Sunset, "Easy Basics for Good Cooking"

Over the holidays, a friend of mine who was decluttering her cookbook bookshelf gave me her copy of Sunset Books' Easy Basics for Good Cooking.  First published in 1982, this book is reasonably timeless in that it focuses on (as you might expect) kitchen basics for beginning cooks.  

The first thing I noticed about the book was its spiral binding.  I love a cookbook with a good spiral binding!  How frustrating to have to constantly prop the pages of a cookbook open with whatever canned goods one has at hand.  (I understand that a lot of people solve this problem with a cookbook holder, but I hold to Alton Brown's mantra which warns against the purchase of single purpose kitchen gadgets.  And I don't know what else you would do with a cookbook holder when you aren't using it to hold open a cookbook!  Much less where to store it in my tiny galley kitchen.)

The next thing I noticed was that the table of contents lists not only the chapters, but also Special Cooking Tips and Charts.  The Charts is particularly handy for reference, because it lists the page numbers for "Emergency substitutions," "Meat roasting & temperature times," and "Preparing & cooking vegetables."  This is definitely the kind of information that it's good to have handy, to keep you from having to bookmark it up.  The Special Cooking tips is likewise handy, because I can foresee circumstances where you would want to simply look up a list of soup garnishes or instructions on how to make flavored butters, without wanting to flip through the whole book looking for it.

The distribution of recipes is fairly good, covering most of the basics, and a few more advanced things besides.  I was impressed that it included a whole section on soufflés in the Eggs & Cheese chapter.  In fact, if I had anything that would serve as a soufflé dish, I would have tried my hand at a soufflé this weekend.  (Do I want to buy a soufflé dish?  Would I use it for anything else?  See above comment re: Alton Brown's kitchen gadget advice.  Jury's still out on this one.)

If I have any complaint about Easy Basics for Good Cooking, it's that the Desserts chapter is a little lacking.  It devotes about two pages to the topic of making cream puffs and éclairs, including how to make the cream filling, and how to mix the choux paste used to bake the puffs themselves.  Who seriously needs to know that?  I'm intrigued, I must admit, but I would hardly call this topic an Easy Basic.  (Are cream puffs a uniquely 80s thing?  Because I remember them being in my vintage 80s copy of the Silver Palate cookbook as well.)  A chapter on desserts that spends all that time talking about choux but fails to include a simple recipe for brownies is just puzzling, if you ask me.

I have bookmarked several recipes from each chapter to try.  This weekend I tried my hands at poached eggs for the first time, which I thought was pretty exciting!  One of my goals this year is to broaden my cooking horizons, and Sunset's Easy Basics for Good Cooking is a great place to start.

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