I bought the predecessor to this book (which contained ten years worth of recipes from the show) a few years back, and by late last year I realized that my beloved copy was absolutely filthy, marked-up, and bedecked with little post-it notes flagging all the recipes I ever wanted to try. Plus, the Tex-Mex section fell out every time I opened it up. So I decided there were only two courses of action to take: 1) buy a new copy (with four more years included! Yeeha!) and 2) finally write a review of the book that has revolutionized my cooking.
I’ve made more recipes in this book (approaching the 70 mark) than from any other cookbook I’ve ever owned, and believe me—I own cookbooks the way Imelda Marcos owned shoes (well almost, anyway). I will say that although perhaps two of the recipes that I’ve tried have been kind of “meh” with my family, not a single one has bombed, and many, many of these are recipes that I make frequently and will forever be in my repertoire. Here are a few highlights:
CHICKEN: Weeknight Roast Chicken with Tarragon Pan Sauce (heavenly—I could sip the sauce like a fine wine), Peruvian Roast Chicken with Spicy Mayonnaise, Chicken Piccata (I make this a couple of times a month, and it’s also very good with shallot and prosciutto), Cassoulet (divine!), Chicken Canzanese (a huge family favorite!) plus a number of chicken recipes in the Tex-Mex section.
PORK: Sautéed Pork Cutlets with Mustard-Cider sauce (mmmm…), French-Style Pot Roasted Pork Loin (elegant, fabulous, and restaurant-worthy), Breaded Pork Cutlets (Schnitzel-- phenomenal, and one of our favorite things), Cassoulet (again) and a couple of pork recipes from the Tex-Mex section (again).
THE ENTIRE TEX-MEX SECTION: I knew that I loved these recipes more than the food in any Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been in, but I realized they were legit when I made a large meal for some Monterrey born-and-raised friends of mine who said they were stunned to get real Mexican food at my house in South Carolina. Some of the standouts are the Enchiladas Verdes, Refried Beans, the Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas (unbelievable!), and the Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas). The Skillet Chicken Fajitas in the 2013 section are the BEST fajitas I’ve ever had. Ever. I have one kid who requests them every week. And I know it’s not Tex-Mex, but the Cuban Shredded Beef in the 2014 section rocks.
The REAL standout recipe in this section, much to my surprise, is for Home-Fried Taco Shells (you can also fry them flat for tostadas). They are unbelievably good, and you will never again be able to go back to eating store-bought taco shells without sighing and shedding a little tear for what might have been. (And as an added bonus, any leftover shells are also delicious spread with jam for a sweet/salty/crunchy treat).
CREAMY MASHED POTATOES: I will never make potatoes the old way again. Buy a ricer and follow the recipe—they’re so good they don’t even need gravy.
SPANISH TORTILLA WITH GARLIC MAYONNAISE: A delicious Spanish omelet with roasted red peppers, onions, and potatoes. “Garlic Mayonnaise”, however, is a misnomer. It should be called “Omelet Frosting”, since the tortilla is sliced like a cake into wedges, and frosting is, of course, best spread all over the top to get enough in every bite. Also, as with any other cake, it is just as delicious cold in the morning for breakfast.
BEST DROP BISCUITS: A universal hit with everyone I’ve ever made them for, and they pair nicely with the Gumbo recipe from The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook. Make both of these and take them to a neighborhood gathering, and when you go to retrieve your dishes you will find that the biscuits have disappeared and the Dutch oven is empty, the bottom of it covered in what looks suspiciously like tongue marks, and your street cred as one of the best cooks around will be set in stone.
DESSERTS: Wow—so many delicious ones! Blueberry Boy Bait, Applesauce Cake (whoever developed this is a genius), Blondies, Easy Apple Strudel (Oh. My. Goodness!), and Lemon Chiffon Pie. For layer cakes, the Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting is fantastic, and the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake has supplanted the chocolate cake recipe that my entire extended family has used for at least twenty-five years. The Easy Caramel Cake is a delight, and the Coconut Layer Cake is quite possibly the best cake ever invented. Even my son who hates coconut now requests this cake for his birthday every year. Go figure.
So those are some of my favorites, and I’m thrilled that there are many, many more recipes that I want to try. The Asian food section looks especially promising, so it looks like this new book will someday look as broken-in as its older sibling…