Review: Taste & Technique by Naomi Pomeroy

 

This book is beautiful. The photographs accompanying each recipe are mouth-wateringly spectacular. The recipes are well-written and include all the detail you need to replicate the dishes at home.

So, why couldn’t I get into it?

I mean, I’ve had this cookbook for over a year and haven’t gotten around to writing a review until now. It doesn’t make sense because, again, this book is beautiful.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to the fact that I don’t need to produce beautiful plates at home. I need to put a delicious, well-rounded family meal on the table. This book is not intended for that purpose.

This book falls into that category of “know what you’re getting.” If you want to elevate your home cooking (as the tagline of the book suggests you will), I believe that cooking from this book will do that. If, howver, you are like me, and you need to make dinner in under an hour each night, well… this book isn’t for you.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

This Week’s Meal Plan – 11/28

Happy Thanksgiving!

Are you sick of turkey yet?

We had a great time making our annual Thanksgiving visit to Grandma and Papa’s house (currently located in Kalamazoo, MI — might it be closer in 2017?). The weather was overcast and drizzly pretty much the entire time we were there, but there was good food, good beer, good wine, good conversations and Rylie got to play games, do yoga, ask questions, do crafts, make up games and generally be the star of the holiday. It was awesome.

Now, we’re back home, and it’s time for a week of Fall cooking.

Dinners

To start – upon our return on Saturday, we made a pizza using one of the parbaked-then-frozen pizza crusts from last week’s pizza night.

Sunday lunch featured some pizzadillas from Cooking Light, then dinner was Fish Tacos from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook accompanied by Cilantro Lime Rice from How to Celebrate Everything.

The rest of the week’s plan:

Monday: Oriecchette with Sweet Sausage Bolognese from How to Celebrate Everything (I’m planning to make a double batch of the bolognese sauce and freeze the 2nd half for a future quick dinner)

Tuesday: Quiche with Wild Mushrooms, Gruyere and Chives from Taste and Technique

Wednesday: Roast Chicken on a Bed of Vegetables from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

Thursday: Leftover night (but, it’ll also be when I make homemade chicken stock from the Wednesday night carcass)

Friday: Chicken Soup with Dumplings from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home (using leftover chicken from Wednesday night’s roasted bird)

Baking

Chocolate Chip Scones from Cooking Light

This Week’s Source Material






This Week’s Meal Plan – 11/16

Last week was not great. Probably one of the more disheartening, faith-in-humanity-threatening weeks ever. I’m also thankful that Rylie is only 4, and that we chose to send her to a school where kindness is the rule and diversity reigns. She’s going to grow up to become an amazing, loving, caring, intelligent, open-minded, beautiful human being. And so are many of her classmates. We can learn a lot from them.

On a brighter note, we ate some good food.

Last Week

The French Toast Casserole made for a delicious weekend morning breakfast. Note for the future: Make this when guests are coming over because it could easily serve 8.

White Bean Chicken Chili was delicious — even Rylie liked it!

Sous-Vide Turkey Breast was awesome. Sooooo juicy.

Stir-fried pork with green beans and cashews – solid, although the beans were squeaky

Pressure Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto – I have vowed to only make risotto in the pressure cooker. There’s so much less stirring. Kelley doesn’t always love the orange veggies, but when I mix them with risotto (unofficially one of her top 5 meals), it all works.

Hoison Pork Roast – what a great flavor, what a great smell while it cooked.

Seared Chicken with Saffron Couscous – The seared chicken part was delicious. The couscous, on the other hand, was tasty, but didn’t really highlight the saffron and required some additional cooking time beyond what the recipe called for (I imagine I used a different type of couscous than the recipe author used, but still it’s frustrating when that happens)

This Week

Baking

Banana Bread – from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

Dinners

Glazed Salmon with Couscous and Green Beans – from Cooking Light

Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples and Brussels sprouts – from Cooking Light This screams fall, right?

Rigatoni with Sausage and Chives – from Cook’s Country

Rosemary Chicken Noodle Soup – from gimmesomeoven.com

Soy-Glazed Chicken Thighs with Asparagus and Scallions – from Bon Appetit Here’s our weekly Chicken thigh meal!

