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by James Beard, forward by Tom Colicchio
James Beard’s American Cookery is an extremely comprehensive cookbook. It is huge, and has recipes for an amazing variety of foods. It is over 800 pages long, and includes chapters on everything from cocktail food, soups, sauces, and breads to candy. It is so large I found it kind of intimidating and overwhelming to actually use. The sections of the book contain more than just recipes, but also an introduction, history and basic cooking facts. The wealth of information makes this a wonderful reference book to have. I used it last weekend to make beef stew, a classical American dish, and it was excellent.
Cicely’s Beef Stew
- 4 lbs beef cut into 2 inch cubes
- 1 onion stuck with 2 cloves
- 1 leek
- 1 carrot
- 1 small turnip
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 t. thyme
- water or beef stock
- 6 carrots, scraped and cut thin
- 12 small white onions
- 3 ribs celery, cut in thin strips
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, diced
- 1 T. salt
- 1 t. pepper
Brown the floured beef cubes very well in beef fat or the oil and butter mixture. Add the onion stuck with cloves, the leek, the carrot, turnip, herbs and water or stock to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until the meat begins to become tender. Add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, potatoes and salt and pepper. Cook until meat is thoroughly tender. Correct the seasoning.
You can tell the book was originally written over 30 years ago by looking at the recipes. This is old fashioned cooking, and you won’t find any recipes that call for things like a can of cream of chicken soup. This cookbook assumes you are making a cream sauce from scratch, not opening a can. But I do feel that sometimes the directions arenâ€™t as clear as they could be. In the stew recipe above you stick two cloves in an onion and use it flavor the beef as it cooks. This is a cool technique, and makes the sauce very flavorful. But he never tells you to discard the onion before you add the rest of the vegetables, although I assume you are supposed to. Also directions like “cook until thoroughly tender” and “add water to cover” are non-specific enough to frustrate novice cooks. The lack of pictures is also a drawback, although I can’t imagine how large it would have been if they had included pictures. Overall I think this book is an excellent cookbook and reference, but will probably appeal more to experienced cooks. It would make an excellent Christmas present for a friend or relative who enjoys cooking meals for their family.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review thanks to Hachette books and Anna Balasi. All opinions are my own.