The editors of Fine Cooking magazine have come out with a new cookbook featuring comfort food recipes that are a bit like a cross between Paula Deen and Martha Stewart.
Comfort Food will be a great asset to many kitchens but it may leave other cooks wanting more.
The cookbook features two hundred recipes for soups, stews, casseroles and more. Many of the recipes feature full-color photographs and the recipes are fairly easy to follow even when they are more elaborate dishes.
This is gourmet food, but generally accessible gourmet food. Home cooks won't need a cooking degree to make dishes like classic vichyssoise, brisket and bean chili, wild mushroom risotto, pulled pork macaroni and cheese with caramelized onions and four cheeses, turkey bolognese, and other common and uncommon comfort food dishes.
Some recipes are well-known classics that everyone will recognize, such as buttermilk pancakes, mashed potatoes, classic fried chicken and blueberry muffins. Others are decidedly upscale, such as braised duck legs with figs, star anise, and winter squash.
Fine Cooking does a good job of explaining the steps for techniques that may be new to cooks. The reader gets great information on how to make perfect mashed potatoes, how to carve meats, how to section and orange and other cooking techniques. They also have sidebars to give more information about less usual ingredients in some dishes, such as porchetta, garam masala, capers, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, copocollo, pasilla powder, masa harina and oncho chile powder.
Comfort Food would be a great cookbook for:
- Intermediate cooks who would like to learn more advanced cooking techniques and improve their cooking.
- Cooks looking for indulgent dishes to serve for company or special occasions.
- Cooks who take great pleasure in serving over-the-top meals with the best ingredients.
Comfort Food may not be a good fit for:
- People with allergies or on gluten free or grain restricting diets. The recipes rely heavily on wheat and dairy ingredients.
- Vegetarians or vegans. Almost every recipe uses animal products, especially chicken stock, butter, cream and cheese. Meat or meat broth is added to almost every dish other than desserts and a few breakfast items. Vegetarians can often make easy substitutes such as switching vegetable stock for chicken stock, but it can be frustrating to have to figure out substitutions and omissions for even dishes like cornbread (which contains bacon).
- People with health issues or who are watching their weight. Most recipes are high in fat and calories. The recipes use lots of cream, cheese, pasta, butter and meat. Vegetables are decidedly underused.
- Frugal cooks. The ingredients used in the cookbook are the best quality and may make many of these dishes out of financial reach for everyday cooking.
- Cooks without a lot of time for cooking. Very few of these recipes are good choices for last minute meals or scrambling to get dinner on the table after work.
- Cooks in more rural areas. It can be hard in Southern Minnesota to find ingredients like wild lime leaves (though they are optional), saffron threads or grana padano.
People following popular "traditional" diets like paleo diets or Nourishing Traditions diets will probably find the cookbook hit or miss. On the plus side, you won't find any artificial ingredients, preservatives or packaged foods used in these recipes. These are often recipes your great grandma might have made (as long as she was fairly rich and had a lot of time on her hands). There are some classic recipes that might be quite helpful, such as best-ever roast chicken (using only kosher salt, pepper and olive oil). However, the copious use of dairy products, wine, chocolate and other restricted foods makes many recipes off-limits for true paleo dieters and the heavy use of wheat and other grains will also cancel out a lot of recipes.
Comfort Food is a good read to round out your cooking skills, especially if you're a beginner cook. It's also great for those elaborate special occasion dishes where you really want to impress.
I would definitely recommend purchasing the book if you were opening an upscale bed and breakfast, hosted your own fine cooking blog or were really serious about cooking and your family did not have any special dietary concerns.
For others, it may be a good book to peruse at the library.
Title: FINE COOKING COMFORT FOOD: 200 Delicious Recipes for Soul-Warming Meals
Pub Date: November 08, 2011
Comfort Food retails for $19.95.
Note: I read the cookbook via a digital loan from the publisher and received no compensation for this review.