Right as covid broke out, I decided to cook a new dish from every cookbook in my collection. I needed something to distract me from the world.
Many people seemed to appreciate my post, which caused me to do it a second time through! As with my first effort, there were a few lemons, many just ok, but a few, such as the Slanted Door’s Chicken Pho, that will already are permanent fixtures in our home. I just started my third challenge, so look out for another post in many months to come!
My favorites, in no particular order are:
Andrew Carmellini’s Grandma’s Ravioli, Barbara Lynch’s Poulet au Pain, the infamous Pok Pok wings, Tartine’s brioche, the above-mentioned chicken pho, Claudia Rodin’s fattoush, Daniel Bruce’s vegetable hash, Magnolia’s bbq pork sliders, Ellie Krieger’s lentil soup, Hugh Acheson’s grits with mushrooms, Frenchie’s brined chicken with roasted zucchini, Melissa Clark’s stunning mushroom soup, Morimoto’s Za Jan noodles and Flour + Water’s tagliatelle Bolognese.
Ali Malfucci – Inspiralized – Farro salad with spiraled bosc pear, walnuts, goat cheese & cherries – Farro is my favorite grain and this was a nice salad, just a bit too sweet for my taste. No need to make this again.
Allison Roman – DiningIn – Buttermilk brined roast chicken with zaatar – So I know people love her recipes, but after having made about 3-4 things of hers, I think her recipes are fine, but not amazing like Melissa Clark’s. This smelt amazing. The chicken was decent, but the skin wasn’t crispy. Nothing stunning here.
Allison Roman – Slow-Roasted Oregano Chicken with Buttered Tomatoes – Much like the other chicken, this smelt delicious but tasted just ok (per my overopinionated 10 year old, “this smelled better than it tasted…”) My house complained of stew-y chicken (my wife was scarred by terrible cooking as a child.) I thought the chicken was solid but not as good as Melissa Clark’s. I loved the tomatoes. I won’t make again, only because of annoying people in my house.
Alon Shaya – Shaya – Pork and Mushroom Risotto – The risotto wasn’t that visually appealing, but the flavor was decadent, bursting with mushrooms and hints of pork. I’d make again, but only after going for a five-mile run first.
Andrew Carmellini – Everyday Italian – Grandma’s Ravioli – I adore this cookbook and have loved everything save the seafood risotto. This was a bit of a bucket list dish for me, given the multi-day process plus having a mental block on making fresh pasta. Two days later, my house was stunned. I subbed out veal with sirloin for ethical reasons but didn’t miss a beat. The pork x beef x bacon x tomato x wine flavor cooked for many hours just exploded through the dreamy egg-heavy ravioli dough. I suspect this will be an annual dish.
Andre Darlington – the New Cocktail Hour – Paper Airplane – This was a featured cookbook at the library. I’ve made a few drinks so far, with my favorite being a Paper Airplane, a combination of bourbon, amaro, aperol and lemon juice. The drink is really balanced – not bitter or sweet.
Andy Ricker – Pok Pok– Ike’s Wings – I NEVER fry food, but this was worth it. I made this for the Super Bowl and couldn’t believe how spectacular this dish was. A perfect combination of salt fat heat acid and CRUNCH.
Anna Sorton – Soframitz – Shakshuka – I had my first shakshuka at Anna’s wonderful café, Sofra years ago and am not sure what took so long for me to make this at home. It wasn’t hard and benefited from making homemade zhug. Lovely dish.
Barbara Lynch – Stir – Poulet au Pain – This was outstanding. I saw this years ago when I first got the book and was intimidated. I love the way the thin bread steams the chicken, allowing the juices to seep out into the cracker like bread. Absolutely wonderful and beautiful dish.
Barefoot Contessa – Back to Basics – Juice of a few flowers- Someone gave my wife this years ago and it’s truly among the most boring cookbooks ever. I made this cocktail, which could have been balanced with the addition of simple syrup. I ended up spilling and making something else.
