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      Greetings fellow foodies and WFDers. I hope all is well with you tonight. My topic for today is cookbooks. When I first told my wife I was going to learn to cook she began bringing me cookbooks from the library. I've read hundreds of them. When I find a recipe I want to try, I write it down, usually on a sheet from one of my good ol' yellow pads, and put it in my Recipe file. This is what I actually cook from. Sometimes I encounter a cookbook that is so good that I must have a copy of it. I only have a few, a dozen or so, but they are all very good. Below the fold I will share a few of my favorites and I invite you to recommend one or two of yours.

Food Porn

      What else to call this series by Williams-Sonoma ? These books are big, 9x13, and filled with gorgeous color photographs of the people, the local markets and the dishes and ingredients of the countries they cover. They would be worth having even if they didn't have recipes in them. But they do have recipes. Here's one from Savoring Mexico for a Cream of Cilantro Soup. (Cilantro haters please bear with me.)
Sopa de Cilantro

2 c. milk
2 bay leaves
2 T. butter
1 t. oil
½ white onion, chopped
3 T. flour
2 bunches fresh cilantro, large stems removed
4 c. chicken stock
½ c. Mexican crema

Put the milk in a saucepan and add the bay leaves. Bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat.
In a heavy frying pan, saute the onion in oil and butter until translucent.
Add flour to the onions and stir to make a roux.
Remove the bay leaves from the milk and add it to the roux, cook 5 minutes or so until thickened, remove from heat.
Working in batches, pour the onion-milk mixture into a blender and add the cilantro, process until smooth.
Pour the puree into a soup pot and gradually stir in the chicken stock, cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
Stir in the crema and simmer 'til heated through.
Adjust, garnish and serve.


      Everybody needs a "go to" reference for classic American dishes. Some have a Betty Crocker book, some have Fanny Farmer, I have Joy of Cooking. I have Paul Bocuse's French Cooking for the classic French stuff. My all-time favorite in this category is Larousse Gastronomique:the World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia. It's over 1300 pages long with sections on every country and every wine-producing region. It has entries for every sausage, every cheese and every ingredient you can think of. It has famous restaurants and chefs from history. Oh yeah, it also has 3500 recipes. I've never sat down to read it cover to cover but I've read every page at one time or another. If I could only have one book, it would be Larousse. I also have a paperbound edition of Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques. This is a very useful illustrated manual for things like trussing a chicken or making tomato roses and it brings us to another category.

Celebrity Cookbooks

      Julia Child went to Paris after the war with her husband who was in the Foreign Service. While in France she learned French Cooking. After returning to the US, she wrote her classic book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This led to a newspaper column and, eventually, to a PBS television series. She was the first celebrity chef. Nowadays, all kinds of celebrities have cookbooks and, most of the time, the celebrity comes before the book. Professional athletes, country singers and talk show hosts all have cookbooks even if they don't know that much about cooking. Jacques Pépin is my favorite celebrity chef and he knows everything about cooking. I have two of his cookbooks and I highly recommend his memoirs, The Apprentice. Born in France to a family that kept a small hotel, he is a link to the Grand Old Tradition of French cuisine. He joined the French Navy and ended up cooking for General DeGaulle. He came to New York, passed on an opportunity to cook for the Kennedys and went to work for Howard Johnson's. Jacques is an amazing guy, an overachiever who knows everybody in the business and whose books are all good.

Tonight At Our House

      If you're a regular reader of WFD, you know that I love to BBQ. Tonight I'll be doing a recipe from another of my favorite cookbooks, The Chinese Kitchen, by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. This book has real Chinese recipes. The author explains that the Chinese we're used to in restaurants, American Chinese, is made with different ingredients than those used in China. I'll slow-cook the ribs just as I would for Southern BBQ, but I'll use a Chinese marinade instead of spice rub and I won't use smoke chunks. They will be delicious, but they will not be bright red and overly sweet like the ones in restaurants. Here's the recipe for this marinade. It works well with "country-style" pork ribs cooked in the oven too.

Marinade for Chinese BBQ Ribs

2 T. oyster flavored sauce
2 T. hoisin sauce
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. dark soy sauce
4 T. honey
2 T. Mei Kuei Lu Chiew or gin, (I use Chinese rice wine)
salt & white pepper

Marinate ribs overnight, roast or BBQ


      That's all I've got for this edition of WFD. What's for dinner at your place, and what's your favorite cookbook ?


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