Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bittman Blog

I just discovered Mark Bittman's new Blog Bitten. It looks fantastic, with lots of simple, quick to make recipes that should be an inspiration to us family cooks who often need a good meal in minutes. Beautiful photos to boot; gotta love the Times' production values.

I have Bittman's How to Cook Everything and I often read his The Minimalist column in the Times. I made his Pernil recipe on Super Tuesday, not realizing the irony of serving pork on election night until it was on the plate. Still, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with his recipes. They are often terrific, just the right balance of simplicity, speed, and quality. Yet I have definitely been burned by his methods. Take too many short-cuts and the quality suffers. If the final result of the dish is poor or mediocre, you wonder why you expended any energy at all. First time cooks might not realize that some of his short cuts compromise the end result and they might just give up.

I have searched for an "everything, everyday" cookbook to replace my battered Bittman, but I have had little luck. I've been scanning bookstore shelves and searching on Amazon, but I haven't been impressed by the general cookbooks offered. It's strange that there are so many faddish, Food Network cookbooks out there, yet so few reliable new standards. I have lots of cookbooks, mind you. I have Julia Child's, The Way to Cook as well as her classics, and The James Beard Cookbook works for basic roast chicken, steak, and burgers. I have other old-fashioned standards that can be great for cookies or cake, but just don't work for modern cuts of meat. I have specialty cookbooks that I love for specific cuisines: Chinese, Italian, Vegetarian, Southern, BBQ and many more. Epicurious.com works if you have a specific ingredient in mind and a well-stock cabinet of spices and special add-ins.

In the end, I keep going back to Bittman for basics, even though I'm occasionally wary or frustrated by the very simplicity he espouses. Maybe he is just the best out there. Any suggestions for a new basic cookbook?

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