The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook: The Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Cook

Everything but the Elves

The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook: the Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Cook

Free Press, 463 pp., $34.95

Williams-Sonoma has had its pulse on Amer­ican food trends for more than five decades. For much of America, the name has come to embody taste, not only in terms of kitchen aesthetics but also with respect to culinary arts. The new Williams-Sonoma cook­book builds on that image, offering practical, instructive, and tasteful recipes in one canonical volume to help release our inner chefs.

What I really like about this cookbook is its accessibility and ease of use. This glossy tome features photos of every recipe, which for many novice cooks is essential for visualizing the finished product. The recipes are presented in sensible chapters, divided by courses and food categories, with the final chapter devoted to basic recipes for essential stocks, sauces, and doughs. The end matter consists of useful definitions, followed by a very handy series of tables explaining measurements, doneness temperatures, substitutions and equivalents, and the like.

Here are recipes, both stylish and classic, for every occasion. Within its pages, the home cook will not only rediscover the merits of old-fashioned chicken pot pie or pineapple upside-down cake but also learn the secret to making delicious Sichuan spicy pork and eggplant or rolled Argentine-style flank steak stuffed with peppers, prosciutto, spinach, and bread crumbs. Most of the recipes are executable by home cooks, even those with limited time or experience in the kitchen. A recipe for steamed salmon with charmoula – a Moroccan salsa of lemon, parsley, cilantro, and paprika – can be prepared in less than 40 minutes yet is impressive enough to serve to guests. Another one for tandoori chicken is deceptively simple, yet authentic, and is bound to become a regular on the dinner rotation.

This cookbook also features a healthy smattering of dishes designed for special occasions or to wow dinner guests. A recipe for duck lasagna made with sheets of fresh pasta and topped with a béchamel sauce embodies the precepts of slow food. Ideal for newly married couples, newly independent postadolescents, or anyone who loves to eat, the Williams-Sonoma cookbook promises to become an indispensable part of modern home kitchens.

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