Barefoot Contessa Cookbook – Szechuan Noodles – The flavor was solid, but the texture was kind of gloppy. I admittedly cut down the oil, which might have made a difference. I just couldn’t justify using a full cup for health reasons! This got a collective thumbs down from the household.
Barefoot Contessa – Parties – Chicken Chili – I’m always down to try new chili recipes and really enjoyed this version. I took some of the tips from online reviews, doubled the spices and added kidney beans, and was very pleased. I’d make this again and am happy to have a bunch of leftovers for the coming weeks.
Bobby Flay – - Mesa Grill Cookbook – Mesa Grill Smokey Floater – My wife loves mezcal and always looking for bold but not over the type cocktails for her. We liked this quite a bit. The Cointreau adds a nice touch.
Bon Appetit – Food Lovers Cleanse – Salmon with Yogurt and Carrot – Everything I’ve made from this book has been clean yet intensely flavorful. This tasted almost like an Indian salmon dish, popping due to the turmeric and cumin seeds in the carrot salad. Will absolutely make this again!
Chad Robertson – Tartine Cookbook – Brioche – My older son asked if I could make brioche again, and figured I’d try a different version (having done Keller’s last time through.) This was far more involved, with the result being a stunning, buttery loaf. I’m not 100% sure it was worth the extra effort, but happy to have tried this version!
Charles Phan – The Slanted Door – Grapefruit and Jicama Salad – Nice salad but not as acidic as hoped for given the marinade.
Charles Phan – Vietnamese Home Cooking – Chicken Pho – Smitten Kitchen made this year’s ago and described any stock that turns into pure gelatin as perfect. That’s what I achieved. True depth of deep chicken + star anise + fish sauce flavor all nestled into one bowl of pho perfection. This was sensational. Two days later, my wife and younger son asked me to make it again. We’re now on day five of pho for lunch. Dishes like this are exactly while I go through a silly exercise of cooking 80+ new dishes.
Charleston Cooks – Taste of the Lowcountry – Warm Green Bean & Tomato Salad – I purchased this tiny book(let) after taking a shrimp & grits class over a decade ago from this beautiful cooking school in Charleston. Most of the book is forgettable, but the veggie dishes are solid. I really enjoyed the acidity in the dish.
Cherry Bombe – Coconut Curry with vegetable – My wife has finally discovered the joy of curry, something that I’ve loved for years. This was a simple but incredibly bright green coconut lemongrass curry dish packed with veggies. I could eat this all the time, but next time will likely sub out chicken for tofu. Definite repeat dish.
Claudia Rodin – Arabesque – Fattoush – I could eat this simple salad every day! I love the classical combination of olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and sumac. I tweaked the recipe by using an organic butter lettuce, added a sprinkle of feta and kalamata olives and already had my wife asking me to make again.
Cooks Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking – Yeasted Blueberry Waffles – I’ve been making All recipes waffles forever (with zero complaints) but wanted to try overnight blueberry waffles. We had a tie vote in my house, with two loves, two just ok’s. I thought the trick of using frozen blueberries was great. The dough was a bit dense and might have benefited from a bit more milk but will make this again.
Daniel Bruce – Simply New England – Charlotte’s Vegetarian Red Flannel Hash – Made this hash of red onion, brussels sprouts, red beet, red potato (added sweet potato), and topped with a runny egg. Wow! This was a glorious breakfast. I don’t like traditional hash with corned beef, but after having a veggie version at the fantastic Right Fork Diner in Martha’s Vineyard, I was drawn to try this. Simple but elevated veggie dish that’s healthy and filling. Think I have a new breakfast classic.
Daniel Holtzman & Michael Chernow – Meatball Shop Cookbook – Tandoori Lamb Balls with cilantro Yogurt Sauce – I’ve made many things from the shop book, from their wonderful classic meatballs to their exceptional lamb balls, buffalo balls and more. The Tandoori lamb balls were decent, but pale in comparison to the other two lamb ball recipes in the book. Think I’ll pass on making this one again.
Dean & Deluca – Winter Minestrone soup with fennel, sausage and white beans – Really solid soup (sausage helps) that was flavorful and hearty. Next time, I’ll sauté the fennel down longer than they suggested.
