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The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes Plus Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life Hardcover – July 28, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Written by a former chef at, and graduate of, Deep Springs College in California, a men-only two-year college on a working ranch where students partake in hard physical labor along with academics, and learn a good deal about food, from farming to butchering to butter making, this hefty volume is refreshing in its straightforwardness. It's a nod to the Deep Springs kitchen, "where there is little time for fussy preparations, little money for expensive or exotic ingredients, and little regard for food trends or food snobbery, but where a great appreciation for any good, soul-satisfying food abides." Although there are no photos, the instructions are clear--with a good glossary of culinary terms--and the recipes for the most part are simple and appealing. They include the expected manly, hearty fare, such as biscuits and gravy for breakfast, chicken and dumplings, and steak fried in beef tallow. But there are many more entries along the lines of an asparagus mushroom frittata and fennel, blood orange, and toasted almond salad, which celebrate fresh flavors and seasonal ingredients. And there are plenty of sweet treats (pear, ginger, and lemon crisp; goose egg pound cake) that would serve well as a reward for a hard day of work, on the farm or anywhere.
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If any of this year's cookbooks is headed for dog-eared longevity, complete with tomato- sauce splatters and flour-dustings, it's Tom Hudgens' "The Commonsense Kitchen." ...As appropriate for beginning cooks as it is for those with more experience, this one will stick around your kitchen for years. -- Denver Post, Best Cookbooks of 2010
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The writing style is friendly, sprinkled with history and anecdotes, such that one often comes away wiser in more than just cuisine when trying out a new recipe. The scope is literally soup-to-nuts: salads, meats, sides, deserts, breakfasts, lunches, snacks, etc. etc.; further, the cooking itself is bookend'd with kitchen basics and tools (Mr. Hudgens' history in various prestigious kitchens comes into play here) and down-home utilitarian clean-up topics such as hand-made soap, stain removal, and effective dishwashing.
Ultimately, of course, what matters most is the food. My personal mode in the kitchen is basic dishes done with quality and care. I've turned out some of my best roasts, meatloaves, meatballs, roast chicken, carne asada, (and all sorts of sides) by way of TCK. But, like the best of books, this one also pushes one's culinary horizon. Mr. Hudgens' passion for food is apparent on every page of this remarkable work, and he compels his audience to share in his expansive love of food and cooking.
There are no pictures, which is a shame, but Tom makes up for it with beautiful prose that elucidates not only what you are going to taste when you are done, but also something more about the food, its history, or his relationship to it.
The book is beautifully produced, with the kind of hard cover that falls open and stays open on the kitchen counter. My only regret is that there isn't some type of plastic coating on the cover, but that just makes it nicer for reading on the couch, or in bed. This is a cookbook that even non-cookbook-o-philes can enjoy reading outside the kitchen.
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