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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Browse it for great ideas, but make sure you know how to cook first--it's not for everyone, October 1, 2006
This review is from: Recipes from Home (Hardcover)
First, to address the size issue: Yes, it's awkward, just a bit, but I have had no problems actually using the book. If you are too precious about your cookbooks to demur from breaking the spine, then you probably don't bring them into the kitchen much anyway. Mine opens flat since I made it open flat, and stays that way, better than some of my wider paberbacks. The bigger flaw is that the binding is poor--maybe this is a consequence of the design--the glue holding all the pages does not hold them to the spine (but the pages are all sewed together, so it still works).

I have cooked 6 or so menus from this book, and a few sides and sauces here and there. Like many restaurant cookbooks, main dishes are often (not always) presented with an accompaniment, plus recommended sides from other areas of the book. And I have enjoyed everything but the pulled pork recipe, which may be more an issue of my taste.

However, I have noticed that recipes are consistently underseasoned. I'm not a huge salter, but I had to add a lot more seasonings to just about everything here.

Generally, this book is quite like described: comforting, thoroughly American food. The dishes are thoughtfully put together, and I would not call this an easy book by any means. These are sophisticated interpretations of classic dishes and classic themes (ie., a southern shrimp stew, but with some extra Cuban touches), but they are by no means needlessly rococo or inaccessible. I would contrast this with, say, Patrick O'Connell's books, which are beautiful, elegant interpretations of American cooking, but at a much more intimidating "restaurant" level. You can cook these recipes in your own home, but you might want to save them for the weekend. And, like another reviewer mentioned, this is not a diet book. The authors like bacon fat, which is perfectly in tune with their general approach here, and also delicious.

I'd say this book is best suited for someone who has a pretty good mastery of the American classics (pot roast, meatloaf, casseroles) and is ready for something more interesting (like making your own ketchup). I bought it when I was still learning to cook, and I didn't use it much at the time. A couple of years later, I find myself going to it much more frequently, and with good results. It's for experienced cooks because not all the recipes are perfect: I have had to add more liquid to pancake batters, for example, and there is the previously-mentioned underseasoning that plagues most of the dishes. But these are manageable quirks, and navigating them is worth it.

Overall, I'd enthusiastically recommend this to anyone who is comfortable in the kitchen and keen on American cooking. However, I would not recommend this to more novice cooks, nor to cooks who prefer the quick and simple or minimalist approach.

* Also, this book devotes a lot of attention to canning, condiments, and the like. I have not tried these recipes, but they feature prominently and probably should be a factor for anyone interested in pickles, preserves, etc.
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