Death & Co – Gypsy Eyes – stunningly good gin / chartreuse cocktail that caused me to rinse a coupe for the first time. I’ve always seen bartenders do this and wondered why. Really wonderful.
Donald Brackman – Magnolias – BBQ Pork Sliders – We ate at Magnolias years ago and thought the food was very good, although not at the same level as newer places like Husk or the Ordinary. That said, this dish was best described by my youngest as “legit.” Slow cooked pork butt for 10 hours at 210 in a dry rub, with a tangy wet BBQ sauce, served in a dinner roll. What a spectacular dish!
Donald Link – Real Cajun – Crab cake with jalapeno Remoulade – I want to like crab cakes, but they usually are breadcrumb / mayo bombs that are better in theory. Donald Link’s version might be the most flavorful and light crab cake around. I like how he uses only a small amount of crab cakes inside and then lightly dredges them on a plate before frying. The remoulade was a night touch as well. Very nice surprise and will gladly make this again!
Eataly – Vesuvio pasta with sausage ragu and escarole. I wanted to love this, but it’s pretty similar to a sausage ragu from Andrew Carmellini with chickpeas that is so incredibly superior. The book is beautiful, but this was just ok.
Ellie Krieger – The Food You Crave – Tuscan Vegetable Soup – I’ve cooked heavily from her book years ago and didn’t find much else that sounded that exciting. The soup is extremely easy and healthy, yet very flavorful. Given the need for quick lunches during covid, this was a perfect dish, and happy it made two tubs. I’ll make again, with the one change I made of subbing kale in place of spinach.
Ellie Krieger – So Easy – Lemony Lentil Soup with Kale – And after trying numerous other versions, I have found my go-to lentil soup. The lemon zest and juice add a real brightness to the humble soup and dig the additional of kale. This is an incredibly easy dish, and one I’ll make all winter long!
Ellie Krieger – Weeknight Wonders – Vegetarian (Red) Curry with Tofu – This tasted exactly like a Thai takeout dish. Really nice coconut flavors, although a bit of heat was warranted. I added some gochujang, which made a big difference.
From Our Kitchens – Recipes and Stories from the Boston Jewish Community – A friend gave us this really nice collection of home chef recipes. I really enjoyed making the challah and settled in on the rugelach this time as a project to do with my kids. Rugelach’s a personal favorite, something I always get when stopping in at Rein’s on the highway home from New York. Their version came together incredibly easy, with a cream cheese + flour + butter dough that chills overnight and rolled out with ease. We took their suggestion and made multiple toppings: Raspberry, chocolate, raisin and pecans. My kids (and wife) loved this. I think this will be an annual holiday tradition in the Kapilow house!
Giada – Everyday Italian – Sausage with Broccoli Rabe and Orecchiette – I’ve had better versions of this dish, but I also skipped the red pepper flakes for my kids, and didn’t aggressively salt, which might have made a difference. No one complained, but probably no need to make again.
Giada – Family Dinners – Boiled Salmon with garlic, mustard & herbs. I served this with the squash dish from Whole 30. I can get my kids to eat salmon once a week and am always looking for new ways to keep it interesting for them. I really liked this – flavorful with a nice zip from the mustard and incredibly easy to make. It paired nicely with the veggie side.
Giada – Giada’s Feel Good – Soba noodle salad – I dug this quite a bit. There was nothing innovative about it, just a very nice light and clean salad.
Grace Young – Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge – Ginger Tofu – Simple but delicious tofu dish that I served with the Slanted Door jicama salad. I’d make this again.
Greg Marchand – Frenchie - Brined chicken with roasted zucchini and tapenade – My wife and I managed to sneak into the Bar at Frenchie years ago, and still think it’s our favorite restaurant in Paris. I picked up this cookbook years ago and only made one other thing so far. This was a glorious bistro dish. The tapenade was a bit olive-y, but the chicken was so juicy and tender. Definite make again!
