Food Blogs

In Good Company

Turns out I’m not the only one hellbent on cooking their way through The Book. Teena over at has been doing exactly the same thing for more than a year. She’s done 379 to date, which makes me believe it’s possible I’ll eventually finish.

Want a second opinion? Want to know how the fish would have turned out if I hadn’t burned it? Like the project but hate my writing? Just can’t get enough Gourmet Cookbook recipe reviews? Then check her out.

Poultry The Book

7. Colombian Chicken, Corn, and Potato Stew p. 370

the recipe

This is a stew is thick and rich. I made it in the middle of July. What was I thinking? It may have gone something like:

me: I feel like chicken.
ME: But it’s hot out, and your apartment is already 35 degrees.
me: Don’t people in hot countries eat chicken?
ME: You’re right, it’s hot in Columbia… make this stew.
me: Stew? it’s hot I don’t want stew!
ME: What do you know about hot weather eating? If it’s good enough for Columbians it’s good enough for you.
me: OK, let’s do it.

By the time I finished cooking my apartment was up to about 40 degrees, and I was ready to pass out. I ate a few obligatory spoonfuls and decided that the rest should be frozen ’till the fall. Unfortunately I didn’t retrieve it ’till a couple of weeks ago, and the freezer burn didn’t do anything to improve it.

Despite my foolish timing for this dish, it was actually fairly good. It had great chicken flavour, and grating half the potatoes left the sauce nicely thickened with some potato chunks to bite into. The stew itself is bland, so I’d top it with a healthy dose of the capers and cilantro. The flavour in the stew mostly comes from the chicken, so don’t skimp on browning it.

The Book Vegetables

6. Roasted Cherry Tomatoes With Mint p. 585

the recipe

The name pretty much says it all. Tomatoes tossed in oil, salt, and pepper, roasted till bubbling and a bit blackened, topped with fresh mint. This was pretty good, but I’m not sure that roasting improved them. I liked that they took on some colour, but why mess with summer fresh cherry tomatoes? They’re great just as they are, and roasting them denies you the satisfaction of having them pop in your mouth.

Because these cooked for only about 8 minutes they were somewhere in between fresh and fully cooked. I guess this would let people who dislike the raw flavour in tomatoes to come close to appreciating their summery goodness. Next time I’d keep the ingredient list and skip the roasting.

The Book Vegetables

5. Roasted French Fries p. 568

Epicurious doesn’t have a recipe to link to for this one. But since this is hardly a recipe at all we won’t worry too much. I cut three large baking potatoes (skins on) into wedges about 1/3 of an inch wide, tossed with vegetable oil, salt, and pepper and transfered them to a baking sheet. I baked at 500 for 25 minutes flipping once.

These were nearly as good as their fried cousins, and I didn’t have liters of hot oil on my stove. The last time I tried frying at home I used a cheap fry thermometer and let the oil temp get away from me. When the fries went in, the oil boiled over the sides of my pot and half of my kitchen turned into a fireball. Hours spent cleaning a slurry of extinguisher powder and oil out of my stove has given me a healthy sense of respect for home frying. Worse, even when done successfully in as well ventilated an area as an apartment kitchen can be, you and all your clothes still end up smelling like french fries.

The results of this baked version were different, the potato skins not quite as crispy, but not as oily either. The cleanup was a snap, and there wasn’t even a chance the fire department would need to show up. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of oil, I used less and found that even with a non stick baking sheet they did stick a bit.

I had these as a side to fish en papillote with tomatoes and olives. They really saved that supper.

Fish and Shellfish The Book

4. Fish en Papillote With Tomatoes and Olives p. 302

the recipe

This was less than the sum of it’s parts. A lot of good things went in: a couple nice halibut fillets, tomatoes, olives, red pepper flakes, orange zest, sage, wrapped and baked in parchment. What came out looked pretty, but tasted off. The individual flavors were good, but they didn’t meld particularly well. There was way more zest than I would have liked, and something unexpected and unpleasant in the sage-olive-fish combination. The fish was also a bit underdone, and you can’t put a papillote back together again (I finished in the microwave, but it didn’t help matters much). I think this one was a lot better in theory than it was on the plate. If I were to redo this I might replace the halibut with red snapper, and switch out the sage for thyme or basil. Overall there’s just way too much going on without much balance. There were about as many toppings as there were fish. Restraint might have improved it significantly.

Breads and Crackers The Book

3. Garlic Bread p.606

the recipe

Ahh Garlic bread, the ubiquitous starchy accompaniment to a big plate of my mom’s pasta. Weren’t the fat phobic carb happy 80’s a good time? So this is fairly idiot proof: apply garlic butter to bread, bake in tinfoil till warmed through, open tinfoil package to crisp up bread. Who could screw this up? apparently I can.

