Pam Anderson's CookSmart: Perfect Recipes for Every Day is a collection of comfort-food favorites that she's perfected through a long process of trial and error. From her own experience as a chef, cookbook author (The Perfect Recipe), and food columnist for USA Weekend, Anderson has created a rigorous approach for selecting the best possible recipe for any given dish, winnowing out weaker, less satisfactory recipes in several stages. She starts by reviewing several recipes for the same dish. For example, Anderson noted that the conventional method of making fajitas included marinating the meat before it is cooked, which, in her opinion, masks the rich flavor of steak. In her version, the fajita meat gets a spice rub before cooking and then a brief, post-cooking sauna-like repose in a simple mixture of lime juice and garlic. The resulting fajitas have the relaxed subtle flavor of garlic, lime, and cumin that complement rather than overpower the tender steak.
This book provides good instruction for the beginning chef, demonstrating how to use the basic techniques to perfect one's own recipe. But there is a lot to read, so be warned. This book is a time commitment if attempting to read cover to cover, and it doesn't necessarily work in the real-time experience of looking and cooking. However, if you're searching for a collection of great, gourmet-style recipes for home-cooked favorites, CookSmart is a pretty wise choice. --Teresa Simanton
From Publishers Weekly
Anderson (The Perfect Recipe; How to Cook Without a Book) brings her wide experience and easy style to this latest offering. She takes the recipes one step further, explaining the testing method of each, much in the style of Cook's Illustrated where she was the former executive editor. Highlighting such dishes as Oven-Fried Chicken That's as Good as Fried, 90-Minute Pot Roast with Rich Red Wine and Onion Gravy, and Pasta Salad, Anderson caters to cravings for comfort food. Once the principles of pasta salad have been explained, for example, a number of versions are put forward, from Greek-Style Pasta Salad with its creamy vinaigrette, through Pasta Salad with Smoked Salmon and Asparagus, to Asian-Style Pasta Salad with Chicken, Baby Corn and Snow Peas. The home cook will feel at ease with the recipes, which have been designed for simplicity; the more advanced cook, interested in the whys and hows, will be able to apply the principles learned to other areas of food preparation. By combining both audiences so successfully, Anderson has once again produced a winner.
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