Dishing on the Dish

What do you look for in a cookbook?  I want to see more than just a list of ingredients.  For me, the most engaging cookbook is one with gorgeous photographs and a bit of narrative.  The science-geek in me can get totally sucked into anything from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, who walk me through the entire process of refining and perfecting classic recipes.  Will an extra egg white make all the difference?  Maybe using cake flour instead of white?

This year I’ve noticed an upsurge in cookbooks that share family stories as an accompaniment to the recipes.  These anecdotes often give a sense of what the dish will taste like, serving suggestions, and a peek into the character of the recipe’s creator.  Sound appealing?  Then checkout some of these cookbooks:

In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark:  A New York Times columnist offers a collection of stories about food along with comments on her own experiences in making the 150 recipes that she presents, classifying the dishes into such categories as things with cheese, the farmer’s market, and my sweet tooth.

One Big Table by Molly O’Neill:  Presents a celebration of America’s culinary traditions that features such favorite recipes as Beacon Hill Chestnut Stuffing, Acadian Mussels, and California Avocado Soup.

The Pioneer Woman by Ree Drummond: The author shares homespun stories on adjusting to life on a ranch in the country and offers a number of recipes, including cowboy calzones, ribeye steak with whiskey cream sauce, Patsy’s blackberry cobbler, and Iny’s prune cake.

Southern Plate by Christy Jordan: The founder of collects more than 125 recipes that have been passed down through several generations of her family, in a book that also includes the family stories behind the recipes and full-color photos.

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