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The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes

October 7, 2010 · Posted in Bestselling Cooking Books 


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For the past six decades, Gourmet magazine has shaped the tastes of America, publishing the best work of the foremost names in the world of food. To create this landmark cookbook, editor in chief and celebrated authority Ruth Reichl and her staff sifted through more than 50,000 recipes. Many were developed exclusively in Gourmet’s test kitchens. Others came from renowned food writers and chefs and from the magazine’s far-flung readers. Then the editors embarked on a… More >>

The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes

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5 Responses to “The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes”

  1. B. Marold on October 7th, 2010 5:55 am

    `The Gourmet Cookbook’ edited by Ruth Reichl of `Gourmet’ magazine is a major effort by the leading culinary magazine in the country, edited by arguably the most important active culinary journalist in the country. At over 1000 pages and 1000 recipes collected by one of the best culinary writing staffs in the country, it is not easy to come to a decision on the value of this book. The fact that it is not easy after reading a few pages is a sure sign that the book is neither excellent nor terrible, but somewhere in between.

    For starters, let me identify that this book is not a new `Joy of Cooking’ or `James Beard’s American Cookery’ or Mark Bittman’s `How to Cook Everything’. These three very large recipe collections are systematic teaching texts. Every chapter includes notes on the primary raw material and the primary cooking method. `The Gourmet Cookbook’ is primarily a collection of recipes claimed to be the 1000 best, selected from 60 years of publishing over 10,000 recipes. The most famous similar cookbook is Craig Claiborne’s `The New York Times Cookbook’. Reichl has improved a bit on Claiborne by adding some features appearing in the `Joy of Cooking’ style of book such as sidebars on ingredients, tips, and techniques. I will approach evaluating this very big book by evaluating individual aspects and adding up the score at the end.

    Selection of Topics: Comprehensive, but just a bit oddly organized. The chapter titles represent either a type of ingredient such as poultry, vegetables, and shellfish; a type of dish such as soup, salad, bread, and pie; or meal such as breakfast and brunch and first courses. I had a hard time finding the sticky bun recipe Reichl touted on the `Today’ show because it was in `Breakfast and Brunch’ and not in `Breads’. Chapters on Eggs, Charcuterie, and Smoked Foods would have been better than `Breakfast…’.

    Selection of Recipes: Overall, the selection is good, although the quality of the selection is uneven from one chapter to the next. In the chapter on salads, there is a recipe for almost every famous named salad you can think of, with a few minor omissions. The Waldorf salad and the chef’s salad are missing, even though the latter is mentioned in the chapter introduction. The chapter on breads is much poorer, as it is less than half the size of the salads chapter, yet dozens more big books are written about bread than about salads.

    Variety of Recipes: Very good. European, Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American, African, and North American cuisines are all well represented. A slight tilt toward French and Italian specialities is entirely understandable and appropriate. No sense in straying from your strengths.

    Quality of Recipes: Good, but not Great. This is the big kahuna category. If we are given 1000 excellent recipes in a single volume, all other considerations pale into insignificance. I confess I have not read all 1000 recipes, but I have read enough of the standards to see that most of the culinary gods have been appeased, but not all. The brioche dough recipe correctly requires an overnight rise in the fridge. On the other hand, the recipes for omelets leave out several important steps which superchef Jacques Pepin would include AND which super tutor Alton Brown would second. The book is wise enough to include a recipe for the Philippine dish chicken adobo, yet it does not give us the recipe the way the Filipinos prepare it. The recipe also violates a principle given in another part of the book to use whole chickens and calls for making the dish with chicken legs. My Philippines cookbook and all my Filipino friends use the whole chicken. Reichl and her writers make much of their selecting the best of a very large number of recipes for certain dishes which have appeared in the magazine over the years, but this means they are giving us not the very best recipe, but the best recipe which has appeared in the magazine, brought up to date where necessary. I checked out the sticky bun recipe and found it good, but not quite as good as the classic presented in the `Baking With Julia Child’ volume which does several more layerings of butter in the rolled dough and which uses the more traditional single pan baking approach rather than Gourmet’s muffin pan technique.

    Quality of Supplementary Material: Generally very good. Its primary weakness is that sidebar subjects are determined entirely by the whim of the editors rather than by the demands of the subject. Eggs get an excellent essay on quality and size, but there is no special discussion of omelets or souffle making. There is no sidebar on braising technique, the single most important technique in the French canon. The Glossary is just large enough to be respectable, but no replacement for the Larousse Gastronomique. The list of suppliers is large, but just a little quirky. It covers all the Food Network favorites such as Murray’s Cheese Shop and Penzey’s Spices and a lot more, but it oddly lists some sources with nothing more than a phone number and web site, with no clue to the kind of provisions they supply.

    Basics: Solid recipes for stocks and condiments labeled as the most important chapter in the book. You will not go wrong with these recipes. The five-spice recipe, for example, is better than the one I just used from a book on spices.

    Most reviewers comment on the yellow recipe titles that are difficult to read. I agree this was a mistake, but my 60-year-old astigmatic eyes can still make them out. I sincerely hope that the second edition corrects this goof.

