Customer Reviews: Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook
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on May 4, 2013
Alex has been a favorite of mine for some time. Her book met all my expectations. The recipes are easy to follow, wonderfully tasty and the ingredients are easy to find. I love her recipes because they are delicious without being too "grand", just luscious but great for regular people. I like that she makes it easy to follow her instructions. I think that this is a terrific book for all cooks, and would be a good gift to new cooks. My grandson is about to be married and likes to cook so this will be one of my gifts to him. It covers all types of meals and tells wonderful stories all through the book that are truly human and interesting. I am so happy that she became an Iron Chef. She really deserves this recognition.
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on April 17, 2013
Over the years, I have enjoyed watching chef Alex Guarnaschelli on Food Network. Alex’s Day Off was one of my favorites. I also enjoy her work as a judge on Chopped. Her work—along with that of Anne Burrell, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon—on The Big Waste was eye-opening and life-changing for me. Of course I was pleased when she became the newest Iron Chef America. And I mean really, a restaurant called Butter? Gotta love it.

I also follow her on Twitter. It was there I learned about her first cookbook, Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook. I immediately preordered it, and it arrived last week. When you’ve been eagerly awaiting something, sadly, when it arrives, you can be disappointed. I’ve not been disappointed with Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook.

First, a word about the title. Many of these are not exactly things I immediately think of when it comes to comfort food or how I learned to cook. But then my mother isn’t a cookbook editor. (I mean really. I’ve been in publishing for more than 20 years. How do I get one of those gigs?) I’d venture to guess the same may be true for many of you. So you’re expecting the same-old, same-old, you probably won’t find it here. And that’s a good thing.

The book is beautifully designed. The photos are gorgeous, as you’d expect from a Clarkson Potter book. The seemingly handwritten notes and hand-drawn pictures are interesting and informative, and the “Old-School Tips” are very helpful.

If you’re one of those who read a cookbook like a novel, and even if you aren’t, Alex’s brief history of her childhood and career are interesting and help put everything in context. Don’t skip that section. Seriously.

Her recipes are well written and easy to follow. You’ll find recipes for dishes like mussels, duck hearts, and roasted whole salmon. But there are also recipes for various ways to cook chicken, roast turkey that will put it on your menu throughout the year (along with guides to making a great Thanksgiving dinner), and apple crisp. In other words, the recipes in Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook span a wide range of tastes. And while some of the dishes may look complicated, Alex takes you through each step, so you can make and serve the dish with confidence.

I have a love/hate relationship with Brussels sprouts. I love them, but I hate to cook them. Why? Because I tend to burn them. I tried Alex’s roasted Brussels sprouts, and they were perfect! Those tiny little cabbages are back in my repertoire. The photo of her “Little Spare Ribs” was so appetizing, I had to make them. Though the recipe calls for spare ribs, I used country style ribs, because—all together now—it’s what I had on hand. Oh my, those were some mighty tasty ribs. I’ll be making them again.

You know how much I love making my own easily purchased items, so I was thrilled to see a section on doing just things. There are recipes for mustard, marinades, and barbecue sauce, among other things. Her recipes for ricotta and butter are different from mine (I use whey for ricotta and homemade cultured buttermilk for butter), but they still sound good.

And while you may think this is a love letter to Alex and her cookbook, I do have a couple of criticisms. First, the book doesn’t lie flat. This is a common problem, and I really wish publishers would accept the idea these books are actually used, and being able to open the book and have it lie flat is a big deal. At least to me. Yes, it would likely cost more, but . . .

Also, in her recipe for ricotta, she tells the cook to, “Simmer gently until the milk solids rise to the surface and form what looks like a raft, 30 to 35 minutes.” I know what she means, but to someone who is unfamiliar with making cheese, it may not be clear. It would be helpful to include the temperature or show a photo of curds separating from the whey.

