Tag Archives: comfort food

Monday Review: I Know How to Cook

18 Jan

I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot

Reviewed by Stephanie Dickison

There are few things better than a hefty cookbook that’s alight with possibilities.

One of the best I’ve ever come across is Phaidon’s I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot.

This bible of tradition French home cooking is one of those treasured books that you will continually go back to no matter what the trend or star chef of the moment.

In fact, it’s been a best-seller since its first publication in 1932, so it’s already stood the test of time.  Now that it’s available in English for the first time, just imagine how many years you’ll be relying on it for homemade meals, celebratory party dishes and everyday snacks and desserts. There are more than 1,400 recipes here so it’s going to take you awhile…

The only drawback?  It’s going to take up some room on your cookbook shelf.  But trust me when I say it is damn worth it!

There are many things to love about the book:

The layout – It’s organized by subject and then ingredient, so it’s easy to navigate and also fantastic for those times when you say, “Okay, I’ve got some eggs that need using up.  What can I make for supper?”

The recipes – Despite being a French cookbook, somehow Mathiot has made the recipes accessible,with most of the recipes containing only a handful ingredients and steps. It’s amazing how short the directions are – often just one small paragraph.  For French food, no less!

Nothing too complicated, yet there are indeed fancy dishes to be found.  You can impress your guests without having to spend all day in the kitchen – finally!

The design – The subject pages are colourful and fun images of food, but the photos are what’s going to excite you!  Simple, clean photos showcase dishes such as Eggs with Truffles, Shoulder of Lamb Provencale and Four-berry Gelatin that will inspire you to create dishes that you have thought up until now, were completely beyond you.

The recipes too are laid out spaciously so that you can whip up Creamy Coffee Mousse without feeling overwhelmed or have to squint your way through it.

What I love most about the book is that I’ve always thought that you had to be European or classically-trained or damned patient and have all day to cook French food well.

It turns out that all you really need is a passion for food and cooking and this book, which now resides proudly in my cookbook collection.  I plan on working my way through these classic dishes in the next couple of years.  In fact, I’m going to try for doing one a week.  Why don’t you join me?

I know that we can do it – thank to the lovely Ginette Mathiot and this truly extraordinary book.

Book Review: The Ski Country Cookbook

10 Jan

Ski Country Cookbook Cover

The Ski Country Cookbook by Barbara Scott-Goodman

Reviewed by Chris Garbutt

I remember driving on the highway through snow covered forests until we reached our chalet by the slopes. We didn’t waste any time – it was straight to the lift for us. After a long day skiing, there was nothing better than returning to our temporary home in the snow and sipping spiced apple cider then eating chili that had been heating all day in the slow cooker.

Okay, I made all that up.

I have only gone downhill skiing once in my life, and I was a train wreck. I don’t think I’ve ever set foot in a ski chalet, But if you, unlike me, are someone who hits the slopes all winter, The Ski Country Cookbook has been created just for you. “The combination of cold mountain air and vigorous activity naturally makes us crave warm and restorative food,” says the Barbara Scott-Goodman in the introduction.

But I think this book is for me, too. I mean, a brisk walk in the city will make me want warm and restorative food. Heck, just sitting here writing this makes me want a good, hearty meal. Besides, Scott-Goodman is from New York, so she knows that her recipes are going to appeal to people who don’t even live near mountains.

So I’m going to ignore the gimmick and consider this a “Best of Winter” cookbook. There are classics like Corn Chowder, Baked Ham, and three different kinds of Chili. There are a couple of new things I want to try, such as Stir-fried Coleslaw and Wild Mushroom, Chicken and Orzo Soup. And all times of day are covered, including a section on cocktails and warm drinks. Mulled Pinot Noir and Brandy sounds good from my house in the city, but perhaps it’ s extra-special on the side of a mountain. I’m going to skip the Rum Raisin Cider, though. I’m not a raisin fan, so I’ll thank you to leave it out of my drinks.

The photography depicts dishes in the book, but also idyllic chalets, buried to the rafters in snow. As long as I could get out to get my groceries, I think that would be a pretty fine way to spend the winter. Just don’t ask me to go skiing.

Book Review: The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever

1 Dec

Cover of Casserole bookThe Best Casserole Book Ever by Beatrice Ojakangas

Reviewed by Chris Garbutt

The cover of this book goes against the usual “food porn” type – you know what I’m talking about. Photos on most cookbooks or food magazines are designed to make you slobber lustily after a perfectly staged dish. Here, we see a casserole almost empty, giving the feel of a meal well enjoyed.

It worked on me. My memories of casseroles are not pleasant. In my childhood, they were mushy excuses to get rid of leftovers – throw them all in a pot, maybe with some canned tomato soup or chicken broth, and bake. Ugh – I can still taste the canned peas and nearly dissolved carrots.

Times have changed. Beatrice Ojankangas defines casseroles as broadly as imaginable. I never really thought about it, but I guess a casserole is any meal cooked all in one dish. Here’s the Wikipedia entry.

I’m going to have to jettison my stereotypes. How about a Swedish Lingonberry Pancake Casserole? Or a Black Bean Tortilla?  This is not your mother’s casserole cookbook. The book brags more than 500 recipes, which means you could have a different comfort dish every day for the entire winter, and that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner (and dessert!).

For some reason I was attracted to the vegetarian chapter. I considered the Spiced Brown Rice and Vegetables, or the Black Bean and Red Pepper Casserole before finally settling on the Barley and Mushroom Casserole. There was little prep, and the joy of the casserole is that once its in the oven, you can go off and do other things while it bakes. The flavour of the mushrooms got a boost from homemade chicken stock (the recipe calls for vegetable stock, so it’s veggie-friendly), and a touch of white truffle oil, which I’d bought for another dish last week. And if you haven’t tried truffle oil, do it. It costs $10-20 a bottle, but a few drops will fill your mouth, and it’s amazing with mushroom dishes, or if you need to liven up a chicken breast or piece of fish.

It took a little longer than expected – either too much stock or not enough barley, so the liquid didn’t absorb the way I had hoped. But well worth the wait.

Comfort food is my default. If I’m stuck for what to cook, it’s usually a soup, stew, chili or maybe a roast chicken. But because of my particular past, casseroles were never on my radar. That has all changed.