Saturday, January 8, 2011
The Cookbook Challenge: Book One
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.
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.
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!
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.
How many cookbooks do I have, anyway? I'm taking bets.