The Gourmet Cookbook

I was at Costco today to pick up some extra FoodSaver bags. After that I wandered around a little bit and I couldn’t avoid the temptation to pick up a copy of The Gourmet Cookbook ($22.49 at Costco).

This book consists of over 1000 recipes culled from the over 50,000 ones that appeared in the last 60 years of Gourmet magazine, tested and updated.

The book includes a DVD which I haven’t watched. I can’t help but think that if they’re going to pay the extra dollar to bundle a DVD, they might as well as the over 1000 recipes in electronic form (they didn’t). Even if they didn’t include the recipes in MasterCook MXP format, I’d have taken the time to write my own parser, believe me!

[A little about the book after the jump]

The Recipes

Besides the obvious fact that I haven’t a chance to try any of them yet, a cursory glance in the store told me the obvious: many of these recipes are completely beyond me. Umm, there is a reason why it’s “The Gourmet Cookbook” and not “The McDonald’s-is-fine-it’s-all-just-meat-anyways-right? Cookbook.”

I’m of the latter category.

Let me elucidate with three of the simplest recipes I could find:

Let’s take something as prosaic as a club sandwich. Their Chicken Club Sandwiches has a recipe that calls for poaching a chicken breast instead of cold cuts and adds such things such as finely grated lemon zest and sour cream “to add a tangy note” to the mayonnaise.

They don’t have a Philly Cheesesteak, they have “Roast Beef Sandwiches with Roquefort and Caramelized Shallots.” Granted I’m from Pittsburgh, not Philadelphia, but even I was shocked.

The Bananas Foster recipe is very traditional, but they couldn’t pass it up without a Cook’s Note that read: “We like this with a squeeze of fresh lime to balance the sweetness.”

(I love that detail. Makes me want to go get some 151 from BevMo and try it out.)

So if not for the recipes then what?

Well, actually the recipes too. It’s not like those three recipes above are beyond anyone. (If you want to make a hamburger and have a meat grinder handy then more power to you!) But if they labeled this book like they labeled ski slopes, these would all have a Green Circle. Some of these definitely stretch into Black Diamond territory.

Besides, when your read a recipe in a book without a single photo and your mouth waters… c’mon that’s gotta be worth $22.

The kicker was the small tips littered through the book. Sure it’s full stuff I already knew like a page waxing eloquent on the virtues of the vanilla bean or an explanation of what a mandoline does. But even in the common you hit little tidbits you didn’t know: pork today is much leaner and than pork of a generation ago, and what to do about it when cooking, charcoal briquettes are just powdered charcoal mixed with binders to form pillows and thus aren’t as good as getting hardwood charcoal (and why).

It’s fun to flip through and read those things. Leave it to a gourmet to celebrate the ingredients and materials in food preparation in a way that makes it fun.

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