficult for you to cook? Are they too pedestrian?

And why slowly collect books that you're not going to use?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

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Agreed on the confusion about the Time-Life books. I had a few of those back in college when I was learning to cook, and they taught me the basics of different cuisines. Sadly, I have no idea what happened to my copies. It's a great series.

For me... is it cheating to say Culinary Artistry? There are a few recipes in it, but I mostly read it for inspiration.

Edited by Andrew Fenton (log)
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I don't think I have any books that I purchased myself (I have a large number of books I inherited from my mom in addition to my own books) that I've never cooked from. I also don't have many books that I've done a complete dish from. I've taken ideas, components, techniques, etc. from most of my books but I don't often end up doing the actual dishes. It's a habit I wish I'd break. For example, I've done components from most of the desserts in the Alinea book but, despite intentions, I've never done a complete dessert from it. I had intended to do the entire flexible ganache dessert but by the time I got the ganache to work correctly (either the recipe is off or they do something different that I couldn't figure out, I wound up using almost 2/3 less cream than the recipe calls for before it would actually hold up to twisting and bending without collapsing under it's own weight) I just never got around to doing the rest of it (although I did do the dehydrated mousse component as well). I guess I have a short attention span when it comes to working from books.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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The TIME LIFE Foods of the World food books (and recipe guides) that I'm slowly collecting. 5 out of ??? so far. Japan, New England, Scandinavia, France and China.

I don't understand. These are some of the easiest, most basic recipes to cook. They're the foundations of each of these cuisines.

Are the recipes too difficult for you to cook? Are they too pedestrian?

And why slowly collect books that you're not going to use?

I'm collecting them because of the food writing.

I have oh, probably less than 25 cookbooks at home, most of which I don't cook from -- including one that focuses solely on meat cookery and another on baking and chocolate. I think that last one was given to me as a gift. I use them primarily as references and inspiration points, even if I don't make anything out of them.

I'm really picky about cookbooks. If I were getting one for myself that I would use, it would have to be something Italian (like one of Marcella's books), or Indian (like one of Madhur's books) or something involving vegetables.

Yesterday, I bought a copy of "Crave" by Ludo Lefebvre on a whim. You might know him as the executive chef at Bastide (Los Angeles) and formerly of L'Orangerie (Los Angeles). Many of the recipes in the book are a little daunting and assume access to a full restaurant kitchen, along with the ability to procure a variety of ingredients on hand. That being said, I will probably be adapting a few in the future ... like a soup of young garlic with pan-seared scallops, except this will have ramps in it.

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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To Soba's point about the Time/Life series, remember that the hardcover books have a relatively small number of recipies, and those are, iirc, simplified. The real cookbooks were the spiral-bound recipe books, which are pretty hard to find.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, I collect pamphlet cookbooks (mostly baking) for the illustrations of the food. No intention whatsoever of cooking from them. The artistry of the illustrations of say, petit fours on a cut glass plate is stunning.

I have a small collection of cookbooks at the opposite end of your opposite end. The old Campbell's soups books, the Culinary Arts Institute, and that sort of thing. Where the artistry of the illustration clearly shows the limits of 1950s offset color reproduction. Line drawings that would now be considered seriously un-pc. And I mean seriously. I suppose some of these recipes are actually edible, but there's no way I'm going to find out.

Otherwise I try not to buy cookbooks unless I am actually going to make some use of them. On the other hand, there are some books that are useful beyond their recipes, because they illustrate a technique or provide useful background information.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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  • 1 month later...

Essential Cooking by Michel Bras is another one which is extremely tough to cook from.

I have tried 3 recipes and two of them were acceptable..one went into the garbage.

Damn. Thought I'd be the only one bringing up Michel Bras. I +1 the "extremely tough to cook from" sentiment. Im more afraid of bringing it anywhere near a kitchen for fear of damaging it than I am of the recipes. It took me (and Kitchen Arts & Letters in NYC) 2 years to find a mint condition copy. Its easily my most prized cookbook at the moment. Looking at the prices for it these days, I got a steal at $165.

- Chef Johnny

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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Heh. On the matter of Bras, I was poking around Amazon.uk the other day and saw, for 44 pounds, one new copy of the English edition. 44 pounds. That's, what, half--at least--what it goes for normally. There was just one copy. Sold.

And this was through Amazon itself. Not through the marketplace. Maybe they stumbled on it in a warehouse somewhere. It's in the mail as we speak. The page said it was the English edition but I'm terrified I'll rip open the packaging to find I was sent the French edition--which, I guess, I'd rather live with than return.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Heh. On the matter of Bras, I was poking around Amazon.uk the other day and saw, for 44 pounds, one new copy of the English edition. 44 pounds. That's, what, half--at least--what it goes for normally. There was just one copy. Sold.

And this was through Amazon itself. Not through the marketplace. Maybe they stumbled on it in a warehouse somewhere. It's in the mail as we speak. The page said it was the English edition but I'm terrified I'll rip open the packaging to find I was sent the French edition--which, I guess, I'd rather live with than return.

Wow! Nice find. Ive seen em on Amazon for upwards of $500. Im currently on the hunt for "Le Livre de Michel Bras."

- Chef Johnny

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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