Home Cooked: Essential Recipes for a New Way to Cook
Author: Anya Fernald
Published: June 2016 | Ten Speed Press
Length: 295 pages
Home Cooked is less a collection of recipes—though it has plenty—as a methodology cookbook. If you are familiar with Slow Food and sustainable meat, you will already have a sense for Fernald’s direction as she has been intimately involved with both of these movements. Slow Food values include eating seasonal and local, and paying attention to quality such as foods grown organically and animals that are free-range and grass-fed.
What this looks like in Home Cooked is abundant flavor out of your kitchen based on just a few quality ingredients that are balanced well, so that each item can put its best foot forward. Fernald starts with base recipes such as stock, canned tomatoes, sofritto, lard, and cheeses. These foundational elements are great because you can make a big batch, store it, and forgo things like chopping onions on a meal to meal basis. Meals can now come together quickly, even though everything is completely from scratch. Each base comes with a list of recipes they will be used in throughout the book. Fernald then applies these flavor bursts to the book’s sections: snacks, vegetables, pastas, eggs, and risotto, fish and meats, and desserts. The result is simple recipes that provide a wealth of taste.
This book stands out to me in two ways. There is no limit to what “home made” means. She has recipes for butter and buttermilk, pasta dough, encasing your own sausage, sour krout, you name it. You can get as down and gritty as you feel so inclined. It is entirely satisfying to take a piece of meat and use every single ounce of it: innards, bones, fat, and flesh.
Secondly, the collection of meat types discussed is comprehensive. I don’t possess another resource that elaborates on preparing anything from quail, rabbit, or squid to an entire range of beef cuts, making the most of the less expensive ones. More examples are paté, tongue, duck, and squab. Fernald guides you in braising, making confits, and spatchcocking. I almost feel like a farm girl in training! Though she often recommends grilling, every recipe can be completed with a typical stove top and oven.
This book covers so many bases that it cannot be a replacement for a whole book on canning, for instance, or a book on cheese-making. Home cooked focuses on demonstrating cooking techniques, and how tastefully chosen ingredients work together. My taste buds may not approve the whole extent of variety she presents (sardines or beef hearts—no thank you), but there are plenty of unique picks that really stand out as winners, such as pickled grapes, and the best seared mushrooms ever to cross my palate. This book has greatly increased my confidence and versatility as a cook already, without stretching my budget.
Review copy courtesy of Penguin/Random House