NEW YORK - Perusing cookbooks and marking recipes with Post-it notes is an effortless, fun way to imagine all sorts of dishes. Actually making those recipes gets messy, inevitably takes more time than expected and results in anything from scrumptious delight to dejected disappointment. Imagine trying to do that with morethan 6000 recipes and appreciation for cookbook author Amanda Hesser grows.
Her new cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook puts together the best recipes the newspaper has published since the 1850s. Hesser wisely decided to solicit readers for their favorite recipes and was inundated with, “a tidal wave of email.”
She and assistant Merrill Stubbs sorted through those and the two of them tested more than1400 recipes, from which Hesser chose the 1000 that made it into the final volume.
One recipe was recommended by 265 people: purple plum torte. No.2 is David Eyre’s pancake.
The recipes are conveniently organized into chapters beginning with drinks, moving to hors d’oeuvres, soups, salads and ending with desserts.
Each recipe notes the year it was published and most include author notes with tips for sourcing ingredients, substitutions, background and Hesser’s opinions.
Her comment on the Filbert Torte, 1882, “This is one of my favorite cakes in the book. It’s a little austere being more woodsy and boozy than sweet.” And her cooking note read, “The only sane way to prepare the icing is with an electric hand mixer. If you don’t have one, you will have to whisk the whites over simmering water for 12 to 15 minutes. Your arms don’t want to do this.”
Recipes range from easy–pasta with vodka, to lengthy–Coloradito (red mole with pork).
The chronological organization makes the book fun to scan.
The vegetable chapter includes an 1897 recipe for fresh mushrooms stewed with Madeira. They would taste just as good today served with quail or hangar steak, Hesser suggests.
Moving through decades, stuffed green peppers understandably make the cut.
Hesser notes in the book changes in cooking styles and methods over the past 150 years.
“The main improvement has been intensity of flavor. Cayenne was the only chile-based heat until about 1970; chiles, in many varieties are now commonplace. Meats cook twice as fast as they did 100 years ago. And egg yolks have lost their binding strength. Old custard recipes that called for 3 yolks generally need 5 to 7 modern egg yolks to set.”
Hesser herself continues to make recipes from her book.
“I have a special fondness for a few, like Broccoli Puree with Ginger, the Latkes, and Spicy, Garlicky Cashew Chicken, Stuck-Pot Rice, Borscht, Tortoni (it’s like a semifreddo with a macaroon crust),” she said.
She still writes for the New York Times and you can find her and more recipes on her blog www.food52.com.
So far every recipe tested in my kitchen has succeeded and some are definite winners.
One nut-lovers recipe is for butterscotch cashew bars. Chewy and rich the bars are easy and quicker to make since bars than cookies.
Some other easy personal favorites include “Russ & Daughters’ Chopped Chicken Liver. This version adds caramelized onions and boiled eggs, making the recipe well worth the time it takes.
Another is the“Fried Eggplant with Salmorejo Sauce” recipe.
The endless variety and sheer volume of recipes guarantee something for everyone.
This book’s a keeper.
Linda Mensinga was editor of Culinary Trends for 15 years, now a contributing writer. If you have a great restaurant, recipe or food you’d like to share please send an email. You can reach her at email@example.com or Linda@culinarytrends.net.
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