Pros: Delicious recipes; good layout; wonderful snapshot of New England cookery
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review copy courtesy of The Countryman Press.
I was slightly surprised when I noted how thick Claire Hopley’s New England Cooking is. I grew up in New England, and somehow I hadn’t come away with the impression that there were that many regional recipes to delve into. Nor have I seen this many recipes in other books that concentrate on that region.
Ms. Hopley found so many recipes by stretching well past the obvious, stereotypical New England recipes such as clam chowder or apple pie with cheddar. She explores cookery from all corners of New England, both modern and historical. And in doing so, she put together a delicious trove of recipes that will keep you well-fed and happy!
The mushroom lasagna, for instance, is an unusual take on a hearty favorite. It’s clever and delicious, and quite easy to make. There are simple bean salads; cheddar and potato soup (“a tradition in Vermont”); notes on New England cheeses; Shaker recipes; cobblers of all types; the oh-so-necessary strawberry shortcake; plenty of seafood recipes for fish and shellfish alike; and more. Whether it’s a dish that uses a New England-favorite ingredient such as berries or cheddar, or a dish that’s been served in a New England state for years, you’ll probably find it in here somewhere. The fare is homey and comforting, yet creative and elegant. It combines the best of tradition and invention.
The layout is clear and easy to make sense of; recipe notes often include background tidbits relevant to New England. A mussel recipe explains how best to clean, debeard, cook, and even eat the recalcitrant shellfish. A section of photographs in the middle of the book gives you at least a basic idea of what some of these recipes look like, although of course more photos would have been nice.
I think only one of the dishes we made from here didn’t leave me raving, and well, it’s tough to make me rave about white-fleshed fish, so I don’t count that against the cookbook.
If you’re looking for a source of New England recipes, or just want a cookbook filled with homey-yet-elegant fare, this is a fine option.