The James Beard Cookbook
James Beard is one of those names in cooking that I'm so familiar with but know nothing about the person or even the food behind it. I'm familiar with the award and can say with appropriate reverence that this guy won a James Beard or that Marcus Samuelsson has several James Beard awards. I also know that Anthony Bourdain isn't particularly fond of the James Beard House after listening to that chapter in his book Medium Raw. And that about sums up my knowledge.
So I was really excited when I saw that Open Road was republishing several of Beard's cookbooks and decided to give The James Beard Cookbook a try.
I'm not normally a fan of those giant encyclopedia cookbooks. I had The Joy of Cooking on my shelf for years before I finally got rid of it when I realized I had opened it precisely twice and never cooked from it. To me this book didn't have the same feel. While it's definitely a resource the tone of the writing had a personal feel and there weren't thousands of recipes. There'd be a basic recipe for pork chops with explanation as to why you're doing what you're doing. Then paired with that basic recipe would be suggestions of sides and several variations so that you can customize to your personal tastes. The ingredients were all easy to find and all the recipes hinge on good fresh ingredients and solid technique versus something fancy and over the top.
While flipping through the cookbook I decided the recipe I was going to test was chocolate chip cookies. My family is really boring when it comes to dessert and chocolate chip cookies are about the only thing they'll eat. I've made at least a dozen different types of chocolate chip cookies and Beard's recipe was different than any I've tried before. For starters it didn't use any baking soda - only baking powder. There was only 1 egg and it called for 3 tablespoons of milk. I must admit I was doubtful. So once everything was put together I tasted the dough and these cookies almost didn't get made. Oh my it was tasty. But I pulled myself together, took a deep breath and made myself make the cookies.
And I apologize for ever doubting James Beard. These cookies are delicious! They're a little different than most chocolate chip cookies. They're sweeter and lighter and fluffier and I could eat them by the gallon. Since this is a review book I'm not copying the recipe but I did find it on Cookbook Archaelogy. I left out the nuts because my family is weird but these would be great with walnuts or pecans.
The only thing I didn't like about this book is that the chicken recipes all involved whole chickens. I'm from the boneless skinless chicken breast generations and whole chickens scare me. However, there were so many really yummy sounding recipes that this wasn't a big deal. I can't wait to make the meatloaf and several others from this book!
Whether you're a beginner or accomplished cook I think The James Beard Cookbook would be a great addition to your cookbook library. I'll definitely be buying a copy in print for my own collection.
I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads