Saturday, January 9, 2010

Weekend Cooking...The Best International Recipe [4]

The Best International Recipe- A Home Cook's Guide to the Best Recipes in the World by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated
(America's Test Kitchen, ISBN 978-1-933615-17-2)

After I started my blog, and tried to become more organized about my reading, I found I did not have time to read the many periodicals I once subscribed to. So as their renew dates came, many fell by the wayside. But never one, my favorite, Cook's Illustrated magazine. You may be familiar with it or with the companion America's Test Kitchen TV show that is aired on PBS. And as if that were not enough, the folks at Cook's Illustrated are also the publishers of a great series of cookbooks, the "Best Recipe Classics" series which includes such titles as The Best Recipe,which included some 700 classic recipes, The Best Light Recipe, The Guide to Grilling and Barbecue (oh, I love the recipe for grilled shrimp..hmmmm) and my newest acquisition, The Best International Recipe, as well as several others.
"Want to cook global favorites like paella, pad thai, and cassoulet but feel stymied by unusual ingredients or think that you need to invest in special equipment- or that the end result won't justify the trouble or expense? Whatever your fears, America's Test Kitchen is here to help. In the Best International Recipe, our cooks guide through the worlds signature dishes, giving you the confidence and know-how to cook recipes you've always wanted to make at home."
The aim of this book, as with all the publications of the America's Test Kitchen folks, is to try to examine a dish, come up with, by testing and tastings, the best possible recipe and techniques to recreate it and then present it in a clear and logical way. These are very much the thinking person cookbooks. But do not be mistaken, they are also very attractive books. "International" has only about 15 lovely fill page color photographs in the center of the book, but there are also countless black and white photos and very, very well done and clear drawn illustration.

The book is broken down into 14 chapters by region, including Japan and Korea, India, Russia and Eastern Europe, Greece and Turkey, Africa and the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central Europe and Scandinavia as well as more familiar like Italy, France, Mexico, China. Even Ireland, my ancestral home, and the British Isles, who some may argue are not best know for their cuisine, have a chapter. I checked out their brown bread recipe, a staple Irish food, and it is very close to my own, a good sign.

But what I love most about their show and their magazine and their books is that these are not just a series of recipes, even very well tested recipes. Every recipe is preceded by a discussion of the dish, problems and short fallings and how they went about working those out. Then you have the clear recipe, often followed by several variations. There will often be a little box in which is discussed some key ingredient. For example in the recipe for Torta alle Venture, they include a half page about parmesan cheese and then give their recommendations for best readily available. If you need some help picking a fish sauce, have no fear. If you are not really sure what fish sauce is, they will explain that too. There are also equipment guides peppered throughout- how to buy a good paella pan or the best non-stick saucepan or the best food processor, all recommentations the result of their very stringent testing. There are guides to specific techniques, all illustrated with those excellent drawings, like how to de-beard a mussel or how to mince lemon grass. Or what lemon grass even looks like. ;-)

At 580 pages, packed full of information and entertaining reading for those interested in cooking or just eating,
"The Best International Recipe is a globe-trotting compendium of 350 recipes spanning more than 30 highly varied cuisines- all tested and approved for the home cook."

With this book you may set off into some new territory but you will never feel that you set off alone.

This is my contribution this week to Weekend Cooking. Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. Well, that is all I need - another cookbook! Still, I think I need this one (ha). Since my husband is from Europe, he really enjoys any international food. He seems to have experienced more of that kind of thing than I did growing up. (In IN, we had alot of meatloaf and fried catfish!). This is an excellent suggestion!

  2. This sounds like one fantastic cookbook! Will definitely look through it next time I'm in B&N.

  3. I always like the test kitchen recipes when I make them off of other bloggers sites, but I admit I'm turned off by the lack of pictures in the cookbooks. I like pictures so I know what something should look like! But this cookbook is intriguing, with all of the international recipes.

  4. This sounds great! I love that they offer variations to the recipes.

  5. I'd love a good vegetarian international cookbook

  6. I love pictures too, but with their books I do fine the drawings a huge help. Even if you can't have too many photos...

    Lynda, they do have a "Perfect Vegetables" cook, which I have never looked at, so I am not sure what that is is all about.

  7. Hi!
    I've seen the show on PBS. I love it. They make it all look so easy. I'll have to watch for their cookbooks. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!

    Sherrie's Stuff

  8. what a great idea to include explanations of the recipe and ingredients etc. That way the reader/cooker learns at the same time.

  9. It is maybe what I love most about their cookbooks and their magazine..they are very informative and educational.

  10. I love this magazine...and how much thought goes into their descriptions. I'm going to definitely check this book out! Great post...

  11. I love the magazine and I have several of the cookbooks, which are fabulous. But I missed this one. Yikes, I see a cookbook purchase coming on. Thanks so much for letting me know about this.

  12. sounds like an awesome cookbook! you've got me sold!


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