Turkey Taco Burritos – from Cooking Light

and… one of these days, we are going to have homemade pizza from my go-to pizza dough book:

This Week’s Meal Plan – 11/7/2016

Someone actually said they wanted a copy of our week’s meal plan. Once my ego got over the flattery, I thought, “Why not type it up and see if anyone benefits? Worst case, it’ll be a nice resource to go back to if we’re ever hungry for that thing we had three weeks ago.”

This plan includes 6 dinners, 1 breakfast and 1 bakery item. That’s not a hard-and-fast weekly rule, but maybe it should be.

Weekend Breakfast

French Toast Casserole – specifically, this one from Cook’s Country, Feb/March 2015

 

Dinners

Stir-fried Pork with Green Beans and Cashews – Cooks Country, June/July 2015

Pressure Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto with Frizzled Sage and Brown Butter – Serious Eats

Hoison Pork Roast – Rachael Ray

Seared Chicken with Saffron Couscous – Cooks Country, June/July 2015 Aside: Rylie loves “orange” (Mexican, saffron, doesn’t really matter as long as it’s yellow-ey orange) rice so I think she’ll like this

Sous-Vide Turkey Breast with some mashed potatoes – using Sous Vide for the Home Cook by Doug Baldwin as a guide

White Bean Chicken Chili – Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Baking

Banana Bread – Saveur

 

Review: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice 15th Anniversary Edition by Peter Reinhart

Minor updates to a classic.

bba15_coverI already have the original Bread Baker’s Apprentice book on the shelf and it’s certainly a comprehensive resource on the art and science of bread making. It’s also one of the originals, published 15 years ago when people were probably more likely to buy a bread machine than make a sourdough bread from scratch.

In this new 15th anniversary edition, Reinhart has updated a few things. There is a new preface, the introduction has been tweaked, the methods (especially as related to mixing and sourdough) have been improved, additional comments have been added to recipe headnotes, and there are some minor recipe changes here and there. Also, the resources section has been totally rewritten – with a much greater emphasis on useful websites, because, well, 15 years. In terms of new content? Three new recipes: A sprouted wheat and brown rice bread, sprouted whole wheat onion and poppyseed bialys and beyond ultimate cinnamon and sticky buns.

In short, if you already own The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, this is not a required upgrade. If your old copy is beat up and you’d like to replace, then by all means, get the new one. If you’re still happy with it, maybe check this one out for the small changes, but it’s not going to change your life. On the other hand, if you don’t already own the original version, and you love bread, this is a book that deserves a spot in your library, as a reference as much as a recipe book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Review: The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish

Since receiving this book, it’s the only way we make pizza.

When we wanted to have pizza for dinner, we used to use a pre-mixed refrigerated dough from a local bakery. I’d throw some jarred pizza sauce on top, along with some shredded cheese and some toppings. It usually turned out pretty good. Not amazing, but better than frozen and better than the big chain delivery places. Once in a while, I even experimented with pizza dough recipes from cookbooks and the like.

Then, I met The Elements of Pizza book. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s changed my life, but it sure has changed the way we make pizza.

If I plan far enough ahead, I’ll make the 48-to-72 hour pizza dough. It’s awesome. If I fall behind a day, I’ll make the 24-to-72 hour dough. If I want pizza today, I’ll go with Saturday pizza dough, or Saturday pan pizza dough. These recipes all have the same ingredients, but the quantities change, and most importantly, there’s a different technique with each. Most importantly, they’re all delicious. And the recipes are impeccably organized and easy to follow.

Of particular note, I want to point out that here, like he did in his previous mostly-bread-oriented dough book Flour Water Salt Yeast, that Forkish includes recipe header information in a way that I appreciate immensely as a planner. Each recipe header clearly states how much dough it makes, the separate times for first and second fermentations, the time to divide and shape the dough, and then, most super awesomely helpful of all? A sample schedule. It’s so brilliant. If I want pizza on Saturday, tell me what day of the week I need to get this dough started, and then let me know the wiggle room. No more starting the recipe (after only skimming the steps) and discovering the dreaded Step 6: Place dough in refrigerator to rise for 12 hours. Nooooooo! That doesn’t happen here. If I need to start the dough 2 days early, Ken tells me to. This I am thankful for.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning.

