Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Cookbook Challenge: Book One

Just a few cookbooks

For a couple of years, I've been wanting to prove to myself that the many cookbooks I've hoarded (about a quarter of which can be viewed in the photo above) are good for something.  I do cook regularly from a number of them, but there are others that just hang out in the kitchen as novelty items.  Far too often, I turn the internet when looking for a new recipe to try.  I know this is, in part, because it is much easier to search for specific ingredients on my computer, but I love quite a few of the cookbooks I've collected -- even ones I don't use often.  They do take up space, though, and I should probably use them or lose (at least a few of) them.

I thought perhaps I would create a challenge in which I attempt to make at least one recipe from each of my cookbooks (and books of "food writing" that include recipes) over the course of a year.  This may help me decide which cookbooks to get rid of, but it might also clue me in to some new favorites.  As a bonus, this could also create some entertaining blog content (for you!) along the way.

Large Type 1

For my first book in the challenge, I chose The New York Times Large Type Cookbook (by Jean Hewitt; illustrations by Maida Silverman. Golden Press, NY, 1968).  I don't remember exactly where I picked this up (as will be the case with many of my second-hand sources), but for some reason I was drawn to the format.  The recipes are fairly basic in an appealing way (large print makes everything look easier!), and the illustrations are spare but sweet.

Large Type 2

This morning, I made up a dish of the cookbook's: 

Boone Tavern Spoon Bread
 (note: recipe instructions have been paraphrased)

1 1/4 c. white cornmeal
3 c. milk, rapidly boiling
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt (you could ease off the salt a tad, I think)
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
2 T. melted butter, cooled

Once the milk is boiling (be careful, as it can easily boil over in a too-small pot), add the cornmeal and stir constantly until it is well-mixed and thick.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Preheat oven to 375 F. 

When cooled, stir cornmeal mixture into other ingredients.  Mix (I used a stand mixer) at high speed for 10-15 minutes, or until smooth.  Spread in a pie plate or casserole dish (1-1 1/2 qt capacity).  Bake in oven for 30 minutes.  Serve with melted butter (or cheese or hot sauce or sour cream, I thought, with bacon on the side).  The cookbook specifies that this should be eaten with a fork, which tickled me.  It's "spoon" bread, after all!

Spoon Bread


I hope you appreciated my "large print" homage.

Spoon bread is like a corn bread casserole.  I found the recipe plain but filling, which seems true to the aesthetic and contents of this cookbook.  I have a hunch, flipping through it, that there are other things in this volume I would enjoy making and eating.  The New York Times Large Type Cookbook is staying on the "keep" pile for now.

Spoon Bread portion

How many cookbooks do I have, anyway?  I'm taking bets.


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