As in many things in life, taking the first step to start the challenge was the hardest part. I felt like making a decision to choose a cookbook, open it, and decide on a recipe to try was a chore. Part of it is because I’m driven by visuals. I fully recognize that most of the cookbooks that I don’t frequently use have more text than pictures, and it doesn’t help that I subscribe to a gazillion food blogs that have mouthwatering pictures. Or maybe I’m just indecisive and lazy. No matter! It was hard and grueling but I prevailed!
First out of the gate: German potato salad from The Jackson Cookbook compiled by Symphony League of Jackson, Mississippi and chicken thighs with saffron, green olives and mint from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali. The end game was delicious, but the journey was basically a series of mishaps with a happy ending.
The Jackson Cookbook is a compilation of recipes by home cooks from Jackson, Mississippi. I’m sure these recipes are tried and true and most likely have been passed on for generations. So when it comes to how-to descriptions, it’s a little bit lacking for someone like me who need explicit directions. Not kidding, I used to be like I can’t make this recipe because I don’t have any parsley and it says sprinkle parsley on top. I’m a little bit more savvy in figuring things out these days, but I still like the comfort of precise and informative directions when possible. The German potato salad recipe assumed that the cook knew some basic things like, say how to boil potatoes. Or better yet, that the cook knew that when you say cook potatoes for a potato salad, obviously that meant boiling. Not this cook. I mean, you could bake a potato in the oven or even microwave. Anyway! I figured out that it wanted me to boil the potatoes. So I did. Whole. I mean, it didn’t say anything about cutting them so I assume it wants me to put the potatoes in whole. Well, the result was some of it was super mushy and some of it was just right. And then I made the dressing which required me to cook a bunch of bacon, add vinegar and sugar and other stuff to the bacon grease and then mix with the potatoes to serve warm. Cooking the dressing made the house smell very strongly of bacon and vinegar and the mix was not very pleasant. I was convinced that the taste was going to be awful based on the smell, but to my surprise it was not. Far from it. Sure, I had more of a mashed potato salad in the end but at least it was edible.
Initially I paired the potato salad with a veal dish from Molto Italiano, but for some reason when I went shopping for it my brain kept on shouting lamb. So I got some lamb, which was wrong, attempted a different recipe from a different book which did not turn out right because I waited too long and the lamb was not very fresh anymore and I didn’t have all the right seasonings. I finally dragged myself to chose another recipe and voila! Chicken thighs yumminess happened. But I forgot the mint *facepalm*. Result was delicious regardless, so yay success. This is a recipe that just gets better with time. I really really loved it and will definitely be making this again.
I’d love to explore these two books more so I’m definitely keeping them. 2 down, 84 to go.