The book has 7 chapters. The first five take up the first 100 pages of the book. They cover Ken’s pizza philosophy, his training, his experimentation, as well as the requisite chapters on equipment, methods, and ingredients. I found these all to be informative and interesting.

Chapter 6 contains 12 pizza dough recipes, including one that is gluten-free.

Chapter 7 encapsulates the final 100 pages of the book and includes 5 pizza sauce recipes and 37 pizza recipes. I have tried 3 of the sauce recipes and I adore them for their simplicity as much as their wonderful flavor. On the pizza side, I’ve made the Grandma Pie in both thick and thin crust versions (thick is quite bready, thin is our favorite), New York Cheese Pizza, Prosciutto Pizza, Pizza Margherita, Vodka Sauce and Sausage Pizza and multiple variants inspired by the recipes here. Most recently, I followed along with the Pepperoni, Mushroom and Onion Pizza recipe, including the parbaking steps. I parbaked 5 crusts. We ate two for dinner and froze the other three. Last week, I defrosted those three on the countertop while preheating the oven. My daughter and I then topped them with sauce, cheese and a few toppings and a mere 5 minutes in the oven later and we had delicious pizza on the table.

We used this same technique for our daughter’s 4th birthday party, parbaking pan pizza crusts before the guests arrived and then churning out pizzas quickly to feed our crowd of guests. I wish I had written down all the feedback about the pizza I received that day. It probably could have served as this entire review. A few standout quotes:

“This is the best pizza I’ve ever had”
“Can I get this recipe?”
“I didn’t even realize you could make your own pizza crust. This was wonderful”

I’ll also note that the pictures in this cookbook are well-done (and many of them are now dusted with stray flour) and complement the overall presentation here.

Bottom line: If you’ve been on the hunt for pizza dough and sauce that you can make at home, I’ve got just the book for you.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Review: Home Cooked – Essential Recipes for a New Way to Cook by Anya Fernald

9781607748403This books exhausts me.

Let’s start with Anya Fernald’s story. It’s an interesting one. Fernald graduated from college, got a fellowship to spend a year working in dairies in Europe and Africa, and began a lifelong fascination with food, and a definite affinity for home cooked Italian cuisine. She is also the co-founder and CEO of the Belcampo Meat Company in California, the world’s largest sustainable meat company.

Highlights from the book include:

That interesting introduction
Great photography – the pictures make me want to eat this food
Really nice recipe intros – I am probably not going to make the Carne Cruda (that’s raw beef), but Anya’s introduction to the recipe transported me to the place in her story where she developed an appreciation for it

So, upon first glance, I was feeling ready to dive in and start cooking from this book. Boy, that Beef & Pork Ragu sure does look yummy, and that ingredient list looks manageable. Let’s dig in.

Oh. Wait.

1 cup soffrito (page 17)
1 cup Bone Broth (page 20)
4 cups homemade tomato passato (page 24)

Ugh. Why? Why create a recipe that looks like a Choose Your Own Adventure book? Now, I’m exhausted. I don’t think I’m making this.

So, as I got better acquainted with the book, I came to a realization. This isn’t the type of cookbook that you pick up and make a weeknight dinner out of. It’s not even necessarily the one you grab to make a special dinner for friends on a weekend. Rather, this is one of those books that assumes you want to adopt the author’s complete kitchen and meal planning approach. I’m not so sure these are “essential” recipes for a “new” way to cook. Rather, they are the essential recipes for Anya’s way to cook.

Ultimately, this book just isn’t for me and our family. We don’t eat Italian foods often enough to have ice cube trays of soffrito on the ready at all times, and I already have books with delicious recipes for stock, ragu, bolognese, etc. And those recipes don’t ask me to make three sub-recipes.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.