These criticisms should not discourage you from getting Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook. I know most of us have limited cookbook-buying budgets, but this one deserves a look.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have been seeing this book advertised on Food Network and I just had to have this. I admire this Chef and think her food looks really good on TV. This is a lovely cookbook, sort of the old fashioned design and binding yet still new a vibrant. What I love are all the pictures of the food so that you know what it is supposed to look like as an end product. So many cookbooks do not have enough pictures and so when you make something, you kind of wonder if you did it right. This book has a very nice assortment of recipes and when it says "old School", they really mean it. Almost every recipes has a section that talks about tips for making this recipe like you mom or grandmother might have done. I think it is sort of fun to read these tips. This cookbook is not only useful but a fun read.
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on April 23, 2013
I love Alex Guarnaschelli. This cookbook is a disappointment. I expected comfort foods and hardly find the selections comfort food. If you consider papillote of striped bass and rack of pork with a side of harissa comfort food then this cookbook is for you. Unfortunately it is not for me.
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on April 9, 2013
When someone says "comfort food" your mind is automatically taken to thoughts of mostly southern type dishes like fried chicken, chicken fried steak, chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, peach cobbler, buttermilk biscuits, banana pudding, corn bread, macaroni and cheese, lemon meringue pie, bread pudding and so forth. Actually if you Google comfort food, many of those dishes and more will come up.

While I was thinking "who needs more comfort food recipes" I chose to purchase this book for a couple of reasons. 1. today the bulk of "comfort food" recipes are made with pre-packaged foods like cream of whatever soup, or potato chips (for the crunch factor). I personally find that disgusting. When I make meatloaf, it's going to be a loaf mostly made out of meat. Not equal parts of meat (or less even) mixed with oatmeal, rice crispy, corn flakes, or chips! Bread crumbs is tried and true for me, and takes a back seat to the main ingredient of meat. To enhance not over-power. So I mistakenly thought that this book would have tried and true old school (meaning no soup or other prepacked goods) above mentioned type of comfort foods made with actual real food ingredients that require real cooking. 2. The absolute main reason I bought this cookbook is that my 10 year old daughter wants to be a chef and from the first time she saw her on The Food Network, Alex Guarnaschelli has been her "role model".

Alex Guarnaschelli has a different view of comfort food. No doubt comfort to her reminding her of the foods her mother made. Most of us were not raised in Manhattan with a mother who made pate. Chef Guarnaschelli says she fell in love with food in her mothers kitchen, recalling watching her mother make a souffle (of which she doesn't include a souffle recipe in her book).

Chef Guarnaschelli's vision of comfort food includes recipes for:

pickled grapes with prosciutto
roasted squash soup with popcorn
crispy squid with garlic, red pepper flakes,and basil
winter greens salad from the oven
pasta with spicy lamb sausage and yellow tomato sauce
fried duck hearts with golden raisins and serrano chiles
angel hair pasta with caviar and lemon

I do not doubt Chef Guarnaschelli's skill, but like many high-end professional chefs they aren't in touch with the average American cook. They cook foods that they either make in their expensive restaurants or at home. The average home cook does not have the palate for many of these foods or they lack either accessibility to some of these foods or perhaps the finances to incorporate them onto the dinner table on a semi-regular basis (especially in this economy with one of the all time highest unemployment rates in the last hundred years).

What is disheartening is since becoming a two income home has become standard in this country, many people have either lost the skill or never learned how to cook. Today more than ever, I see people wanting to learn how to cook the way their mothers, grandmothers or great-grandmothers did. Home cooking is seeing a renaissance. People want to learn how to cook foods that don't come from a can, or a box, and that doesn't require a microwave. As a whole we are turning to the experts to teach and show us, but many of the experts seem to forget that we are not culinary students wanting an education from the C.I.A. or other prestigious schools. We are not searching to become a James Beard winner. We want to cook for the ones we love, our family and friends.

There are very few recipes in this book that I will bother to make. As for my daughter, I would be surprised if she would be willing to try a handful of the foods in the book. Her palate isn't as sophisticated as mine. She really doesn't like very many foods (which does't serve well for her desire to be a chef...we are steering her more towards becoming a pastry chef). It was my hope that Alex Guarnaschelli's cookbook would allow her discover the joy of making comfort foods she'd enjoy eating. Thankfully, she has a mother that is scouring the internet to find just the right "real meal" foods that she actually does like.

