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Craig Claiborne's New New York Times Cookbook Hardcover – February 25, 1995
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From the Inside Flap
This book is both an instrument for serious cooking and a personal statement about the preparation and eating of food. It contains more than 1,000 recipes, from regional and ethnic cuisine to outstanding haute cuisine. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The evaluation of this book depends greatly on an understanding of the purpose that the book best serves. The main feature of the book is its vast size. It weighs in at about 800 pages. The only `cookbook' on my shelves with more words and pages is the encyclopedic `Larousse Gastronomique'. The class of cookbook which most closely approaches this book in size is the all-purpose `how to cook' manual such as `The Joy of Cooking' and Mark Bittman's `How to Cook Everything'. This Claiborne volume fits neither of these two categories. It is also certainly not a restaurant, celebrity, or `terroir' cookbook such as those about Provence or Tuscany. It basically defines a class of which it is probably the premier exemplar. This is the class of book that is simply assembled to provide you with as many recipes as possible. It's reason for being is volume. There are some special cases of this class of book which deal with a particular cuisine, such as the `Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook' by Gloria Bley Miller. Claiborne outstrips this book by a mile, giving us two to three recipes per page, thereby weighing in with about 2000 recipes covering the four corners of the world.
In a sense, the class of cookbook that may come closest to this MS is the fundraising cookbook commonly published by churches and social organizations with recipes supplied by the group's members. The similarity is that the recipes were supplied by dozens of different authors and there are few if any threads connecting the recipes except the organization sponsoring the publication of the volume. This Claiborne work distances itself from such volumes in the quality and diversity of the recipes. It is important to remember that most, if not all of these recipes have appeared in the pages of the New York Times. In order to do this, they would have had to pass scrutiny of not only Times editors but the thousands of readers of the New York Times food columns. Each recipe would have had to survive a second professional screening when it was being considered as an entry in this book. Additional screenings would have been done for each successive edition. The bottom line is that the value of this book is in its providing a widely diverse selection of high quality recipes for a cent and a half per recipe. Compare that to the twenty to thirty-five cents per recipe you pay for a new hardcover cookbook from the latest celebrity chef or the latest send-off of recipes from Rome, Tuscany, or Provence.
The other side of the coin is that the only thing you get in this cookbook is the recipes. Period. Virtually every recipe is composed of nothing more than a title, a number of servings, a list of ingredients, and numbered steps for the procedure to be followed. A very few recipes for truly unusual preparations such as `Taramasalata', a Greek Carp Roe spread have a brief headnote explaining the source and use of the recipe. For pantry items such as the very first recipe in the book, `Mignonette Sauce', there is only the briefest indication of the purpose to which the recipe is to be applied. This is the price to be paid for the book's filling the role of encyclopedic reference, where sheer numbers of recipes is its objective. I must temper this rather austere picture ever so slightly by pointing out that there are some few recipes which do deserve a special treatment such as the recipe for the omelet for one, where there are some sidebar comments on technique and the procedure is considerably more detailed than the average. This is only fair, since, as Alton Brown has said, the omelet is all about technique. Being an only modestly practiced omelet maker, I believe Claiborne's omelet recipe is illuminating without being overly fussy.
The archetypal recipe in this book, to my mind, is the one for Bouillabaisse. It has a very long list of ingredients, none of which are beyond the reach of the average American supermarket, and a very short procedure. In place of a freshly prepared fumet, the recipe calls for clam juice. The most revealing aspect of the recipe is that it shows that Bouillabaisse is, indeed, a relatively simple recipe. The description of the procedure is less than one-fourth the length of the procedure for making an omelet for one, which can be done within five minutes.
What may be easy to overlook is that this book may have been as important as any in creating the market for gourmet food products. The irony is that Claiborne is clearly a writer and not a chef. In fact, some reports describe him as somewhat deliberate and slow in the kitchen, where he simply did not have the well-practiced manual skills of a professional chef who preps and mixes and sautes every day, all day. In fact, this also means that virtually all the recipes in this book were collected and edited by Claiborne rather than being created or even discovered by him.
This book is a classic which makes thousands of recipes available to people who have no time or room for a library of cookbooks and who have the basic skills which will fill out the complete, but sparse instructions. Coverage of savory cooking is exhaustive. Coverage of baking and pastry is limited. I have never been disappointed by my results from making any recipe in this book, and, most have exceeded my expectations, based on the relative simplicity of the procedure.
Highly recommended for experienced cooks who are time or space challanged.
PLEASE REPRINT THIS SOON! WE ALL NEED NEW ONES!
NOT SO with Craig Claiborne's New York Times Cookbook. It is true that it is a big cookbook with lots of recipes, but it is also true that each recipe is a perfect exemplar of the particular dish at hand.
This is the only cookbook I use where I will follow the recipe exactly because the recipes in this book cannot be improved by modifying them.