Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Joy of Cooking & a Puzzle

This past Sunday my Honey and I did our usual Sunday morning ritual. He goes out to buy the Sunday New York Times and I brew a pot of coffee. Then we spend the morning in bed reading. So I was excited when I found the article "Ode to Joy" by Jennifer Steinhauer and thought I'd make a dish from one of my oldest, and indeed, most treasured cookbooks and tie the two together somehow.

Now anyone who's been to my home and flipped through my cookbooks knows that I annotate. In fact, it's a quirk my daughters love. Truthfully...I just own so many cookbooks that I don't always remember which recipe I want to do again and which I'd rather forget(those comments are the ones the girls like the best - yuch!!! disgusting!!! "what was I thinking?"). So imagine my surprise when, of the 4500 recipes (that's what it says on the cover), I've only marked one - Baked Red Snapper with Savory Tomato Sauce - comment: "very good - add olives". It calls for baking a whole fish, which would mean bones, and since my Honey hates bones, I'm not going to be making it any time soon.

So then why do I have such a warm attachment to a book with only one recipe marked up (and that one has only a mediocre review)? And then I realized.....I own three reference books

The Doubleday Cookbook(I DO have lots of great recipes marked and maybe I'll do a bunch in the next few weeks);

The Cook's Companion(too new - I just got it sometime in the last few months and haven't really looked through it yet); and

The Joy of Cooking.

But of my reference books, Joy of Cooking has the most comprehensive information for new cooks. And frankly, we're all new cooks for one thing or another even if you've been comfortable in the kitchen for years. For instance....did you know these facts about evaporated milk (I just randomly opened the book):

  • is canned whole milk freed of 60% of its moisture and contains not less than 7.5% milk fat;
  • reconstitute by adding 1/2 cup water to same quantity of evaporated milk and use to replace 1 cup of fresh milk in any recipe except those calling for rennet.
  • it has a slightly caramelized taste due to the processing
  • the cans should be inverted every few weeks in storage to keep solids from settling.
  • do not hold condensed milk for more than 6 months before using (I REALLY didn't know that and now I'm heading down to my pantry to dump my old cans!!!)
Truthfully, whenever I'm stumped, The Joy of Cooking is where I turn first. So....what's your favorite reference cookbook and do you use it just for information (like how to carve, or roast, or .....whatever) or do you love the recipes too?

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Jhunt said...

Bittman's "How To Cook Everything", no question. I use it so often that I should really just leave the d**n thing on the kitchen counter and save myself the inevitable walk to the bookcase.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same way as you are about "the joy." My father (who rarely made anything more complicated than scrambled eggs except when grilling in my lifetime, but is said to have been a great cook in his youth) has a copy from the 70s which was always among my mothers cookbooks (I only discovered it was dads when they divorced). anyway, I bought a paperback copy of the 97 edition when I moved out of the house and found it rather lacking, although I did use it as a refrence when cooking vegitables or cuts of meat I'd never worked with before.

last summer I bought a 60's edition off ebay, rather adorably (in my opinion) inscribed with the name of Mrs. Harry Stephens. With my new-old edition, I still use it primarily as a refrence, but I also occasionaly sit down, open it to a random page, and read the pearls of wisdom contained therein.

mickey said...

Count me a fan of "Joy" as well. Mrs. Rombauer, the author lived in St Louis and our paper-The St Louis Post Dispatch recently did a feature on the newest edition, which is edited by her grandson. And I think I read somewhere that an exact facscimile of the original will soon be available. To me it's more than a book, it's an icon.

Sara said...

I have The Food Lovers Companion which I use mostly for definitions and stuff. Most of the time I turn to Martha Stewart.

Tara said...

I love the Joy of Cooking, and the 1997 edition is basically the only thing I cook from. It's a great reference, true, but the recipes are just dead on. I feel like I've really learned to cook through this book! I love it! -JoyfulCooking