The bottom line is if you are looking for a book that gives you great recipes for pot pie or chicken and dumplings type comfort food, this isn't the book for you; however if you enjoy high end entertaining where you can easily acquire ingredients such as duck hearts or caviar (without giving the cost a second look) you just might enjoy this cookbook.

If you are looking for a comfort food cookbook for dishes you wouldn't expect to charge $50 per plate for, may I recommend:
American Classics: More Than 300 Exhaustively Tested Recipes For America's Favorite Dishes.

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on October 15, 2015
I'm a huge Alex Guarnaschelli fan, so when I learned about this book, I just had to have it. SO glad I bought it!

I haven't read the entire book yet, but after the first few chapters, I love it!

I can actually hear Alex's voice in my head as I read, which is great because her extremely pragmatic culinary wisdom shines through with each paragraph. You can tell she poured her soul into each page. It's like having Alex in my kitchen, guiding me through the sometimes disorienting world of culinary exploration.
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on May 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Are there words more likely to awaken nostalgia than 'comfort food'? Alex Guarnaschelli of Food Network fame tackles both nostalgia and comfort food recipes in her semi-memoir 'Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook.'

And in this instance the emphasis is on 'old-school.' The recipes that Guarnaschelli provides, although easy to follow and often simple to prepare, aren't dishes that usually come to mind when I think 'comfort' food. Her rich culinary heritage comes to the fore as she recounts life with two foodie parents and a culinary career that began at the lower rungs of the kitchen ladder and continues to expand.

Most of those browsing 'Old-School Comfort Food' have no doubt that Guarnaschelli can cook and that she has an engaging on-air personality. So it's interesting to learn how a top chef works her way through the highly competitive world of food. The personal essays are a pleasant introduction to each recipe - they're just long enough to be intriguing and short enough to be charming.

But the question at issue for many potential purchasers is will this book be useful in my kitchen? And unfortunately for me, the answer is not as much as I'd hoped. Like it or not, calories do count, and many of these recipes are highly caloric. But that's one of the appeals of comfort foods, isn't it? Nevertheless, don't plan to cook many of these most intriguing recipes unless there's someone in your life that can add mayo, sour cream, blue cheese, and bacon to 'Chilled Iceberg Wedge with Blue Cheese and Leeks.'Or who can scoff up the delectable 'Evil Cheese Biscuits' made with provolone and cheddar cheeses and heavy cream. Both recipes are excellent and easy to replicate in the home kitchen.

The chef plays fair - she promised 'old school comfort' food and shared memories of a life with food and that's what she provides. But potential buyers may want to browse through the contents to see if these are recipes they can use. Others who want to learn a bit more about the pleasant Iron Chef will surely enjoy her offering.
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on December 26, 2013
A regular sous chef in the Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium, she has been elevated in her own right.

The recipes collected are earthy, and deceptively easy to follow. They are mostly delicious and crowd-pleasing, for covered dish gatherings.
Her roots, as a moderately low income child to the heights of Chef fame, are presented as a as aladder
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on January 13, 2014
This has a great prologue of Alex's life and childhood...I like her a lot from all her shows on the Food Network, and it was nice to read about what led her to her life in cooking. These recipes utilize foods that are from her past and bring her comfort, but I don't think I would be in the minority when I say they may be things that are not universally thought of as old school comfort foods. It is a beautiful book, and I look forward to trying out some of the recipes (although some are outside my comfort zone). There seems to be an inordinate number of seafood recipes, so if that is a plus for you, I would recommend this cookbook!
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VINE VOICEon May 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love cookbooks and collect them. This new book by Alex Guarnaschelli is not just a cookbook, it's a memory book, filled with memories of her childhood and how her parents taught her how to love and learn about food. From her childhood, Alex takes the reader on a culinary journey.

Some of the recipes I can't imagine preparing for my family; the ingredients just aren't available here in the tiny town we live in. However, there are some that I can't wait to get my hands on! I'm definitely going to bake her deluxe coffee cake and plan on preparing the overnight garlic bread for the night I fix my homemade fettucini alfredo.

If you like watching Alex on Iron Chef and on the Food Network, then you'll definitely love this book! Highly recommended for some really great memories and food facts and some recipes that maybe you'll adore as much as Alex does.
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