Hugh Acheson – A New Turn in the South - Grits with sautéed shitakes with fried egg and salsa rossa – I subbed out shitakes for hen of the woods, given I had an extra package leftover from Thanksgiving. The combination of the mushrooms sautéed in butter mixed with grits topped off with a fried egg and salsa rossa (roasted red peppers cooked down with tomato, jalapeno, shallot and basil) was just outstanding.
Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric – Speakeasy – Vesper – I’ve made numerous things from this NYC classic cocktail bar and discovered many favorites, such as the Americano. I tried my first Vesper, a James Bond era cocktail and liked but didn’t love. I kept sipping and found the lemon intriguing and off-putting at the same time. Probably won’t make again.
Jamie Bissonnette – New Charcuterie Cookbook – Cucumbers in Tsukemono Pickled Cukes – Dynamite Asian version of relatively quick pickles that leans heavily into rice vinegar. These are easily as quick snacks, but also would be a great side to sushi. Will make this again.
J Kenji Lopez Alt – The Food Lab – Cheesy Hasselback Gratin – I made this for Thanksgiving after seeing thousands of reviews online. The dish looked spectacular but didn’t blow me away. The bottoms of the potatoes weren’t cooked through, and it was more cream based than cheese. Think I’ll skip this one but will try other dishes before returning to the library.
Jacques Pepin – Essential Pepin – croque-monsieur – No chef work needed for this easy but incredibly delicious lunch made with homemade sour dough.
Jacques Pepin – Techniques – Pullman bread – Not my favorite bread, but less about the recipe and more the dish itself.
Jean-Georges – Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges – Shredded Cabbage salad – I added in some leftover chicken to this dynamite salad that explodes with acidity from the lemon juice, brightness from the mint and mild heat from the Thai chili. This was a perfect way to use up some leftover cabbage for a clean and healthy lunch.
Jenny Rosenstrach – Dinner a Love Story – Arroz Con Pollo – Her concept and blog is incredibly sweet, and I really want to love her food in the same way I do Smitten Kitchen… but her recipes always come across as tame to me. I’ve made a few things that are decent, but this was another dish that was lacking. I grew up eating Arroz con Pollo made by a Puerto Rican stepfather and this just wasn’t the same. The judges (my highly entitled / picky children) gave this a resounding meh. Next.
Jerusalem – Spiced chickpeas and fresh veggie salad- I could eat this every day. So healthy and delicious!
Joanne Chang – Flour – Pecan Golden Raisin Bread – Delicious bread, but cooking times were completely off. I baked as suggested and the inside was doughy. I ended up cooking for another 30-40 minutes and found toasting the bread worked. Really like this, but probably won’t make again.
Jody Adams – In the Hands of a Chef – Oliver’s Chicken Stew – This is a classic dish from the long-gone Boston Bistro Hammersley. Jody used to make this for her son Oliver. I love the concept of making a stock to poach the chicken in, shredding and add pasta. The dish was super easy and exploded with a depth of chicken flavor. Loved it.
Jonathan Waxman – A Great American Cook – Wild Mushroom & Leek Soup – While the soup was exceptionally clean and healthy, it was unforgettable. I doubt I’d make again.
Judy Rodgers – Zuni Café cookbook – mixed lettuces with mandarins, hazelnuts and hazelnut vinaigrette. Lovely salad that paired perfectly with roast chicken.
Keith McNally – Balthazar – Potato gnocchi – I love everything about the NY institution Balthazar. I’ve cooked extensively from this wonderful cookbook and really liked but didn’t swoon over their gnocchi. Given that you boil and then brown butter fry, the result tasted almost like hash browns (not a bad thing.) I still prefer Andrew Carmellini’s potato version and ultimately ricotta over potato.
King Arthur Flour Cookbook 200th Anniversary edition – – Cranberry Nut Bread – my father in law loaned me this classic. For health / sanity reasons, I cut the cranberries down to 1/3 from a cup and cut the sugar to 1/3 from 1 cup, and still absolutely loved this. The flavor from the orange juice and zest, combined with the tartness of the cranberries plus walnuts is just outstanding. I suspect I’ll make this for years to come
Maria Speck – Ancient Grains for Modern Meals – Barley Salad with Figs and lemon tarragon dressing – I’ve found this book to be relatively uninspiring, but this was lovely. I added chickpeas for depth. Will make again
Mario Batali – Molto Italiano – Dried cannellini bean and cabbage soup (ribbolita) – Nice veggie forward version of my favorite soup. Most versions are usually packed with tomatoes and this leaned into veggies. I dig it and would make again once a winter.
