Friday, October 3, 2008

High Praise

It's Learn To Cook/No-Fuss Saturday, and we're going to take a few steps backwards. These recipes are intended to help cooks of any proficiency get a quick meal on the table AND to help folks who want to become more familiar with that mysterious room known as "where the icemaker is."

If you don't yet have a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook -

I can't recommend highly enough that you get one. Get it used if you wish. I have the one in the binder because a binder lies open flat, whereas a paperback book snaps itself shut the minute your hands are too messy to turn pages and keeps all the important info in the fold of the spine where you can't really see it. Mine is probably ten years old and has the splatters on page 114 (Banana Bread) and elsewhere to prove it. By the way, that's a sign of a well-used and well-loved cookbook - food splatters.

There isn't another book in my collection that's as often-referenced as this one. Need to know how to cook a particular cut of beef? It's in there. Want to know if asparagus can be frozen? It's in the small-but-helpful "Canning & Freezing" section. What on earth is a "3-quart baking dish" in real-people inch measurements? They have your answer (a 13x9x2" pan - like for a sheet cake).

Groundbreaking? Not really. I bought mine when I wanted to make an apple pie. Not a Carmelized Apple Pie With Vanilla Glaze, not a Calvados-Sauced Apple Pie With Cornmeal Crust and Cinnamon Cream like I had in my other cookbooks, but a plain, Grandma-would've-made-it apple pie. It's got some cool stuff in there, but mostly it's a godsend for the basics.

Speaking of Grandma Would've Made It... My father's mother is famous for her lemon meringue pie. Since my other grandmother passed away before I got her recipes, I wasn't going to make the same mistake again. I made my own lemon meringue pie one evening. Not just "from scratch", but old-school "from scratch" - coddled egg yolks into a custard, zested fresh lemon, offered thanks to Saint Kitchen Aid while I had the egg whites & sugar becoming meringue in the stand mixer.

Sweetie took pictures of the finished, white, billowy product. We sampled the pie and I called my grandmother. "I need your recipe," I said. "This is just one I found and I wanted to see if I could make it; it's good, but the texture is a little off and the taste is a little too sharp/lemony. It's not as silky as yours."

There was a confused silence on the other end of the phone. Then, "You mean they don't make that lemon pudding mix anymore?"

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