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Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

A little more than ten years ago The Food Network broke new ground with a channel devoted entirely to all things food. Subscribers got face-time with culinary icons like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. The repertoire quickly expanded to embrace equally talented folks like Sara Moulton, Bobby Flay and Mario Batali. Soon, Iron Chef chatter could be heard from the water cooler to the boardroom. Food was a spectator sport and chefs were celebrities. Of course, we are forever grateful to Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet, our pre-cable teachers, but The Food Network introduced food as lifestyle... and with a vengeance.

Eighty million households and one giant website later, The Food Network has turned out their first cookbook—The Food Network Kitchens Cookbook. And there's a nice surprise in that, this time, you'll be learning from the hardworking professionals behind the scenes—the talented Food Network cooks, chefs, tasters and stylists, and the many more food experts who work in the kitchens and studios with the on-air talent.

The food is called Modern American…"inspired by the techniques and flavors of world cuisines," and the authors promise that you'll be able to find the ingredients in your local market. The recipes are a compelling assortment of foods from breakfast through dessert—and everything in-between including a generous bakery sampler of muffins, biscuits and breads. Recipes are clearly detailed with plenty of cook's notes, shopping hints, style suggestions and mini-lessons on technique. Photographs are rich, plentiful and wisely utilized.

The first chapter, Morning Foods, should get everyone eating breakfast again, even if it's just a handful of Maple Granola-To-Go or a clever Breakfast Crostini of pumpernickel bread topped with mascarpone cheese and oven-dried plums. The chapter entitled Bites is by no means exhaustive, but includes enough to pull off a good party, from Shrimp Toast with Thai Basil, and Ginger and Cajun Chicken Lollipops, to Corn Fritters with Charred Tomato Salsa.

There's a respectable lineup of soups, salads and sandwiches contained in the like-named chapter including a rustic White Bean and Escarole Soup and an exotic Watermelon Curry with Grilled Shrimp (start thinking about summer now). The perennial comfort food gets a friendly makeover in Macaroni and Cheese with Red Peppers and Tomatoes, as do polenta and chilaquiles.

Every chapter includes some worldly choices, but even the most exotic dishes are restrained enough for tamer palates. For example, the Hoisin-Glazed Beef Tenderloin with Shiitake Mushrooms incorporates plenty of Chinese ingredients, but the dish will satisfy both the die-hard meat-eater and Chinese food fanatic.

Much is fairly quick and easy to make, even an elegant Braised Lamb Shanks with Herbs. Side dishes are fun, like they should be. Try Sicilian Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash, and Spicy Carrot Sambal, or how about Drunken Beans treated to Mexican lager. Desserts include a bunch of familiar favorites, from a revived Pineapple Upside-Down Cake to Snickerdoodles and a basic Flan.

The Food Network Kitchens Cookbook contains nearly 300 pages of recipes (including master recipes), instruction, notes and photos. It condenses the collective experience of a lot of hardworking talent. The result is worthwhile. The authors encourage you to get your book "butter-stained and dog-eared in your kitchen." I'm getting there quickly. There's a splash of hoisin sauce on page 161 and surely the Coconut-Ginger Layer Cake will leave a mark during its test-run tomorrow.

Reviewed by Kevin Schoeler


(Updated: 11/25/08 SB)

Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

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