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Misc

Good Cookbooks Are Like Good Porn

“It is a matter of physics, a scientific fact that the human body reacts in very similar ways when anticipating food and sex. Capillaries swell, lips and membranes become engorged, saliva thickens and the pulse rises. It’s no accident that the two pleasures have become… confused.”— Anthony BourdainNo Reservations, Food Porn special

Two weekends ago, I got thirsty.

Not thirsty in the sense of needing a cool, refreshing drink but in the way of greed. Borders is closing its doors, and although I’m broke, I whipped out my credit card and snapped up my favorite kitchen tool — cookbooks.

As I roamed the cooking section at Borders, I snagged every book my arms could possibly hold, and I have to say weight training is finally paying off. With a 10 percent discount and license to charge I wasn’t holding back. After walking thru every section, from the coffee table pictorials to the Raw food (which I will never do) section, I snagged usual private corner in the overcrowded store, I poured over my selections. My intent was to stay for an hour but became so engaged at looking at dishes from exotic locals to just plain weird that I ended up staying for three hours. After I whittled down my selections from 30 to 10, I still had use some time-tested tactics that would make me feel justified in going further into debt. I employed my “Does it make you hungry?” and ” How many recipes would I actually cook?” technique.  By going thru each book, if I see more than five recipes that I don’t have at home, or ones that would teach me how to build on the ones I have or each one makes me drool like a waterfall, it’s getting chucked.

Good porn makes you tilt your head and say “DAYUUUUUMMM”. 

Anthony Bourdain knows a good bone or two

There’s a reason why there’s food porn.  It stimulates, arouses foodies and gets me mentally drooling. While I’ll probably be never caught in the bathroom, panting over a Coq Au Vin recipe, I’m certainly guilty having a stash of cookbooks on my night table.  I’ve never understood why editors/authors write cookbooks that look like textbooks with silly little captions like ” this is a lovely way to present a dish” or “this is a XXX dish you and your family won’t forget”.  I have a few in my collection but they aren’t the go-to guys.  The ones in constant rotation have either good stories, have glossy pictures or a connection to my culture (i.e. Soul Food).

The best ones I’ve found in recent years have been carried only by Borders in their bargain section.  Ranging from $2.99 to $5.99 the “Step by Step” series published by Bay Books and Hermes House, may not offer recipes created by well-know authors but are visually engaging and filled with useful information for simple cooks like me trying to master the art.  These glossy publications show the completed dish along with three to four photos showing the process. As a visual learner, I’ve found these additions helpful in gauging the various cooking stages and doesn’t take up much room on my counter space. While the Hermes House books (Slow Cooker Recipe Book) while larger have really informative and educational chapters in the beginning. My absolute favorite of the series is “Step by Step Cooking for One.” This book is a godsend and why more publishers aren’t creating books in the same vein I haven’t the slightest clue. Almost every recipe in this book is perfect for one person that don’t break the calorie count.  I’ve used this books so many times that the cover has fallen off and I’ll find bits and pieces of ingredients stuck between pages. My favorite recipe is the Veal Mushroom Scaloppine, which I’ve included below.  A few recipes have a high calorie count and a section called “cooking to freeze”, which has recipes that serve four but can be frozen for four meals.  This book has been so popular that I’ve never been able to find it since I bought it over two or three years ago.  And this weekend the others were being snapped up just as fast.  I was able to find a few that suited my needs and current diet, Blood Type Diet, which I’ve been having success in losing weight.

I emailed Murdoch Publishing about other means to get the books in the States but no luck, according to a sales manager. But they can be bought online. (See links below).

When I had a TV and could afford cable, I enjoyed watching the Food Network, especially on Sunny Anderson and Alton Brown, who appeals to the nerd in me.  I’ve replaced that form of relaxing with Korean Dramas, but I sure do miss watching a good cooking show. I also bought Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook” DVD thinking I found just the treat.  This video has short vignettes of how to cook items from chicken to vegetables the Child way. The little I’ve watched isn’t very impressive like the current cooking show productions, but as the videos progress, Child becomes funnier with her quips about using wine in cooking and her rapid methods.

I also hit the jackpot when I found “Chinese Rice and Noodles” by authors Su-Huei Huang and Mu-Tsun Lee. This book has recipes for just about all my favorite Chinese dishes, and good for those who want to play it safe with the old favorites like Kung Pao Chicken.

Now if I could only come up with a creative way to cook the books to pay off my credit debit.

Books

Step by Step Series:  Comfort Foods //  Sauces and Dips // Soups and Stews // Soups and Breads // Cooking for One // Chicken Recipes

Veal Mushroom Scaloppine

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Total Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 1

30g butter

110 g veal steak (I’ve had success with chicken breasts pounded out)

90g button mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon dry sherry

2 teaspoons plain flour

1/3 cup boiling beef stock

1 tablespoon cream

1) Melt a third of the butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook the veal (chicken) for 2 minutes each side. Remove from the pan and cover. (Make sure meat is cooked thru)

2) Melt the remaining butter in the pan, add the spring onion and cook for 1 minute or until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the sherry and cook for 1 minute, then sprinkle on the flour and stir for a further 1 minute.

3) Increase the heat to high, add the beef stock and bring to a boil. Return the veal (or chicken) to the pan, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 1 minute. Stir in the cream and heat through.** Serve with veggie of choice and bread.

** I also add about 1/2 butter at the end. Remove the veal/chicken, stir  in butter and pour sauce over veal/chicken.

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About Author

A visual journalist living in Chicago.

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