, . . 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. Gourmet magazine's editors have achieved such a feat with this sensational doorstopper of a cookbook, a sort of sophisticated cousin to the hallowed Joy of Cooking , and a savvy, cosmopolitan aunt to Mark Bittman's essential How to Cook Everything .

Reichl, the magazine's editor-in-chief and the author of Comfort Me With Apples and other books, took on a monstrous task in creating the book, and the result is an assortment of recipes for practically everything you'd ever want to make. She and her colleagues—including Gourmet executive food editor Zanne Stewart and executive editor John Willoughby—ransacked 60 years' worth of back issues to come up with over 1,200 recipes (down from 50,000, says Reichl in her introduction) that encompass the best of American cuisine—and by American we mean everything that's cooked in America, from burgers to baklava. Recipes come from chefs, food authorities like Marcella Hazan and Madhur Jaffrey, and readers. Reichl and her team tested and retested every one of them.

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. (On sale Sept. 28)

Forecast: Houghton Mifflin is determined to make the book's release a publishing event, and rightly so. The house plans a $1,000,000 marketing campaign, national appearances by Reichl (kicking off with a September 28 Today Show appearance), national TV appearances by Stewart, a national radio drive-time tour with Willoughby, a 20-city author tour, and print ads in major newspapers and magazines. A video on the making of the cookbook will be available for use in bookstores.