Marc Forgione – Marc Forgione - Chicken under a brick – This was a fun and very tasty dish. I had never deboned a chicken before or used the classical technique of cooking with a brick. Unlike most of the recipes in this book, the dish (while taking two days), was relatively easy and approachable. The potatoes and broccoli rabe were dynamite!
Marcella Hazan – Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi – Gnocchi is one of my perfect foods and always up for trying new versions. I liked the Scarpetta version of the dish, and still will always go back to Barbara Lynch’s as best in class, but this was nice. I served it with a simple but elegant sauté of chanterelles with garlic, white wine and shallots.
Marissa Guggiana – Primal Cuts Cookbook – Bourbon Braised Pulled Pork – My father-in-law gave me this years ago and I’ve rarely looked at it. Most of the recipes are either extremely heavy / unhealthy / red-meat focused or just not particularly appetizing. I love me some pulled pork though and am always happy to try new recipes. This version has you salt and fennel the pork two days prior to serving, brown and then braise for four hours the day before, and then reduce the sauce and reheat the pork. This was dynamite. The fennel really comes through, but doesn’t overwhelm, and paired perfectly with an apple carrot cabbage slaw that I whipped together.
Melissa Clark – Dinner – Thai Lettuce Wraps – I fell hard for Dinner, having cooked extensively from it over the last few years. I’m not sure how I missed this, but my kids flipped over it. Yes, it felt like something out of P.F. Chang’s with the lettuce wraps, but this was immediately asked to be cooked again by my kids. Home run!
Melissa Clark - Dining in French – Mushroom Soup – A friend recommended this and somehow, I missed it at first few glances of this cookbook. I could eat any mushroom soup and found this to have all the decadence of Balthazar’s cream-based mushroom soup but used chickpea flour instead. 100% will make this again and wish I had a loaf of Pepin’s crusty bread to dunk for love.
Melissa Clark – Dinner in an Instant – Farro with spiced cauliflower and raisins – This was outstanding. I purchased the steamer just for this dish and will have to make it again (and again.)
Melissa Hartwig – Whole 30 – Butternut Squash, with Kale & swiss chard (from the garden). I served this alongside broiled salmon with garlic, mustard & herbs from Giada. Extremely simple dish to make but flavorful. The slivered almonds were a nice touch. I’d make this again.
Michael Anthony – The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook – Mushroom Lasagna – I deep froze this and made the mistake of not defrosting before cooking, which resulted in an incredibly saucy dish. The flavors though were outstanding, exploding with wild mushroom and ricotta flavor. I’d probably make again, but perhaps I’ll try someone else’s lasagna next time.
Ming Tsai – Simply Ming – Green curry noodles with chicken – I used jarred curry paste instead of making from scratch, and perhaps that impacted the flavor. I found this to be just fine, but nowhere close to as good as his crazy noodles. No need to make again.
Molly Stevens – 150 Best American Recipes – Malaysian noodle soup – I’ve always been intrigued by this soup, which uses a homemade laksa as a base. I wanted to love this dish, having eaten it many times years ago at Penang, but thought the acidity just wanted as strong as I remember. I’ll make again, just not this version.
Morimoto – Za Jan Noodles – Combine homemade stock with red miso, sesame oil, soy, garlic, ginger and pour it over browned ground pork. You serve with udon noodles and top with scallions, cilantro and a hard-boiled egg. Top five dish of 2020. I could dive into this dish.
Nigel Slater – Kitchen Diaries – Mushroom Pappardelle – This was all about the ingredients. High quality pasta, hen of the woods and fresh shaved parmesan. 100% would make again.
Penelope Casas – Tapas - Cabbage, Green pepper and raisin Salad – I subbed out red for green pepper. This was nice special, but I wanted a light, clean, healthy lunch.
