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Good Source of Simple Recipes for the Rest of Us
on February 14, 2004
This is Paula Deen's second cookbook. It predates her regular Food Network series and may predate her first appearance on any Food Network shows. Unless you look carefully to notice the imprimatur of the giant publisher Random House, you may take this for a local, self-published cookbook done by a church or women's social group to raise money, because that is exactly how the recipes come across. They represent your basic southern meat and potatoes and grits and collard greens menu and succeed very well in filling that niche.
That is almost exactly the same opening paragraph I used for Paula's first book. It is as true of the second book as it was of the first, even down to the plastic amateur binding which makes the Random House imprimatur so surprising.
One of the few differences between the first and the second books is that the second adds more details to how Paula and her sons came to establish their restaurant. Another difference is that only a very few of the recipes are cited as dishes served at Paula's restaurant. A third difference is that Paula strays a bit outside the standard Southern culinary canon. Some distinctly French and Italian standards such as steak au pauvre and pasta Puttanesca sauce have found their way into the book. My humble opinion on the Italian dishes is that a few important details of the proper techniques are missing, but your result from following these recipes will be quite acceptable.
Like the first volume, almost all of the recipes call for a reasonable number of easily obtained ingredients and require a relatively few steps. Many recipes call for prepared or processed ingredients such as canned soups, packaged rice dishes, and Velveeta.
Like the first book, I would open this volume if I wanted to find something to make for a person whose fussy zone excludes things like curry, lemon grass, hosin sauce, wines, and leeks. This would be a fallback source if I wanted something to fit a Pennsylvania Dutch palate, but the Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks on my shelf fail to inspire.
I would not go to Paula's books for baked goods. I am certain her recipes work. I have tried several and find them too long on butter and eggs and too short on fruit. If you, dear reader are an inexperienced cook, I would put this book to the side and start with a cookbook specifically written to teach techniques such as Madeline Kamman's `The New Making of a Chef'.
If you like basic American Cooking done with the cachet of a Food Network celebrity chef, this is an excellent source at a very reasonable price. Many of the recipes have been featured on Paula's Food Network show, so this book gains value if you are fond of following her show. I would also agree with other reviewers that her first book is preferable to the second, but the second is worthy of her style.