Monday Review: A Pile of Great Cookbooks

26 Jan


Because it’s been so brutally cold lately, I thought you might enjoy a big, fat pile of cookbooks in which to flip through and review.  It’s as much fun planning a menu as it is creating one, don’t you think?

Books reviewed by Stephanie Dickison

Susan Mason’s Silver Service: Elegant Savannah Cuisine

Susan Mason and Barrie Scardino

There is something so spectacular about Southern cooking, but “upper crust” Southern dishes?  There are not enough words to describe my excitement.

Although I didn’t know of Ms. Mason before this, her story is an interesting one.  Her high-end catering has taken her to Savannah movie sets and catering private parties for stars.  Her personal tales are interwoven throughout the pages, along with more than 80 recipes, 100 illustrations and neat catering tips like making a tree out of strawberries.

The star stories might impress celebrity hounds but it’s the oyster stew and reetzi beetzi (rice and peas) recipes that I can’t get enough of.

There are dishes designed for dinner, garden and cocktail parties, among other things, but you’re gonna want to make these a part of your regular routine.  I’m talking about Silvia’s Chicken Pot Pie, Susan’s Tomato Pie, Seafood and Artichoke Casserole and Heywood’s Jalepeno Cornbread.

And I haven’t even told you about the desserts yet.  They are beyond belief.

Nobody Does It Better… Why French Home Cooking is Still the Best in the World

Trish Deseine

People have the impression that French cooking is extremely difficult.

It isn’t.  It just sounds that way because they say it in French.

And while there are a few techniques that might take a little trial and error on your part, it is actually a fun cuisine to tackle.

Except for the pigeon.

Pastilla Pigeon is a recipe that I won’t be making anytime soon.  Well, I will, but I’m going to make it with chicken.  I’ll even make it with rabbit.  But I just can’t do pigeon.

I hope the French will forgive me.

But things that sound all fancy like Lobster in Vanilla Butter or Crayfish Poached in White Wine are way easy to do.

I mean think about it – Crudités are just raw veggies and Endives Braisees are just braised Belgian endives.  Chances are you’ve done more exquisite things using leftovers and the sad condiments at the back of the fridge.

The book is beautifully done with exquisite photographs to entice and inspire you and the recipes are dead easy to follow.

So if you’re anything like me, stop being intimidated of French cooking and have a blast in the kitchen.

And go ahead and use pigeon.

I mean, I’ve had horse, sweetbreads and fish eyes.  How bad could it be?

The Festive Food of America

Martina Nicolis

I am fascinated by classic American food.  It is so distinct and often comforting.  So when I came across this little book, I knew it was a must-have for my cookbook shelf (plus the photos are amazing).

Yet it is not solely a book of recipes, but a look at America’s most festive occasions, festivals and holidays, so you not only learn a little history but you can make Bourbon Baked Ham on Kentucky Derby Day and Vinegar Pie for Harvest Dinner.

I know, I hadn’t heard of it either, but according to the book, “On the South Dakota praries, the Harvest Supper was an annual event for homesteaders who attended church for a rousing sermon, to give thanks for the harvest and enjoy the frontier fare contributed by the ladies of the country.”

So I am incorporating some of their holidays into my own.  This year I’ll be celebrating Mardi Gras with Oysters Creole and King’s Cake, the Shaker Strawberry Feast and Avocado Garlic Soup.

What’s that for you say?

The Gilroy Garlic Festival of course.  You’ll want to add this one to your repitoire.  But you’ll have to read about it first.  Because the first thing people will ask you when they get the invite is, “What the helcis this?”

Complete Traditional Recipe Book

Sarah Edington

This is obviously a book that you will want to keep close to you.  Like your Joy of Cooking and other cookbook basics that are stained, smeared and with pages clotted with syrups and sauces.

Books like this are meant to be used over and over, handed down through the generations.  These are meant to get dirty.

Things as basic as Fish and Chips, Country Vegetable Soup and Mayonnaise are included, but you may be stumped by a few dishes.

That’s because this is a British basics cookbook so you might not be familiar with Cock-a-Leekie or Dame Alice soup.  And what the heck is Cullen Skink you might be wondering?  Or Ashby Statutes?  I’m half British but even I don’t know what Damson Snow is!

But that’s part of the fun for me – that path of discovery of new ingredients and perhaps finding a recipe that will become a family favourite!

This book is a wonderful foray into British history but I’m working on making it a part of my present.

I’m going to make my fella Bubble and Squeak – Doesn’t that sound like fun?

I think it sounds much better than plain ol’ potatoes and cabbage.

Back to the Family: Food Tastes Better Shared with Ones You Love

Art Smith with Michael Austin

Art Smith is best known as being Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, but with this new book, he should be commended on doing something greater – bringing comfort Southern foods to the table to share with your friends and family.

It is a touching book but it is the recipes that will have you swooning – Pickled Green Tomatoes, Breakfast Casserole with Ciabatta, Iris’ Creamy Vegetable Chicken Noodle Soup and Tomato Pie

Whole sections on grits, hotcakes, biscuits and fritters and soup as a meal!  These are the kind of recipes that I search for and not many people write about.  They are too entangled in arugula, Malpeque oysters and venison.  I mean, this man thought to include recipes for brines and aromatics.

I love that Art writes about the food that moves him, but Southern and comfort foods move me like no other.

I’m off to make Strawberry Pretzel Surprise.  Wanna come over?


One Response to “Monday Review: A Pile of Great Cookbooks”

  1. Betty C. February 1, 2009 at 4:01 am #

    Wow, that is quite the pile. Is it yours?

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