Friday, January 9, 2009

Using Cookbooks

Wow! What an exciting couple of weeks it’s been…cooking/eating-wise, in our house that is. A few days after Christmas my husband and I were out window shopping, commenting on how the “blow out” sales weren’t really all that, when we wandered in to Borders. They had a section of clearance books, of which one whole side was nothing but cookbooks!

My husband and I are quite opposite when it comes to buying books. I find few worth buying whereas he loves books, any book, all books; but is particularly drawn to cookbooks or books about chefs, cooking, food, etc. I skimmed through the shelves just to amuse myself, when I came across a book that stood apart. Titled: Restaurant Favorites at Home: A Best Recipe Classic, it sparked my curiosity. How many times have you gone out to eat and fallen in love with a dish because it’s so well prepared or really well matched with the sides? Here was a book that listed out meals from restaurants around the country.

Now, I have to say I never use cookbooks for recipes. Rather I use them for ideas or guidelines; especially when cooking. Baking is a different story. Always remember that every person has their own tastes and what might be enjoyable for some, may be painful for you. For example, many braised or roasted meat dishes often call for thyme, sage or rosemary. I happen to despise the taste of thyme and sage, preferring to stick with flavors a little less intense like coriander, fennel, parsley or basil. I follow the cooking guidelines like baking time/temp or braising technique; but rarely follow ingredients or measurements.

This particular cookbook served exactly that purpose. Yes, it listed out complete recipes with ingredients and measurements as well; but why did I buy it? It broke down in detail how cooking techniques, ingredients, utensils, etc. in a large restaurant kitchen are adapted to your everyday (personal) kitchen. How ovens and skillets etc. vary and what ingredients can be substituted for less expensive versions. How you can make restaurant meals easily at home, without a souse chef or warming table! If you’re like me and enjoy recreating something you enjoy at your favorite restaurant, I highly recommend this book. The next few recipes I post will most definitely be based on meals from this book, which I made over the last two weeks. Feel free to email me with questions, I make a lot of substitutions and often eyeball my measurements to taste and experience.

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