The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Very shortly after it came out, I went out and purchased a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for myself. I had tried a couple of recipes from the popular blog of the same name (notably, her oatmeal raisin cookies), and found them to be delicious. And I really enjoyed Deb Perelman's blogging style. Plus, as you may already know if you've been reading my blog for a while, I really and truly loved an earlier blogger cookbook, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, so I figured maybe this one would be good, too.
And boy, howdy, was I right. Probably it's because Perelman is an extremely detail-oriented home cook, who works hard to make sure that if you're going to take the time to make something, you'll be happy with the end result. (Her philosophy, as articulated in the introduction, is that "nobody hates cooking as much as they hate the roulette of not knowing if their time, money, and efforts are going to be rewarded by a recipe that exceeds expectations.") The first thing I did was take a week or so of evenings to read through it, cover to cover. No, I would not do that with a regular cookbook. But when you intersperse personal stories and such between the recipes, well, I get sucked right in.
The first recipes I tried from the book were Cinnamon Toast French Toast (a make-ahead casserole sort of thing that I tested as a possibility for a holiday brunch, though my sweetheart and I opted to go with a strata instead), Buttered Popcorn Cookies (yum!) and Alex's Chocolate Raspberry Rugelach (good, although I wasn't particularly good at forming them). And for M's 18th birthday, I made her Golden Sheet Cake recipe, only I baked it in 2 9" round pans, and instead of using Perelman's Berry Buttercream recipe for frosting, I went with my grandmother's recipe for Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. (The cake was a complete and total winner, by the way.) We have been happy with all the results, so the cookbook has already earned its keep (three or more good recipes can be enough to earn a permanent place on my cookbook shelf).
And tonight for dinner, I'm making Maya's Sweet and Sour Holiday Brisket. Well, technically, I made it overnight last night in the slow cooker (one of two variations given with the recipe), and am currently re-heating it. I have tasted a wee bit of it (during the "cut it before you reheat it" phase of the program), and it is delicious. I sincerely doubt there will be leftovers, even though it's just my sweetheart and I having dinner tonight. (Hey - don't look at me like that! It wasn't the 4-5 lb. beef brisket called for by the recipe, but a much smaller, just under 2 lb. piece of meat when I started cooking. And it shrank, just as it's supposed to do!)
The one shortcoming this book has is the complete absence of SOUP. Oh, sure, there's Gnocchi in Tomato Broth and a Slow-Cooker Black Bean Ragout, but there's no actual soup. I see this as a serious gap in things, but perhaps she eschews soup. Or is planning an all-soup follow-up.
One can only hope.