Plenty – Chickpea, Tomato & Bread Soup – This is a perfect soup for a cold and snowy day. It zips with tomato-y flavor and was fun to use leftover homemade sourdough. I’m one of the only people who doesn’t love Plenty, but this was a great recipe.
Priya Krishna – Indianish- Matar Paneer – A friend gave me this book years ago and didn’t touch it until the first cookbook challenge. I have since made the amazing spinach and feta saag paneer multiple times and loved her matar paneer just as much. The idea of essentially poaching versus frying the paneer is a great way to cook, keeping the flavor but dramatically cutting down calories. I need to keep exploring this book!
Rick Bayless – Mexican Everyday – Oaxacan Yellow Mole – I think of deep chocolate flavors when it comes to mole, but despite this being different from expectations, what an amazing dish. The dried chilis combined with the masa exploded with flavor. 100% will make again.
Rick Bayless – Mexico: One Plate at a time – Tomatillo Salsa (fresh vs. Roasted) – I had a ton of tomatillos from my garden and love tomatillo salsa. The classic treatment was outstanding – tons of acidity and just incredibly bright. Really nice salsa.
Scott Conant – Scarpetta – Spinach and Ricotta gnudi + Scarpetta sauce –The gnudi were downright ethereal and Scarpetta’s classic sauce was just outstanding. I dug the subtle heat from the chili flakes, well worth the effort to blanch and peel 12 plum tomatoes. Everything I’ve made from Scarpetta has been wonderful.
Serious Barbecue – Marinated Skirt with garlic and cilantro – Flavor profile was solid, but my kids struggle with steak. No need to make again.
Smitten Kitchen – Kale cherry and goat cheese salad – Love her blog but the cookbook is relatively inspiring. This dish, while simple, was great. I agree with her sentiment that it felt very 90s but didn’t care.
Sondra Bernstein – Girl & The Fig – Potato Leek Soup with Fennel – This book is uninspiring, but I really enjoyed this simple but flavorful version of a classic soup. I’d happily make again.
Stephanie Izard – Girl in the Kitchen- Fennel bok choy salad – I adore her flagship restaurant in Chicago but have been only mixed about the cookbook. This simple salad was outstanding – clean and healthy but packed with flavor from the homemade Asian style vinaigrette. I’ll make again but add in some type of protein for filling.
Suzanne Goin – Sunday Suppers at Lucques – Pappardelle with broad beans and chanterelles – Anything with chanterelles should be exceptional, but this was just ok. Her gnocchi blew this away.
Techan Gerard – Half Baked Harvest Cookbook – I grabbed this from the library after my wife mentioned a friend kept on posting beautiful IG dishes from the blog. On a whim, I made the Nutella stuffed whole wheat challah, which turned into a decadent breakfast for my kids. They gave emphatic thumbs up. I’ll make this again if they clean their room. :blush:
Tess Mallos – North African Cooking – Red Lentil Soup with vermicelli – The cookbook is uninspiring, but not a bad clean and healthy soup to have for lunch. No need to make again.
Thomas McNaughton – Flour + Water – Tagliatelle Bolognese – I had previously thought Smitten Kitchen’s Bolognese was the gold standard until now. I made homemade chicken stock, and found the depth of flavor from the stock, pancetta, pork & beef combination was decadent.
Tom Colicchio – Craft of Cooking – Farro Salad + Pan roasted vegetables – Farro is my perfect grain and thought this would pair nicely with a simple grilled salmon. I used a bit less pancetta and added in some sautéed portobellos and kale to spruce up the dish. I really like the technique of cooking in stock as well. Will make again.
Tom Colicchio - Think Life a Chef –Tomato and eggplant Lasagna – I should have made homemade noodles, but still wonderful dish that really benefited from slow roasting tomatoes.
Tyler Florence – Tyler’s Ultimate – Curry chicken with mango basmati rice – The flavor in the chicken was a bit mild for our tastes, but the basmati rice salad, with mint and cashew was dynamite. I think next time I’ll make with shrimp instead.
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