I am so glad that everyone enjoyed Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, the little treasure of food cooking essays by the late Laurie Colwin. We have some wonderful posts and recipes inspired by the book and I’ll get to those in a minute. First, I would like to introduce you to our judge for this Cook the Books round, fellow blogger and copy and book editor Caitlin Kenney. While searching for a perfect judge for this book, I stumbled across Caitlin’s review of Home Cooking on Goodreads and then found herblog and was struck by her passion for books and pestered her until she agreed to be our judge. (Actually she succumbed easily as she thought it would be fun!)
About Caitlin: Caitlin Kenney is a copy editor at J.Crew and a freelance book editor. She has worked with a diverse group of authors on books ranging from YA fiction to adult history, pop culture, fashion and, of course, cookbooks. (On her first experience with recipe testing for a cookbook author, she quite badly bungled his pumpkin kugel.) She records her journeys through literature on her blog Year of Magical Reading [link:yearofmagicalreading.wordpress.com] and also dishes out bridesmaid advice and planning tips at The Ultimate Bridesmaid Guide [link: ultimatebridesmaid.com]. She lives in New York City and her kitchen is too small for her cooking ambition.
So welcome to Cook the Books Caitlin and a big thank you for agreeing to judge the fabulous Home Cooking-inspired creations our CTB participants came up with for this round!
First up, Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla used her family vacation plane ride from San Jose to Seattle to work her way through the book. She enjoyed the writing and sentiments in the book and decided to do her own “Bread Baking Without Agony” and make a Baguette a la Home Cooking. Camilla says, “I baked the bread, with some adaptations, thinking that I could get breakfast and lunch out of the same loaf. But relentless requests for seconds – slices smeared with marscarpone and dotted with fresh raspberries – dashed those hopes. Thankfully it’s easy enough that I will definitely be making it again soon.
Glennis of Cant Believe We Ate… was first inspired to make roast beef after reading about it Home Cooking but it was the Fried Chicken that ultimately called to her. She says, “My family is particularly fond of my fried chicken, however, I’m usually willing to try a new technique. I didn’t think there would be all that much difference. … One distinct difference I noticed between Ms. Colwin’s method and mine, is that she’s right…the crust on her chicken gets soft once it’s refrigerated. Mine, however, doesn’t. We still have crunchy chicken the following day, and if I let it cool really well before packing it into the fridge, it’s crunchy for a couple of days. We enjoyed this batch of fried chicken with potato salad. I’m not saying mine is better than hers…I’m saying it’s two different methods with two different outcomes, and one should expect two different results.”
Kaye from In Kaye’s Kitchen is a long-time fan of Home Cooking who was more than ready to reread the book with us. She says, “Just the excuse I needed! And it’s still a lovely book, rather like chatting with a good friend over a cup of tea in your own kitchen.” Kaye has been wanting to bake more bread so she tried Colwin’s One Simple Loaf and says, “This baked up into a lovely oblong loaf. We found the crust a bit tough, maybe because the temperature didn’t come down all that far for the second part of the baking. Nevertheless this is a very tasty bread that I’ll likely make again.”
Simona of briciole says about Home Cooking, “The style is sparkling, the voice fresh and engaging, and the book is a real pleasure to dive into.” Finding her cooking style to be very different from Colwin’s she finally decided on something they both like–homemade pasta, making this Fusilli al Ferro (Handmade Fusilli with Browned Butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano). Simonae says, “Ms. Colwin was open to trying new things to decide for herself whether she liked them or not. I am sure she would have been open to learn to make the pasta shapes with which I have been experimenting recently and she would have commented on her experience with the wit she shows throughout Home Cooking. So, to her I dedicate my last adventure in pasta making: fusilli al ferro. And based on the recipes in the book, I know she would have liked the burro e parmigiano dressing.“
Foodycat says she had mixed emotions about the book–she thoroughly enjoyed every page of it, but was saddened to know that Colwin had passed away too soon. As for what to make she says, “It took me quite a while to decide what to make… Then I saw Felicity Cloake use Laurie Colwin’s Fried Chicken recipe in her How to Cook Perfect… series, and decided that I would give it a go. My previous best endeavours with fried chicken have all been in seasoned flour, rather than batter or breadcrumbs, so I felt OK about that bit. What was a total departure for me was shallow frying, crowding the pan and covering it. … But you know what? I am a total convert. The chicken (I used bone-in chicken thighs) was tender and moist inside, with a really properly crunchy outside. And because for the majority of the cook time the lid is on the pan, the whole house doesn’t smell like frying.”
Claudia of Honey From Rock found the book to be lovely and says that it “reads like an extended, laid back conversation between a couple of good friends. You won’t agree with everything anyone says, but the dialogue is never boring.” After wanting to try a lot of dishes from the book, she says, “Finally, it was Curried Chicken Salad that came through for this occasion, inspired by a Birthday party. Two friends were celebrating, with a Girls Day overnighter in an oceanfront B & B, to which another friend invited us. With Food. Supplied by us. Things we’d been wanting to try. Linda made a lunch of toasted, sprouted 7 grain bread, topped with pesto, tomatoes, cucumber and avocado. Just delicious. For supper we had a yummy Tomato Pie, made by Nancy, which you can see above, and this Chicken Salad which I brought, surrounded by watercress. Quite good if I do say so.“
Debra of Eliot’s Eats found Home Cooking “humorous but melancholy. I kept thinking about Colwin’s sudden death at such a young age. Perhaps (not perhaps—most assuredly) it has something to do with an approaching birthday that inches me toward the age of forty-eight, the age of Colwin’s death.” Her husband’s travels had Debra eating alone and she took inspiration from Colwin’s Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant essay, saying, “When mom was visiting recently, she found a recipe in Sunset and said, “Let’s make this for breakfast!” She had found “Caprese Skillet Eggs” in the August edition. We made the recipe and had them for breakfast served on some toasted English muffins. Not only did it remind me of those long ago lost suppers with mom, but it was also very close to Colwin’s recipe for “Sauteed Vegetables and Poached Egg in One Pot.”
Rachel, The Crispy Cook and fellow CTB host has had Home Cooking in her library for years and says, “Colwin was just a bewitching writer; she was witty, self-deprecating, passionate about the things she loved, and her descriptions of dinner parties (even the ones that went awry) are mouthwatering” For her dish, this colorful Cold Zucchini Salad, she says, “My zucchini salad was inspired by an essay in Home Cooking, entitled Red Peppers. In it, Colwin describes a favorite dish from an East Side restaurant that she didn’t get to often enough. It involved layers of sauteed zucchini slices and pimento strips garnished with olive oil, fresh garlic and lemon juice, which sounds great too.”
Finally, At Kahakai Kitchen I was happy to share what has become a favorite in my foodie book collection. Colwin’s writing really speaks to me–it’s comforting and relaxing much like a big bowl of soup. So, I took my inspiration from Colwin’s soup essay and made an adaptation of her Wonderful Lentil Soup (the recipe itself is actually from her second book: More Home Cooking). Colwin said “It was not until I was a teenager that I tasted lentil soup which became my lifetime companion. There have been periods of my life when I have lived on lentil soup…,” and this simple classic version would be easy to live on. Perfect for a rainy day.
Thanks to everyone who joined in this round of Cook the Books. We will give our judge Caitlin some time to deliberate and I’ll be back soon with the announcement of our winner of the coveted CTB “winner’s badge.”. Then, I’ll turn things over to Jo for our next pick Heartburn by Nora Ephron.