The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook

edited by Susan Westmoreland

Published by Hearst Books

832 pages, 2001


Buy it online


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Conceivable Comestible

Reviewed by Pamela C. Patterson

 

There's an old adage that says not to judge a book by its cover -- but if you can judge a tome by its sheer heft, then The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook is a heavyweight in more ways than one. While I don't possess one of those fancy digital kitchen scales that gives you precise measurements down to the last milligram, I can tell you that this baby is heavy -- I'm guessing it weighs in at approximately four pounds. And at 832 pages, you know right off that it's going to be a fairly thorough compilation from the annals and experts of the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Their experience spans nearly a century -- the first Good Housekeeping cookbook was published in 1903. All recipes in the book are triple-tested -- I know this because it says so right on the book jacket. So what more could you ask for? It's hard to go wrong when you've got the Good Housekeeping Seal on your side.

The book opens with a brief chapter on the basics: equipment, utensils, a whole host of cooking tips and tricks and a small glossary of cooking terms and ingredients. This is followed by 22 chapters chock-full of recipes featuring all your major food groups: meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, vegetables, pies and tarts.... OK, maybe that last one isn't actually considered a food group by the USDA, but you get the picture. Practically every conceivable comestible is covered in one way or another.

There are innovative appetizers and snazzy sandwiches, 30 pages of soups to soothe the soul and tempt the more adventurous palate, elegant egg dishes to dazzle the brunch crowd and vegetables every way imaginable. Bored with birds? You won't be after you see the tasty entrees in the poultry section. There are even a couple of rabbit recipes thrown in for good measure. (Does that mean it tastes like chicken?)

The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook features 1500 recipes in all, accompanied by 600 color photographs that are not merely eye candy but also serve as helpful how-to's. Need to know how to carve a rib roast, a leg of lamb, a whole ham or a roast turkey? No problem. Never boned a chicken breast before? You can find instructions on page 212. Daunted by the prospect of cleaning soft-shell crabs? Not to worry -- Good Housekeeping will walk you through it.

And for those of us who have always been mystified by cuts of meat and where they come from, they even have full-page charts like you might find at an old-fashioned butcher's shop, along with smoked meat cuts and "variety meat cuts" such as calf's liver, chicken liver, foie gras and beef kidney. For you brave souls, there's a handful of recipes catering to such cravings, including Sweetbreads Braised with Madeira (thanks, but I think I'll pass) and Smoked Tongue ("The leftovers make wonderful sandwiches on rye or pumpernickel.").

Lest you think that the Good Housekeeping experts have tossed calorie and cholesterol counts to the wind, rest assured that each and every recipe has nutritional values listed at the bottom so you can watch your fat and sodium intake as well as keeping track of the protein in your daily diet.

Then there are the 100 "expert tip" boxes from some of the most respected names in the business -- cooking teachers, cookbook authors and chefs who are willing to share their trade secrets with the hoi polloi. Joanne Weir, television host of Weir Cooking, explains the easiest way to peel an apple. Cookbook author James Peterson tells you how to make chutney out of "virtually any underripe fruit." And Nick Malgieri, director of the baking program at Peter Kump's New York Cooking School, advises us to refrain from adding extra flour if a bread dough seems soft, noting that a soft dough, while more difficult to handle, usually makes a superior loaf.

I'll admit it: when it comes to cooking, I'll take all the hand-holding I can get. While I've progressed admirably from my post-college years when I used to have cheese and crackers or canned soup for dinner, I'm still a far cry from being an ace in the kitchen. (And it doesn't help that I'm married to an excellent cook who works -- gasp! -- without recipes.)

I've loosened up a bit over the years, but I still don't like to fly without a safety net -- when I'm cooking, I like to have clear instructions to follow, and more importantly, I need to see my efforts rewarded with the sweet smell (or rather, taste) of success. The good news is, the folks at Good Housekeeping haven't let me down -- in my own personal test kitchens, I've produced such classics as Spaghetti and Meatballs and McIntosh Applesauce with stellar and delicious results. Even the Spanakopita -- my first experience working with phyllo dough -- came out quite nicely, thank you.

With my confidence sufficiently bolstered, I plan on branching out to such "new classics" as Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup (known to Thai food aficionados as tom kha gai) and Spinach Roulade with Mushrooms, a colorful and attractive dish which would make an elegant presentation at any meal. And for a dessert to really impress my guests, I'll try my hand at Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce -- beautiful in its simplicity, with a striking contrast of bright red fruit against the creamy white custard. Yum.

The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook is truly the mother of all cookbooks -- beautiful, well-organized, comprehensive in its scope and its glossy page stock makes it easy to wipe up spills and spatters -- a big plus for those of us who are not known for being neat and tidy while creating culinary masterpieces. But perhaps the best part of all is that when you open the book to any page, it stays open. You don't have to weight down one side with a boulder, or an iron, or your heavy-duty kitchen mixer in order to make it stay put so you can consult the recipe while you work.

That fact alone gets my seal of approval. | November 2001

 

Pamela C. Patterson has yet to cook a Thanksgiving turkey on her own. But she makes a killer three-minute egg.