Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dude2's Favorite Cookbooks

I have an enormous collection of cookbooks. Of that pile, a few rise to the top that I turn to over and over for either inspiration or as a reference to remember how to make certain things. These are those books:

  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. This is the perennial classic about traditional French cooking techniques. I use this two-volume set at least once a week to refresh my memory or learn something new. I highly recommend it.
  • The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy. This book is for Mexican cooking what Julia Child's book is for French cooking. If you like traditional Mexican cooking, you must have this book.
  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This book is encyclopedic in its scope, and has a tremendous wealth of information about nutrition and the value of traditional balanced diets for health and general well-being. It also covers many "ingredient" recipes, like making sour cream, cultured butter, and other things that most people just buy.
  • Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. This is the best reference for real-life fermented foods that I've found by far. Everything is in here from cheese and bread to sauerkraut and even fermented goat meat (no thanks, I'll pass). He also provides a lot of good nutritional information in the process, not to mention entertaining stories.
  • Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. This is another book almost in the class of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but applied to Italian cooking. I have found myself using this more and more frequently lately.
  • Real Cajun by Donald Link. This book has fantastic recipes, good stories, and is generally a pleasure to thumb through when searching for inspiration. In these pages you will find a recipe for curing your own bacon, which I intend to try soon.
  • Seven Fires by Francis Mallmann. This is a relatively new addition to my collection, but it is quickly becoming a favorite. It is an extremely well put-together cookbook, with interesting stories, great recipes, and a noticeable lack of pretentiousness. This is another of my favorites to thumb through for inspiration -- in fact I intend to build all of the different fire contraptions he describes in the book after seeing what can be done with them.
  • Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. This was my number one cookbook for years before I got on the real food path, and I still use it regularly. Many of the recipes go out of their way to avoid fats and meats (it's a low-fat vegetarian style cookbook), so I find myself adapting them to include the missing fat and meat for an even better result. The flavors of the recipes in this book are top notch, so if you can adapt a vegetarian recipe to a real food recipe (often no changes are really necessary), you will like this one as well.
Looking over that list, you'll probably notice a trend -- none of these are "fast food" cookbooks. The factor most responsible for my discovery of real food and slow food was a search for quality. I have found that the traditional methods of cooking, involving long slow simmers and more labor intensive techniques, consistently yield superior results. For that reason, I tend to just make the time to cook things the right way. I generally spend about an hour a day cooking dinner, and about 20 minutes on breakfast. Lunch is almost always leftovers, so it's nearly instant. With good planning, I can cut this average time down to about half an hour a day for dinner while still cooking using the traditional methods, if I employ my batched entree method of kitchen organization (to be explained in a future post).

I am also trialling a book by Jaques Pepin called Fast Food My way. Jaques Pepin is a famous chef of French origin, and this book is full of the recipes he cooks regularly at home when he doesn't want to spend all day in the kitchen. I'm hoping it will provide some good ideas for those evenings when time is of the essence and I don't have a stockpile of leftovers in the freezer. First indications are that it's going to be pretty good, but I have yet to actually make any of the recipes.

No comments:

Post a Comment