Since 1999, the Best American Recipe series has offered top yearly formulas from books, magazines, the Internet, and even product labels. The Best American Recipes 2002-2003, edited by series founder Fran McCullough with Molly Stevens, offers 150 doable recipes that range from starters to desserts and drinks. The selection embraces both the dressy and the down-home, ranging from, say, Porcini Mushroom and Red Onion Tart to Shrimp with Garlic and Toasted Bread Crumbs. Dessert stopovers include Butter Toffee Crunch Shortbread and Valentino's not-to-be missed Chocolate Truffle Cake.
Are these the year's best recipes? It doesn't really matter, as McCullough has cast her net wide and drawn in a diversely appetizing selection. With a section on the year in food (sage, for example, is dubbed the herb cooks wanted "more than a little of lately"); headnotes that put the recipes in context ("New riffs on guacamole seems to spring up every year," say the authors in respect to Guacamole with Lemon and Roasted Corn); and Cook's Notes that make the recipes even more useful ("you can extend the marinating ... it will only add to the flavor," advise the authors of Pork Stew with Leeks, Orange, and Mint), the book is a something-for-everyone addition to a welcome tradition. Readers will also enjoy the foreword from Kitchen Confidential author Anthony Bourdain, which ends with a characteristic injunction to "cook free or die." --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
The latest volume in this annual series, with a foreword from enfant terrible culinaire Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential; A Cook's Tour) that concludes "Cook free or die," strives to be of-the-moment, but sometimes feels generic. The recipes collected from books, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet are perfectly serviceable and occasionally truly innovative (Grape Salsa from the San Francisco Chronicle). Each recipe appears with a source, a cook and a header from the editors, as well as helpful cook's notes derived from the testing of approximately 700 recipes during the process of compiling the book. For example, a recipe for Laksa (Malaysian Noodle Soup) from a handout at Ramekins, a California cooking school, has a header that offers an aromatic description of the finished product, as well as notes on variations, a recommendation for buying laksa paste and suggestions for leftovers. Certain recipes are notable for their techniques: Chickpea Salad with Four-minute Eggs from Food & Wine includes a reliable method for soft-cooking an egg so that it coats a salad like a dressing. McCullough (Low-Carb Cookbook) and Stevens (One Potato, Two Potato) produce a list of top-10 trends, and while some observations may seem stale (the return of butter, the popularity of grilling and the national obsession with chocolate) others (bread as an ingredient rather than on its own, "eggs over everything," and cabbage) do surprise.
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Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.