Review: The Cook's Canon

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The Cook's Canon: 101 Classic Recipes Everyone Should Know
By Raymond Sokolov
ISBN: 0060083905
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 2003
Format: Hardcover
List price: $25.95 (Canada, UK)
Type:  Comprehensive
Sample recipe: Maiale in Latte (Italian Pork Roast in Milk)
intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive Biblical stature coffee-table
competition: outclassed also-ran midrange strong challenger leads the pack
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 >300
practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% >80%
# of ingredients: <3 <6 <9 <12 >12
ingredient hunt: 7-11 pantry supermarket online airfare required
recipe complexity: baby steps simple medium intense professional
instructions: inadequate bare bones full figured educational verbose
time conscious: outright lies speed of light fairly quick takes time takes all day
photos/drawings: skimpy adequate decorative instructive glorious
recipe results: dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
flavor quotient: disappointing fair good delicious exceptional
layout: ick cluttered clean kind to cooks work of art
legibility: microscopic challenging adequate clear brilliant
production quality: cheesy questionable years of service gift-quality stunning
value: ouch! a little pricey on the money excellent worth splurging
Ease of Use
page numbers: invisible hard to find spotty adequate obvious
table of contents: missing frustrating passable useful helpful
index quality: none tragic adequate good excellent
page flipping: infuriating tedious acceptable rare never
writer: hack cook turned writer writer turned cook comedian auteur
cook: self-taught non-restaurant chef teacher celebrity
overall rating: fair good above average excellent Ochef Top 100
Comments: If the folks at Ochef were to choose the 101 recipes they thought everyone should know, we doubt there'd be more than 15 to 20 percent overlap with the 101 recipes Raymond Sokolov has chosen. But we're also not sure we have the guts to narrow the world's recipes down to a mere hundred. So Sokolov beats us there.

The recipes are primarily French, with a fair mix of Italian, Mexican, and American, and with nods toward North Africa and Asia. Sokolov says each of the recipes is not only delicious, but also influential and famous — often standing for a country's national cuisine, as in the case of paella for Spain and osso buco for Italy. Other recipes represent whole categories of food, he says, such as cannelloni for pasta and blanquette de veau for stews.

Omelet, pizza, fudge, doughnuts, mashed potatoes, apple pie, macaroni and cheese, chocolate pudding, meatloaf, chicken soup, and southern fried chicken fill out the comfort-food component, while crayfish bisque, pork vindaloo, duck à l'Orange, homard à l'Américaine, lamb biryani, shrimp, crab and okra gumbo, Szechwan dry-fried beef, truite au bleu, a whole suckling pig, and a number of other recipes will certainly broaden most people's horizons, if not their cooking repertoire

We liked the Maiale in Latte (Italian Roast Pork in Milk — the world's least kosher recipe) so much, we thought that alone was worth the price of the book. So for our money, the other 100 recipes in the canon are all gravy.