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The Essential,Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
The Essential,Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
Amanda Hesser
W. W. Norton & Company, 2010
960 pp., 40.00

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Julie Lane-Gay

Book Notes

An irresistible addition to your cookbook shelf.

Perusing The Essential New York Times Cookbook is akin to attending an exceptionally wonderful party. Treasured old friends—Sour Cream Coffee Cake, James Beard's Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, and Warm Goat Cheese with Salad—leap to greet you. Appealing new friends—Watermelon Gazpacho, Salted Caramel Ice Cream, and Ceviche with Mint and Mango—are too numerous count. How could one party offer so much, all at once?

Former New York Times Food Editor Amanda Hesser has compiled a collection of the most treasured recipes published by the paper since it started covering food in the mid 19th century. She's included an 1877 Tomato Soup recipe and a 2009 Sugar Puff recipe (a sweet version of popovers which you really should stop and make now), and a great deal in between.

In 2004, Hesser began posting an "author's query" in the Times' food sections, asking readers to submit their favorites. Six thousand recipes from home cooks, celebrated chefs, and food-truck entrepreneurs poured in. The only common ground was that they all had been published in the Times.

After testing every one, Hesser asked herself, "Would I make this again? And with 1104 of the recipes, the answer was yes." She is a synthesizer extraordinaire. Almost every entry comes with both appropriate serving suggestions and Hesser's wonderful comments. She cheers you on, makes you relax, guides you through the tricky bits, and makes you laugh. Comments such as "Preserve your sanity; find a butcher who will bone the birds for you," or "Like many of the most recommended recipes, [Teddie's Apple Cake] shares three qualities: ease, good flavor and someone's name in its title," make you wish she were your friend. About the only downsides to this treasure, predictably, are the 932 pages and weight of nearly five pounds.

Don't miss this feast.

Julie Lane-Gay is a writer in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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