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I have heard really great things about Cook's Illustrated "The Best Light Recipe". http://www.cooksillustrated.com/bookstore_detail.asp?PID=309
I have their "New Best Recipe" book and it is excellent. I am really impressed by it, and out of my hundred's of cookbooks, it has become one of my favorites. I usually prefer specialty cookbooks because I feel that plain old standard cookbooks don't have that much to teach me. Boy, was I wrong here. Even if I make something from another book, I always refer to the New Best Recipe book to see what they have to say.
Cook's Illustrated's m.o. is too test every possible way of making a dish to come up with the very best version and then explaining the science behind it. That way you have the knowledge to tweak the recipes. I read somewhere that there were a few obvious recipes missing from The New Best Recipe book, but it was because they could not come up with a light version that met their standards. The New Best Recipe book will be the next one I get.
Pie crust. I have never had any - even from places famous for their crusts - as good as hers. After many attampts by her to teach us kids, we have figured out that part of her secret is her really cold hands.
I can make a pretty good pie crust, but the best one I made was done using very cold ingredients, cold utensils and with nitrile gloved hands that took frequent breaks to rest in the freezer. It was a pain and I still did not make a crust quite as good as Mom's
It completely depends on who I am trying to impress. For example, while my Grandmother taught me to make pretty much the best roast beef ever, my vegan friends would NOT be impressed.
I make something I know is good and that I can make well, but most importantly, I make something I know my guest will love. Thoughtfulness, especially if it tastes great, can be pretty impressive.
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