    This is a good collection of recipes from 60 years of a good culinary magazine done by a great editor. It is better than the New York Times collection, but no replacement for `The Joy of Cooking’. At $40, it is a real bargain.

    Rating: 4 / 5

  2. Ethnic food enthusiast on October 7th, 2010 7:43 am

    I think the reader should be willing to look beyond the yellow typeface and see all the wonderful features of this book. First, I’ve tried at least ten of the recipes and they all have been easy to follow and delicious. These recipes have been tested, and tested, and tested. The editors did their due diligence. Second, the tips and techniques section has all the little stuff you should know to make cooking easier…it’s only four pages. Read it and remember and know it is there as a reference later. Third, the glossary, despite what grouchy reviewers have said, is thorough AND the glossary ingredients are included in the index. Fourth, the index is one of the most comprehensive indexes I have seen. Has anyone remarked on the fact that you can look up an ethnic cuisine and find EVERY RECIPE in the book that falls under that particular cuisine? In a mood for an Indian recipe? There are fourteen of them in the book…just look up “Indian dishes” in the index. Scandinavian? Thai? Vietnamese? Just look in the index to quickly see the list of all of them. What other cookbook index bothers to do this? And despite what other people have said, the index IS thorough, well-organized, and in a sufficiently large font (a New York Times review of the book praised the index). The famous “sticky buns” recipe is actually named “Pecan Currant Sticky Buns” and can be found in the index under “pecans”, “currants”, and “breads (under subentry “buns”). If one looked under “buns” or “rolls” to find this recipe, the index has anticipated this and given you a reference “buns and rolls. See breads” with the same reference if you look up rolls. The index is great about indexing minor ingredients. Just bought some saffron and want to use it before it loses it’s freshness? Look up saffron and there are NINE recipes in the book that use saffron…all listed right there.

    I think this is one of the most user-friendly large cookbooks I have come across in a long time.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. Pamela Evans on October 7th, 2010 10:11 am

    I recently moved to Mexico, and as weight and customs tariffs limited my importation of books, I chose this cookbook to be my overall basic resource. I have been glad ever since that I left my “Joy” behind, along with my “Best of Cooks Illustrated” and the Childs volumes. Unlike B. Marold, I have not been disappointed by any of the recipes I’ve tried, and I’ve been delighted to find so many of them to be Latin or Caribbean themed, so that I can use the products most readily available here yet branch out from the usual Mexican fare. To complain that the omelet-making or brioche-making techniques are not what they would be in a teaching volume is to ask more of this compendium than what it is: the best recipes published in Gourmet Magazine, period. I find the sidebars useful and the unfortunate yellow titles a minor irritant. The index is excellent, which is not often the case with cookbooks. Everything for which I’ve needed a recipe I’ve found in one way or another through it. Try the Cuban Roast Pork Loin; the Avocado, Orange, and Jicama Salad; the Beets with Lime Butter! My only complaint is that several times I’ve proceeded with a recipe and added all of an ingredient only to discover that some of that ingredient was to be saved for a later step. I’ve since learned to read more carefully through a recipe before plunging in.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. J. A. Flynn on October 7th, 2010 10:25 am

    I hate to echo what so many others have noted, but yes, I find the *light* yellow recipe titles essentially impossible to read outside of direct sunlight. To be honest – sorry fellow reviewers – I assumed before purchasing the book that this was just oversensitivity to perfectly legible text….wow, it’s not oversensitivity, I promise.

    The recipes, however, have been wonderful. I’ve purchased a number of cookbooks where flawed recipes present themselves quickly (beware of The Bread Bible’s foccacia, e.g.), but I’ve found only winners in this cookbook so far. The flourless chocolate cake (p. 739) is much simpler to prepare than its taste suggests, and people at work raved about it for some time after I brought it in. Pumpkin apple bread (p.599), Banana, coconut, and macadamia nut bread (p.599-600), and rice pudding (p.827) have all been definite winners as well. I consider The New Joy of Cooking to set the benchmark for reliable-workhorse cookbooks, and so far I’m much more pleased with this cookbook than that old favorite! Enthusiastic 5+ stars for content; 3 stars for layout.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  5. Cookingwoman on October 7th, 2010 11:23 am

    Basta, already….I’m a professionally trained chef who also spent nearly decade in the book publishing business; I’m also an inveterate fan of Gourmet–so much so that I bought the entire set of 1953 issues for my partner’s birthday. Yes, there are problems (lemon yellow text headers wouldn’t have been my first choice), but by and large (and I mean LARGE), this book is a keeper. Gourmet’s executive food editor, Zanne Stewart, is a genius–a veritable walking filing cabinet of Gourmet recipes and information so thorough it staggers the mind. My prediction is that when the book comes out in the next printing, and the one after that (and so on and so on), THIS first edition will be come immensely valuable. In 20 years, you’ll have to take a second mortgage out on your house in order to buy that famous first edition with lemon yellow text headers.

    Beyond that, this book has been a labor of dedication and love the likes of which are rarely found in publishing today. Keep it, complain loudly to yourself about the color of the type (the way I am), and then cook from it. If you can’t bring yourself to do THAT, simply read the recipe openers for their purely informational and educational value. This is history, like it or not.
    Rating: 4 / 5

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