Brilliant, gorgeous, approachable collection of American classic recipes....with an updated caveat
Reviewed in the United States on 4 September 2017
This is a gorgeous cookbook, FANTASTIC wedding gift or a gift to someone who wants to learn how to cook but doesn't have time for a class. Although I say "gorgeous," it's not a coffee-table book: it's one whose pages the cook needs to get all splotched while cooking: the recipes are approachable even for a novice cook. I love the book even in my Kindle (I read Kindle books on my iPad) version but, as I write this, hard copy is only $16.99. So, I literally just one-clicked the hard cover as a gift for my son and daughter-in-law. They won't take offense at being gifted a cookbook this late in their marriage. Although I'm an ancient know-it-all when it comes to classic American comfort food, I'm secretly planning to photocopy quite a few pages for my own use before the book gets wrapped. If you have a vacation home or host an airbnb and only room or budget for one cookbook, or if you ever rent a condo or apartment with a kitchen, this is the book for you. Why I say "brilliant" about the book: the recipes are brilliantly curated. The authors and editors celebrate classic American food from sea to shining sea: they get that classics are classic for a reason. There are a LOT of recipes in this book, and all are classified as "All-American," or by region (NE, S, MW, SW, and W). Every single classic recipe you can think of is in this book. Quick: think of a classic American recipe! You're right, Boston Cream Pie, blueberry pancakes, meatloaf, and green bean casserole are all here: whatever you guessed? It's in here. It's a shame that Amazon's "Look inside" doesn't let you click to the individual chapter title pages so that you can see all the recipe titles (Clarkson Potter, are you listening?). Kindle edition review: Index is fully clickable. "Extra" chapters are excellent: "Tips and Techniques" (just wish they were clickable from recipes). Her "Sources" chapter is superb: it's lengthy and clickable to purveyors' websites. I forgive CP for not making sources clickable from recipes, since she lists so many sources that almost every ingredient would have a Sources click. Good that her "basic recipes" (e.g. Chicken stock and graham crackers) ARE clickable from the recipes. Photos! Every single dish (except some staples) has a color photo, and the photos are gorgeous! The recipes are simple and straightforward: great care has been taken to make this possible. They're not always "quick:" for example, she may call for resting or chilling time, but the active cooking time is always smartly streamlined. I'm a sucker for headnotes: I want to know why I should make this dish. The headnotes are excellent, usually providing a paragraph or two about the history of the dish and its signature ingredients. For example, huckleberry muffins. Several headnotes are written in Martha's own voice, telling us why she loves a dish. Finally, again, the ultimate compliment: I just ordered the hard copy. Update: I wish I could downtick half a star because I've just spent some time on the phone with an cook who wants to make a perfect Thanksgiving turkey, but was uncertain which way to go: high temp or low temp? I thought, "let's ask Martha." However, Martha's turkey recipe says 450, and never says another word about turning the temperature down. She says, cook for 3 hours, and then check whether the bird is done. Perhaps cooking a turkey at 450 for 3 hours is a new technique, but this ancient cook who has cooked dozens of turkeys in her lifetime thinks this is not only an error, but a serious error. So I'm downticking a star and wish that Martha/editors will weigh in.
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