Cook the Book: 'New Classic Family Dinners'

"This is a cookbook that makes you want to cook."

20091102newclassicfamilydinners.jpgEven the best restaurants can have a hard time filling their tables on Monday nights. Some places use this slow night as a welcome day of rest for their staff, but some see it as an opportunity to try something a little different.

A little over ten years ago Mark Peel decided to scrap the modern Italian menu that he served nightly Campanile, his Los Angeles modern Italian restaurant, in favor of a simple family-style Monday night meal. The results were mutually beneficial.

For one night a week, Peel was able to serve whatever his heart desired and in turn, his customers enjoyed an inspired three-course meal at an affordable price. During these family dinners, there was no indecision over what to order—everyone eats the same meal (even the wine pairings are already chosen). The concept combines all of the comfort of eating a home-cooked meal with the best parts of eating out.

These Monday night dinners became a quick success and now more than ten years later, Peel has come out with a cookbook that shares recipes from his favorite family dinners. New Classic Family Dinners is filled with dishes that would qualify as must-orders on most restaurant menus but can also be prepared without a restaurant kitchen or staff for that matter.

While testing the recipes for New Classic Family Dinners, Peel came to terms with the fact that cooking at home is miles away from cooking in a restaurant. There was no one person for all the monotonous prep work or a dishwasher for the messy clean-up. He found ways to simplify his recipes for cooks who might not be as experienced or as comfortable in the kitchen.

Yes, the recipes are simplified but they by no means taste simple. Smart, appealing, and sometimes even show-stopping, all of them are entirely doable, falling somewhere between home and restaurant eating.

This is a cookbook that makes you want to cook. It's an ingredients-driven book that relies on seasonal produce, good quality meat, and just the right amount of technique.

Choosing just a few recipes to share this week was a challenge (I pretty much wanted to make every one in the book). Here's a sample of some of the hearty fall dishes that we've chosen: Steak with Anchovy Butter, Bolognese made with braised brisket, and Sturgeon in a Red Wine Sauce.

Win 'New Classic Family Dinners'

Thanks to the generosity of the folks over at Wiley, we are giving away five (5) copies of New Classic Family Dinners this week. All you have to do is tell us about your favorite family dinner in the comments section below.

Five (5) people will be chosen at random among the eligible comments below. We're sorry, but entry is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Comments will close Monday, November 9 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.

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