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Just Good Food

 

"Page Turners"

by John Ryan

 

Cookbooks from trendy restaurants are often the best page turners. I'm talking about recipes with ingredient lists such as:

4 fillets orange roughy
2 cups fish stock, (recipe on page 237)
1 cup herbed oven dried tomatoes (recipe on page 17)....

When I'm looking for something to make for dinner and I see that I need to make one or two recipes before I get started on the recipe that sounded good in the first place...I turn the page. But it isn't altogether the restaurant's or the author's fault. Actually, a number of everyday recipes would be amazing page turners if we actually wrote them down.

Take good turkey sandwiches:

Turkey Sandwiches
Serves 6

  • 1 recipe white peasant loaf (recipe on page 115)
  • 1/2 roasted turkey breast (recipe on page 312)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

If we weren't familiar with Thanksgiving and how that recipe could actually fall into place quite naturally, it would be a definite page turner. What's often needed with page turners is that sense of context, an understanding of how a dish can fall into place rather than be an ordeal. It harkens back to a different kind of cooking, one that seems to belong to times past when there was more time (was there ever?). But might be quite useful today.

When I was a kid, I remember that if my best friend's mother made a big pot of sauce on Saturday, a lasagna would turn up by Thursday or Friday. And if I was lucky, I got invited for dinner. If someone had asked for her lasagna recipe it would have been a real page turner. But here's the difference: Her tomato sauce recipe, which took the better part of a day to make, would make a gallon or so. But she'd use it in everything, soup, any number of pasta sauces, casseroles, even messy sandwiches. By contrast, in a modern, leave-no-leftovers recipe, you'd spend that time making exactly 3 cups of sauce. So if, on some cold winter day, you decided to make lasagna from scratch, you would face at least half a day's work before you could get started on the lasagna. At the end of this long day in the kitchen you would end up with just a lasagna. A splendid lasagna no doubt, but a lasagna nevertheless. On the other hand, if you did it her way, not only would lasagna be a matter of assembly, you'd have a delicious head start on several other meals.

 
Recipes
 

John Ryan

Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.

Just Good Food Archive

 

This page created 1997

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