I have mixed feelings about the Cook's Illustrated publications. While I am lured in by their promise of perfectly seasoned dishes at the end of the rainbow, I frequently find that the recipes don't mix with my style of cooking.
Rarely do I pick a recipe, go to the store, purchase every single ingredient required and come home to make the meal. Rather, I poke around in the fridge and cabinets, browse through a few recipes, and mix what I have with a few recipes I saw. Sometimes this means I sub an onion for a shallot (oh, the horror) or white wine for vermouth.
And this is where Cook's Illustrated and I fail to see eye-to-eye. Developed in 'America's Test Kitchen' these recipes have been deconstructed and tested from the ground up. So if they tell you to use a shallot, that means they've tried the recipe with yellow onions, without shallots, etc. When they say shallot, they mean shallot.
|Chicken legs, over spinach, mushrooms, and polenta. With ONIONS. *gasp*|
And I'm ok with people who seek a Platonic ideal of every dish they make (the uber chili?). I'm just not one of them. Ultimately the point of dinner is to satisfy a need. And if I'm in a mood to take some time to make it in a tasty way? Peachy. But I don't have all night here, people. Nor a limitless bank account. Sometime the shallot becomes an onion.
Recommendation? As a gift for a new cook, I'd rather give the Joy of Cooking or Bittman's How to Cook Everything. But this cookbook sure is extensive (800+ pages), has lots of great cooking tips that CI is known for, and may appeal to the cook that thrives when given meticulous, detail-oriented* instructions.
Thanks to Rabelais Books for providing the review copies for our Cookbook Review-o-rama. See the Portland Food Map for more book reviews from area bloggers.
*Alternate title to this post: 'Detail-Oriented Is Not My Middle Name.'