Things were going well through the cutting of the ciabatta loaf, and smearing butter stages. All clear for operation put in tinfoil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Things were going so swimmingly I decided to focus on the rest of dinner. 15 minutes became 20, and the first hint of burning came to my nose. I never opened the package to crisp, and while the bottom of the loaf got nicely done, the rest of the loaf was the soggy mess of a thousand backyard BBQs.

Soggy garlic bread does have some fairly good memories associated with it, and
I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, I was really looking forward to the crispy crunch. Thankfully this is as simple a recipe as there is, so a redo won’t call for any untoward effort.

One thing I really appreciated about this was the suggestion to replace the parsley with basil (a suggestion not made in the linked recipe). To me parsley is a bit of waste of an herb, the Italian stuff has some nice flavor, the frizzy has none. All in all I’ll give parsley a pass whenever possible. Unfortunately The Book (and the whole world) seems to have a bit of thing for it. I won’t balk at spending eight bucks on a tiny piece of goat cheese, but that 79 cent parsley tax so many recipes charge really irks me.

This is a childhood classic not re-imagined in any way, as it should be.

Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb The Book

2. Saltimbocca p. 456

The version in The Book is very similar to this one with a slightly different ingredient list. I’ll give it to you here

8 thin veal cutlets
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
16-24 fresh sage leaves (each about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long)
8 thin slices prosciutto (about 1/4 pound total)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock or store-bought low sodium broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Essentially The Book adds pepper, deglazes with both stock and wine, and finishes the sauce with butter. I haven’t made both versions, but the pan sauce The Book’s version produced was out of this world. I think the sauce benefited from the stock because the saltimbocca only sauté for a few seconds (about 30), and there really wasn’t a lot of time to produce flavorful meaty browned bits for the pan. As we will soon see, The Book is fearless when it comes to finishing things with butter.

The Book tells us to “secure prosciutto and sage with wooden picks threaded through sage leaves and meat” whereas the linked recipe recommends we use three picks per cutlet. I only used one skewer each, and I found they were prone to spinning around like little meaty pinwheels: use at least two skewers.

At the time I made this I wasn’t too familiar with sage, and this dish was a solid introduction. It is upfront and centre in the meat, and most of the browned bits scraped up into the sauce were sage. The prosciutto takes on a wonderfully crispy texture, and I imagine the thinner your slices are the crispier they’ll end up. The veal is only 1/8 inch thick, so overcooking is easy to do, and easy to miss. Next time I would be more careful about making sure the cutlets were of an even thickness, but even the overdone ones tasted pretty great.

Overall this was quick, easy, pretty, and packed with flavor.

Salads The Book

1. Baby Greens With Warm Goat Cheese p.131

the recipe
Ahh, you always remember your first. This was a great little salad, mesclun in a simple vinaigrette topped with goat cheese croquettes. It hardly took any time to put together, and the warm gooey goat cheese is pretty hard to beat. Make sure the cheese is well coated with the bread crumb mixture, or the cheese will end up in the pan instead of in your mouth.

The Project


A couple years ago I was given a copy of The Gourmet Cookbook. Prior to the arrival of The Book my kitchen repertoire was heavy on the student staples, and big batch cooking I could eat for most of a week. I wasn’t really taking the time to think through what I was making or how it would taste, counting on intuition and luck to create something worth serving. This led to four quarts of marginally edible “curry” more times than I care to recall.

At the time The Book came into my life it was one of only four cookbooks I owned, and after making a few dishes from it I realized it was far and away the best of them. My parents are longtime Gourmet Magazine subscribers, and in our house The Magazine was always the go to source for special dinners, or shakeups of the weeknight dinner routine. I’d been out on my own for a while before The Book came to me, and I was ready for a shakeup of my culinary world. I decided that not only would I become a kitchen wizard, I’d teach myself by preparing every one of the 1000+ recipes in The Book and blogging about it.

Of course, there are shakeups and there are shakeups. I was soon informed that my brilliant idea had been scooped by Julie Powell who had already done this to Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking ( buy it! ) only she did the whole thing in a year. My blogging dreams deflated. However, my desire to explore the possibilities of my kitchen didn’t.

Since the summer of 2006 I’ve been cooking my way through The Book, and although I won’t finish it in a year, I will prepare every single recipe. At last count I had 70 done, and couldn’t think of a good reason not to be blogging about this project, so I’m planning to write up the backlog, as well as new dishes as they’re prepared.