Title: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Author: Deb Perelman
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
If you’ve never heard of Smitten Kitchen and you’re a fan of cooking and food blogs, stop right now and go visit it. Seriously. Then come back (please!) and continue with this review.
But if you are a fan of the food blog scene, chances are you have heard of Deb Perelman, the amazing cook behind the website Smitten Kitchen and the all new The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. If you haven’t heard of Deb, or haven’t tried out any of her recipes, let me tell you why you should start paying attention to her.
First, she cooks out of a tiny kitchen in New York City. She has little room for nonsense gadgets or machines that aren’t multipurpose. As a result, you aren’t going to find recipes calling for weird contraptions you puzzled over in a kitchen store. If you cook regularly, anything you need to use is likely something you already have.
Second, Perelman has little patience for strange, time-consuming cooking techniques that seem to serve no purpose. She refuses to waste time doing something that doesn’t make a difference in the final dish just because it’s the way it’s always been done. As a result, you can be sure that, if you’re taking the time to do a step from one of her recipes, it’s because she tried it out first and determined that it was absolutely necessary to making the final product look and taste fabulous. I don’t have a ton of time to spend cooking every evening (who does?), so I love this aspect of her recipes.
Now, onto the cookbook! It’s heavy duty, with gorgeous presentation and tons of pictures. I appreciated how the publisher made sure that the cookbook’s aesthetic was reminiscent of Deb’s website; the white background and clean lines are hard to beat. Additionally, just as on her website, each recipe is accompanied by a narrative, sometimes a story, that talks about the dish. It’s definitely a fun cookbook to just browse through; you’ll be tempted to leave it on your coffee table for guests when you’re not cooking from it.
I made two dishes out of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Baby Swiss and Balsamic and Beer-Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Puree. Both were absolutely delicious. The kale dish was nicely balanced and hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian meal. The recipe used a lot of dishes, which I didn’t love, but the final product was worth it.
Yes, the kale was good. But I could sing odes to the short ribs. I always brown my meat before letting it cook, but I never really understood the reason behind it. The recipes always say to, so I have dutifully done it until it’s become habit. But in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb tells the reader that she spends 10-15 minutes browning each batch of short ribs for this recipe. I took notice and did the same, making sure there was a nice brown sear on each side. And OH, what a world of difference it made in the final product! The short ribs were beautifully cooked on the inside, but they had this delightfully chewy exterior that was pretty much indescribable. And this is why I love all of Deb’s recipes: they help me become a better cook.
This was a crazy long review, but I hope I’ve expressed why you should definitely check out The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It’s great visually and the recipes are really interesting. This is a cookbook I’ll be referencing and cooking out of quite a bit going forward.