THE GOURMET COOKBOOK
, . . Houghton Mifflin, $40 (1056pp) ISBN 978-0-618-37408-3
If you could dream up the perfect cookbook, it might look something like this: easy recipes for days when you're spent and just want something quick and filling; pull-out-all-the-stops recipes for when you want to spend an entire week working on Saturday night's meal; instructions for tasks like cleaning mussels and making pastry dough; introductions and mini-essays explaining recipes' origins and the techniques they involve; and an overall panache and intelligence.
Reichl, the magazine's editor-in-chief and the author of
Experienced and novice home cooks will find recipes for memorable versions of dishes they've heard about but never attempted: concoctions like Coq au Vin, Beef Wellington, Coulibiac, Chop Suey, Bananas Foster, and Black Forest Cake. They'll also come across intriguing alternatives, like Herbed Lima Bean Hummus, Tandoori Shrimp and Mango Salad, Mortadella- and Truffle-Stuffed Pork Loin with Rosemary Roast Potatoes, and Dark Chocolate-Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches. Even basics get their due, in fabulous treatments of Pizza Margherita, Greek Salad, Pasta with Tomato and Basil, and Sugar Cookies. Every chapter begins with an overview of its subject; each recipe has an introduction; and many dishes feature helpful "cook's notes," which give tips for food preparation, technique and storage.
Despite the book's heft (it's about as big as a Manhattan phone book, with two bound-in ribbons), and even though it contains no photographs, readers may find themselves bringing it to bed with them at night. They'll lazily consider making Currant Tea Scones when they wake up the next morning, or read up on how to make perfect chocolate cigarettes—and if sugarplum fairies don't visit them in their dreams, perhaps Reichl and her posse of food angels will. 300 line drawings. 250,000 first printing.
Reviewed on: 08/02/2004