The way our society works these days there are no more long cooking sessions at the apron strings of mom and grandma. Actually, my family has so many events, practices and other commitments I often feel like I am a short order cook. I can live with that but the problem comes when children leave home and have no idea how to cook.
I have vivid memories of the first Thanksgiving dinner I cooked. Okay, I will be honest in that I didn’t do all the cooking. I was sixteen and my grandmother had had cataract surgery. Back in those days, it was not an outpatient procedure and she was told, in no uncertain terms, she could not cook Thanksgiving dinner. I did the work as she sat in a chair in the kitchen telling me what to do. My mind flashed back to that day when, seven years later, I was truly making my first Thanksgiving dinner for my husband and myself.
I not only had my memories but I had learned to cook while my grandmothers and my mother were in the kitchen. These are not memories my children have so when they moved out on their own, I went in search of a cookbook to give them. It is not easy finding a cookbook that has all-American favorites in it like meatloaf and several varieties of potato salad and fruit salad for different seasons. I also wanted to give my adult children a cookbook that had terms in it so they knew what other cooks were talking about and that discussed conversions from or to metric and the utensils used in the kitchen. I cannot tell you the number of times I have fielded a call from one of the kids asking what a specific utensil is as it was mentioned in a fancy cookbook someone gave them.
Richard J Perry has edited “The Good Home Cookbook” – ISBN 978-1-58479-746-3, retailing at $29.95 US – and has allowed over 1000 homes across America to test the recipes in their own kitchens. This cookbook has separate chapters for breakfast and lunch. It includes chapters for appetizers and drinks. It also has chapters on all the major proteins – meat, poultry, and fish. There are chapters for breads, vegetables, pasta and rice, desserts and sweets and drinks. I cannot imagine not being able to find a recipe I want in this cookbook. There is even a chapter on grilling, which has taught me a lot as I am a self-taught griller.
While looking for a breakfast recipe to test myself, I noticed that the recipes involving eggs give hints on the best way to cook that particular type of egg. Did you know that you should use slow heat to fry an egg as high heat will turn the whites rubbery? The egg recipes also include a number of delicious omelets.
The introduction to the lunch chapter includes a discussion on how diners popularized the sandwich. The natural start to the chapter is then a variety of sandwiches, some of which I have eaten before and some of which I have not even heard of but am trying as they sound so delicious. I have never heard of a muffuletta but have put the ingredients that I do not have on hand on my grocery list to make one for lunch this weekend. After the book goes over hot and cold sandwiches, it moves onto hamburgers, hot dogs, burritos, and tacos. I have never given some of these items a second thought as lunch-time fare but will now.
As I ventured into the appetizer chapter, I was thrilled to see a recipe for pimento cheese. I had read a bit about this Southern staple in Kristen Roby’s food blog on my local newspaper’s web site. I had never seen a recipe for it before that and now in “The Good Home Cookbook.” I love the sounds of it and am going to keep this on hand in my refrigerator for both sandwiches and for snacks. The appetizers range from cold to hot dips to party mixes to roasted chestnuts to finger foods such as Kal-Bi Short Ribs or prosciutto with melon. It also discusses fruit trays, crudités, cheeses and antipasto trays.
There is an entire chapter devoted to salads. I love salads so I was particularly impressed with three different potato salads and several bean salads as well. There are recipes for salads with many different vegetables as the main ingredient – asparagus, carrots, peas, cucumbers. The chapter also includes several dressing recipes. I love Catalina dressing and have never been able to make it quite right. Having used this recipe, it tastes fantastic and I can control the salt in the dressing which is a big issue in my home. The salad chapter closes with information on making a gelatin salad. I have fond memories of gelatin salads at my grandmother’s as a child. I cannot wait to expose my children to this concept.
There is an entire chapter on soups. I love a good homemade soup and am always looking for new soups to make for my family. I also like to have a soup that can simmer all day during the winter months so the aroma fills the house.
I have never attempted to make one of my favorite seafood dishes – crab cakes – because I never had a recipe for them. The crab cakes in “The Good Food Cookbook” taste wonderful. I am sure if I lived near a coast and crab was in season they would be even better but these are by far the best I have ever had without being on the coast. The seafood and fish chapter covers filets and steaks of everything from trout to salmon. There is also an extensive section at the end of the chapter that discussing buying and handling of some of the types of fish.
The poultry and meat chapters cover the gamut of traditional American foods. The poultry chapter has stuffings in it along with a variety of recipes for pheasant, goose, duck, turkey and chicken. The meat chapter includes all recipes for everything from glazed ham to spareribs to pork tenderloin to pot roast to ground beef. It also includes cooking temperatures for beef, lamb, pork and veal. The recipes run the gamut from beef stew to beef burgundy to roasted leg of lamb. Leg of lamb is one of my favorite meats and the recipe brought out the taste of the lamb so much better than what I normally do. I think I skimp on the garlic before I had a recipe for leg of lamb but never again after following this recipe.
The chapter on grilling intrigued me greatly. I didn’t know, though I probably should have, that grilling required special training. After all, there are cooking shows devoted to just grilling. The various types of burgers that are in the cookbook had me drooling over which to try first. Grilled Blue Cheese Burgers were my favorite, served on French bread as suggested in “The Good Home Cookbook.” Coming from Binghamton, New York – home of the spiedie which is marinated meat skewered and grilled – I was interested in the kabobs portion of the grilling chapter. While I am still a fan of the pre-bottled marinade sold here locally, I have to say that some of the marinades in the cookbook come close to topping the “normal” spiedie sauce. The chapter ends with a variety of marinades, sauces and rubs that can be used when grilling. Then, there are two pages on “the art of grilling.”
Believe it or not, I have only worked my way through about half the cookbook. I am still looking at recipes to try from the chapters on pasta and rice, vegetables, breads and toppings, pies, cakes, and cookies, other desserts and sweets and drinks. I want to be sure I get the offer of a free cookbook out there to my readers. Please list a comment here and leave a way to get a hold of you. The winner of the free “The Good Home Cookbook” will be chosen at random from all who leave a comment by the end of April. Also, look for additional entries about the remaining chapters in the book.