Comforts of Home

A pair of comfort-food cookbooks to make surviving cabin fever season a little easier

So imagine the joy at the thought of a recipe to rival the masters! Rosengarten's version calls for 25 ingredients, almost half of them spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It's a "five-way," which means chili, spaghetti, cheese, chopped onions, and beans. The verdict? Well, Skyline it ain't. Our vat of chili had a cordial, nutty scent, but personally, I was distracted by the jarring flavor of the half-cup of barbecue sauce the recipe called for. Nonetheless, until our next road trip, it will give us a good base to tinker with. And, as this cookbook shows in spades, comfort-food-cooking is all about experimentation and evolution.

 

Recipes from Home is a loving homage to home cooking, an upscale outlook on meatloaf and green beans. David Page and Barbara Shinn's exquisite book, winner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals cookbook award, is based on recipes they created for their 10-year-old Greenwich Village establishment, Home Restaurant.

When I first picked up the book, it took me a while to even realize that I'd actually been to their little haven, years ago. What caught my eye were the family tree, the family photos, and the reminiscences of home cooking that pepper the pages between recipes. (Oh, and the book's elongated dimensions; at first I worried that its unwieldy pages would never stay open, but fear not--it fits just fine in your average cookbook holder.)

It's the warm, cozy comfort of family and food that Page, who grew up in Wisconsin, and Shinn, who is from Ohio, try to evoke in their recipes. And they're very successful. "We hope that by cooking from these pages, you will remember a bit of your own family kitchen and bring a little taste of home to your table," the authors write in their introduction.

The book's 255 recipes serve as an ample backbone to remember special places and occasions--or to build your own memories. From flavored butters and homemade mayonnaise to soups (cold weather, warm weather, stocks), to vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, and breads, this book covers anything and everything that you might call comfort food.

The oven-fried chicken is a nod to the Shake-'n-Bake craze that started in the late 1960s. It's simple, seasoned, and succulent--and no actual shaking is required. Just bathe your chicken pieces in buttermilk and let the breadcrumbs adhere. On the meatier side, I tried the grilled, marinated flank steak. The meat soaks in the spice rub, bringing up a zesty kick of black pepper, jalapeño, and minced ginger. Grilled rare it's a tender, delectable feast.

Side dishes abound in this book, from sautéed autumn vegetables (a colorful concoction of herbed butternut squash, zucchini, yellow squash, and red bell pepper) to the citrus-sweet mashed sweet potatoes with orange and shallots (an innovative alternative to standard mashed potatoes) to the classic cabbage slaw (a light and zesty rendition of the old favorite). It's worth noting, in fact, that there is a plethora of versions of American classics like slaws and mashed potatoes in this book. Page and Shinn offer old favorites like Yukon gold mashed potatoes, and exotic new flavors, like fennel and tangerine slaw.

Most of the recipes come attached to explanations and anecdotes, and many have suggested pairings to help you plan your menu. Overall, the many choices of Home are excellent choices for your home--with cozy comfort and innovation all wrapped in one pretty package.

Sure, comfort food is about fond memories and cozy tastes. But perhaps it's also about trying something a little new, a little different. In Recipes from Home you'll find all the traditional flavors you crave--and you might even find a new favorite.

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