Pros: Great flavors; lots of recipes; a range of stuff from easy to elaborate
Cons: Recipes somewhat crammed in; weird organizational scheme makes recipes tough to find
Rating: 4 out of 5
First published 4/3/2003
The Recipes in “The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook,” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, are geared toward elegant entertaining. If you want to impress your friends with dinner, you’ll certainly find what you’re looking for in here! The authors have catered and planned almost every kind of party imaginable, and all of the recipes in this book have been tested by their staff and enjoyed by their clients.
The Range of Recipes
This is a large cookbook, with one to two recipes per page on average, throughout more than 400 pages. Not many pages are taken up by non-recipe filler–you won’t find color photos or lengthy descriptions of travels in here. You will, however, find little quotes and nuggets of advice on the inside margins next to the recipes, and whimsical drawings here and there.
The recipes are definitely skewed toward the elegant end of the spectrum: rosy seafood sausage, jumbo shrimp in herbed oil, rhubarb sorbet, and chevre and phyllo kisses are just a few of the things you’ll find in here. Unlike some cookbooks, however, this doesn’t mean that all recipes are difficult and elaborate. The chevre and phyllo kisses, for example, require just 4 ingredients, and the entire recipe takes up just half of a page–five short steps. You can certainly find elaborate recipes in here if you try (apricot and almond wedding cake!), but you aren’t limited by them. You should expect to need some expensive ingredients in here, though–the chicken saffron soup uses an entire teaspoon of saffron threads.
We’ve yet to find a single recipe in here that comes out anything less than wonderful. There’s a banana bourbon cake with bourbon creme anglaise that’s so dense that it really will make 12 servings, just as the recipe says–even when you’re serving it to dessert fiends! (And even my husband and I, who aren’t fond of alcohol, find it mellow enough to enjoy.) There’s a chicken and saffron soup that has a delightful–and delightfully difficult to describe–flavor to it. And that’s just the beginning!
Layout and Organization
The recipes do feel a bit crammed together on the pages, although they’re still clear and easy to read. The organizational scheme makes sense for the authors, and for someone who specifically intends to use this cookbook to organize traditional parties around relatively standard holidays. But it isn’t of much use to anyone who’s trying to put together their own menu for a party. It’s organized entirely by occasion and season:
- Part I is “The Splurge of Spring,” and has such sections as “Rainy Days and Sundays,” “Easter,” “Tea for Two,” and “Derby Weekend.”
- Part II is “Easy Living…” and includes “Porch Brunches,” “Fireworks on the Fourth,” “Gone Fishing,” “Ice Cream Socials,” and “Grill Crazy.”
- Part III is “Autumn Hues,” and includes “Opening Night Openers,” “The Autumn Hunt,” “America Gives Thanks,” and “Americans in Paris.”
- Part IV is “Winter Wonderland.” Here you’ll find such occasions as “The Dinner Party” (with three sub-sections: “Dinner at Eight,” “Dressed to the Nines,” and “Silver Bells”), “Christmas Eve,” “Christmas Morning Breakfast,” “Ski Weekends,” and “Valentine’s Day.”
This makes it a bit difficult to just page around and find what you’re looking for. This isn’t a big deal in a small cookbook, but in one this size it can get a little annoying.
Most of the occasions include multiple menus and a goodly handful of recipes; Easter provides three menus and 11 recipes: poached leeks with pink peppercorn mayonnaise; vichyssoise; roast leg of lamb; baked country ham; rabbit with pine nuts and currants; carrot and peanut puree; sorrel flan; pineapple bake; lemon rice; goat-cheese popovers; Easter cheesecake. Note that not all of the ingredients are readily available; you might have trouble finding rabbit or sorrel in some places, for example.
Still, despite the minor organizational annoyances, the recipes are delicious, easy to understand, and properly kitchen-tested (we’ve yet to find any confusions or mistakes). This isn’t a cookbook that you’ll use often for everyday meals, but it’s fantastic for occasions when you’re having guests over and you want to put on a bit of a show.