Cookbook review written & photographed by Stay-At-Home-Chef
When it comes to encyclopedic cookbooks I am only willing to give up a limited amount of shelf space. I mean let’s be honest here folks – we’re talking about big, heavy tomes with a gazillion different recipes that throw you in a tailspin of indecision and to top it all off photos are limited (if included at all). But the classics do have a spot on my shelf, such as The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. After weeks of rigourous testing I can truly say Saveur: the new classics has also earned a spot on my shelf.
Before selecting which recipes to test I read through each and every one – all 1,000 of them – and can say with authority that this book offers a wonderful variety of options guaranteed to inspire you. Short little intros to each recipe provide informative details about the origin of the dish and help bring the food to life. I really appreciate the obvious thought that was put into the index; you can search by ingredient or by origin – particularly helpful when you’re in the mood for a certain type of food but don’t know what to make. The ‘Pantry’ section at the back of the book holds a treasure trove of DIY basics; including stocks, pickles and preserves, spices, rubs, sauces and condiments that will compliment your efforts in the kitchen.
I’ve had a subscription to Saveur magazine for close to twelve years, and I’ve kept every single issue. This book is like an extension of our magazine collection, minus the stunning photography and editorial pieces, but with the same foolproof recipes that provide cooks with a creative and flavourful trip around the world. It is a celebration of everything Saveur stands for – culinary passion and knowledge – and I know I will be reaching for this book time and time again.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
THE TEST: This recipe is incredibly easy to whip together and can be hot on the table in approximately 30 minutes. The ingredients are all things we normally have on hand so I’ve actually made this recipe a couple of times since the official ‘test’. One time I even tried swapping out the all-purpose flour for gluten-free flour and that turned out equally delicious.
My favourite part of this recipe? It uses one bowl! Since a small cast-iron skillet is on our wish list and not in our kitchen, I simply greased a rectangular glass baking dish with butter and skipped melting it on the stovetop. It worked beautifully, although I will admit there’s something truly authentic about eating cornbread baked in a cast-iron skillet.
THE RESULTS: Over the years my hubby and I have taken several cornbread recipes out for a spin but this is the winner in our eyes. Want cornbread muffins instead? No problem. Want leftover cornbread to throw into stuffing? Consider it done. This is a classic recipe that you can dress up or down to suite your needs.
I love that the flavours are not overcomplicated, letting the taste of corn truly shine on its own. I mean hey – I’m all for tossing BBQ sauce and bacon with cheese and black beans into my cornbread – but sometimes you just want to keep things simple.
The corn niblets add nice texture while the pickled jalapeños provide a subtle heat that goes so gosh darn well with cornbread. The first time I made this recipe I found it lacked enough seasoning so instead of 2 ½ tsp. of salt I like to round up to 3. I’d also like to try adding a couple of extra eggs into the mix one time – just for kicks and giggles – to see if it adds additional moisture to the bread.
Rating: 5 out of 5
THE TEST: Spaghetti carbonara is Mr. Spock’s favourite type of pasta, and so as soon as I earmarked this as one of the recipes to test he nearly skipped all the way to the market to purchase the ingredients.
This recipe follows the real Roman style of carbonara, with eggs and a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese providing the richness to the dish – no cream. It is very straightforward to make and comes together quickly, making it a great weekday meal. Just be careful to ensure your timing is right or you’ll end up with scrambled egg pasta like I did the first time I made this dish!
Before you invite the pancetta to the party, cloves of garlic are sautéed in olive oil and then removed in order to gently infuse the oil. Once the pancetta is crisp, white wine is added to the pan that you then set aside while boiling the spaghetti until it reaches an al dente state. The two types of cheese, parsley and eggs are whisked together, and in order to temper the eggs so they don’t ‘freak out’ or curdle when the mixture is added to the warm pasta, you must drizzle some of the reserved pasta water until the whole thing is smooth. Toss the spaghetti with the pancetta and liquid ingredients and season to taste. Done.
THE RESULTS: We’ve made this recipe a few times since my first scrambled attempt which for the record, still tasted great! We’ve also experimented with a few different recipes to compare but always seem to come back to this one. It’s simple, the flavours are straightforward and it tastes freaking awesome.
If I were to provide any advice it would be to watch your timing, temper those eggs carefully and be sure to splurge on really good quality pancetta. I cannot emphasize this last part enough. In a pinch we used a lesser quality meat and it really made a difference to the results.
We also like to add a sprinkling of lemon zest to the pasta as it instantly brightens the dish, which even without any cream is still quite rich tasting.
Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe available online http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Spaghetti-alla-Carbonara
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
THE TEST: What the heck is a spiedie you ask? It’s a kebab made with pork dry rubbed with a mix of garlic and herbs and grilled with a white wine baste. Originally hailing from New York State’s Southern Tier, the name for these meat sticks comes from the Italian spiedino or spiedo, which means “skewer” and “spit”. Aptly named.
I managed to make these on a busy weeknight, prepping the meat the day before and letting them marinate overnight in a mixture of olive oil, white wine vinegar, fresh herbs (mint, parsley, organo and bay), lemon juice and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. The next day all we had to do was grill off the meat and drizzle with an herbaceous sauce that was also made the day before; a chimichurri consisting of olive oil, mint, parsley, red chile flakes and salt and pepper.
THE RESULTS: Overall I gave this a rating of 4.5 as it was easy and quick to prepare, tasted great and the kids gobbled it up. In our house that constitutes a home run.
As you can see from the photo above, Mr. Spock ended up throwing the meat on the grill without skewers as we realized at the last minute we didn’t have any on hand. BBQ fail! But in the end it worked out fine cooking the meat sans skewers.
We served these Spiedies wrapped in pita freshly warmed on the grill and drizzled with the herb sauce, which had a good kick but really elevated the flavour of the meat. While it tasted fantastic on its own – fresh, herby with a nice acidity from the vinegar that complemented the pork – we ended up slathering our pitas with hummus and topping everything with feta and red onion. It was heavenly.
Spiedies Recipe available online http://www.saveur.com/article/Travels/Summer-Skewers-Spiedies