Most helpful positive review
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Excellent, almost foolproof recipes
on November 4, 2012
OK, I have to admit, I found out the hard way these recipes aren't truly foolproof. But they are pretty close. In her friendly, warm style, Ina outlines a series of cocktails & appetizers, starters, main courses, and desserts. Her main goal is to present recipes that are easy to follow, well-explained, require only a modest amount of work and kitchen gear (no 4 pans, 2 sauce pots, and 3 different oven courses), and can often be partly or entirely made in advance. Ina also offers some very basic tips about scheduling a party (mainly give yourself enough time and include a starter so the night doesn't end too early) and about decorating (twelve presentation/table ideas). But its the recipes that shine through.
The candied bacon with pecans is a natural winner as an appetizer. So are the cheese batons (using puff pasty dough-this is the one I let burn the first time, my bad for losing track of time), corn chips (corn tortillas roasted with special seasoning), and almonds (with olive oil, salt, and time). There's also a cocktail recipe or two, but I'm not into cocktails (beer, wine, and scotch for me), so I can't judge those. The starters are a range of soups and salads that are simple enough to make yet complex enough to impress guests. The main courses run along the same lines. What stands out here are the amazing sauces. The basil mayo to go with the beef tenderloin (that she recommends be slow-cooked instead of the usual high-heat sear) is awesome. Ina is right in that a great sauce can make a dish, and she provides lots of sauces (her hollandaise is both simple and delicious). She also offers some interesting side dishes. Mashed sweet potatoes weren`t anything new (nor was the idea that a ton of butter makes them better), but the addition of a touch of orange juice to them was a great idea that I`m really keen to try out. Finishing up are some scrumptious desserts, my favorite of which is the maple pecan pie (made special with just a pinch of orange zest). In her effort to make these recipes foolproof Ina provides warning of tricky steps and/or events to watch out for in a particular recipe (such as when something needs to be added or heated/cooled). It works quite well.
So all in all this a great book for special, but not crazy, recipes. It`s perhaps not innovative enough for master chefs, or quite simple enough for beginners. But for competent cooks who are looking for something good enough to impress yet reliable enough to cook under the pressure of a dinner party, this is a great book. The pictures are gorgeous, the recipes are clear, and there are little tips and discussions throughout the book to add value (e.g, two pages on how/what to freeze, or a discussion of how to choose a good oven). Really, this book lives up to its title and delivers some very tasty recipes along with solid advice, making it a foolproof five star rating from me!