Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Anyone who has visited my home knows I have mad, mad love for cookbooks. I own tons of them, bursting out of their bookcase and beckoning, luring, enticing me to browse. One of my vacation rentals included a kitchen with a row of unfamiliar cookbooks—heaven! My cookbooks aren’t just reading material. I often try new recipes. In fact, my husband will ask, “Can you make _____ again?” I’m like Rachael Ray: 365 and No Repeats.
Often, other women will tell me they love to cook, too, and I always question them; Do you like to cook, or do you like to bake? Usually they say cooking is okay, but they love to bake, especially desserts. I’m the opposite. Give me the main course. Give me seconds of the main course and skip dessert. I’m not attracted to a book full of cakes, cookies, trifles, cheesecakes, pies and candies. Oh, I’ll eat dessert, and make it occasionally, but I love the main course. Beef, pork, poultry, fish, soups, stews, salads, sides—I love making them all.
Every week I sit down with cookbooks, a notebook and pen, and make my week’s supper plans. If we’re having company, I plan out all the meals we’ll have while they’re here. I fill the fridge, freezer and pantry, chop, dice, slice, simmer, braise, sauté, slow-cook and grill. For the last two Thanksgivings, I used Cook’s Illustrated recipes (serious cookbooks—line drawings, no photos, featuring the science of cooking) for my turkey and gravy. I brined the turkey, let it dry out in the fridge overnight, then roasted it in a hot oven (400 degrees), turning that heavy bird three times in two hours to brown it evenly. The gravy was even fussier. The turkey and gravy were the best I’d ever had, moist and tender. (I sound like my mother; “That’s the best meal I ever cooked!”) I admit, my arms and back ached from all the lifting. But maybe if I use the lower oven next year…
See, most people would say, “Never again!” They’d stick the turkey in at 325-degrees for hours and, if it was dry, pour canned gravy over it. And it would be good. But mmm, my turkey was great.
How about you? Are you a cookbook collector? Do you love to cook? Bake? Both? Neither? Are you happy to eat out, or let Stouffer’s and Lean Cuisine cook for you? Let’s talk turkey!