While there are thousands of food blogs out there, there are only a handful who really inspired the rest of us to board the food blogger train. Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen
fame is one of them.
As many of you now know, not only do I write weekly reviews of cookbooks here at One Cook, Two Kitchens, but I review so many more that never make my ‘recommended’ list.
I find that the most disappointing cookbooks are often those written by celebrity chefs. I believe this stems from a variety of issues, from the challenge of translating restaurant recipes based on large yields to the home kitchen for 4-8 servings, lack of testing adapted recipes before publication (due to time constraints – cookbook writing is a very time intensive undertaking) and ensuring that ‘regular’ home cooks can recreate that recipe at home. Excellent recipe writing is a combination of science and excellent communication skills.
Bloggers are another category altogether. As a general rule (and I mean very general here), we do not have any formal food-related training, and what we typically share is a love of food and a commitment to sharing what we learn along the way. And just like chefs, some of us are better at the process than others.
We are that person that you know at the office who loves to tell you about the amazing dinner party we had on the weekend, and then shares the recipe with you. While we may not always start out by following consistent rules of cookbook writing, we often make up for it by being the person who is writing the recipe as if it was for our little sister or best friend: we want her to have a successful result too.
The latest trend in cookbook publishing is the production of cookbooks written by food bloggers. Some are good, some not so good. Just like great chefs don’t necessarily make great cookbook writers, the same goes for food bloggers.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is one of the most beautifully written and photographed cookbooks that I have seen out of about 250 that I have reviewed in the past year. And this book is by far the best of all of the cookbooks that I have seen from a blogger, to date.
So just as Deb Perelman has held the bar high for food bloggers, including myself, I would say that she has raised it even higher for cookbook writers.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, published by Knopf, is a beautifully bound, hardcover book, that is fully illustrated with photos taken by Perelman herself.
Her instructions are clearly written, and she often shows photos of recipes in progress, so that you can see how the dough should look before cutting, or how wet or dry a filling should look before before topping or rolling it in pastry. And of course, her photos of finished dishes are divine.
I have tried several recipes out of the book, from the Pancetta, White bean, and Swiss chard Pot Pie recipe (that is offered below), to her Rosemary Gruyere and Sea Salt Crisps, French Onion Toasts, and New York Breakfast Casserole. Every recipe is a ‘wow’ dish, ideal for company.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook covers every course, from breakfast, appetizers through to dessert, plus snacks and cocktails. She has many creative takes, such as Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels, to Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake to Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos with Queso Fresco.
In addition to the recipes, the success of this book is also about the writing. With each recipe, Deb tells a story with her likeable New Yorker wit, featuring friends, family, and her own culinary quirks.
I felt, after reading the book from cover to cover, that I had made a new friend. She shares photos of her tiny New York kitchen, describes how she entertains, and shares her process in detail for developing many of the recipes.
I highly recommend The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I cannot imagine anyone not loving this book, as she has something for everyone, from the cook who is most comfortable with clear step-by-step directions, to the more adventurous who loves a little inspiration and adaptability.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED. CONGRATULATIONS TO SANDRA!
And now you have a chance to win a copy of this stunning book in a giveaway, courtesy of Knopf.
To enter, simply answer this question in the comment section below: What is your favourite go-to dish when you entertain?
- Open to residents of Canada and the U.S. only
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Pancetta, White bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies (from Smitten Kitchen)
Excerpted from THE SMITTEN KITCHEN COOKBOOK by Deb Perelman. Copyright Â© 2012 by Deb Perelman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
- yield: serves 4
- 2 cups (250 grams) all- purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 13 tablespoons (185 grams or 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons (90 grams) sour cream or whole Greek yogurt (i.e., a strained yogurt)
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 4 ounces (115 grams or ¾ to 1 cup)
- 1/4- inch- diced pancetta
- 1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves from an 8- to- 10- ounce ( 225- to- 285-gram) bundle (4 cups); if leaves are very wide, you can halve them lengthwise
- 3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
- 3 1/2 tablespoons (25 grams) all- purpose flour
- 3 1/4 cups (765 ml) sodium- free or low- sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups white beans, cooked and drained, or from one and a third 15.5- ounce (440-gram) cans
- To make the 'lids':
- In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender, cut them up and into the fl our mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is like uncooked couscous. In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter- flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball. Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
- To make the filling:
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium- high heat in a large, wide saucepan, and then add the pancetta. Brown the pancetta, turning it frequently, so that it colors and crisps on all sides; this takes about 10 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon, and drain it on paper towels before transferring to a medium bowl. Leave the heat on and the renderings in the pan. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if needed and heat it until it is shimmering. Add onions, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, and a few pinches of salt, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and begin to take on color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer all of the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the pancetta, and set aside.
- To make the sauce:
- Wipe out the large saucepan; donâ??t worry if any bits remain stuck to the bottom. Then melt the butter in the saucepan over medium- low heat. Add the fl our, and stir with a whisk until combined. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time, until it begins to take on a little color. Whisk in the broth, one ladleful at a time, mixing completely between additions. Once youâ??ve added one- third of the broth, you can begin to add the rest more quickly, two to three ladlefuls at a time; at this point you can scrape up any bits that were stuck to the bottomâ?? theyâ??ll add great flavor.
- Once all of the broth is added, stirring the whole time, bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cook the sauce until it is thickened and gravy-like, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the white beans and reserved vegetables into the sauce.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- To assemble and cook the pot pies:
- Divide the filling between four ovenproof 2- cup bowls. (Youâ??ll have about 1Â½ cups filling in each.) Set the bowls on a baking pan. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll it out into rounds that will cover your bowls with an overhang, or about 1 inch wider in diameter than your bowls. Whisk the egg wash and brush it lightly around the top rim of your bowls (to keep the lid glued on; nobody likes losing their lid!) and drape the pastry over each, pressing gently to adhere it. Brush the
- lids with egg wash, then cut decorative vents in each to help steam escape. Bake until crust is lightly bronzed and filling is bubbling, about 30 to 35 minutes.
- Do ahead:
- The dough, wrapped twice in plastic wrap and slipped into a freezer bag, will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge, and for a couple months in the freezer. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a covered container in the fridge.
For a vegetarian version, skip the pancetta and cook your vegetables in 2 tablespoons olive oil instead of 1.