by Kat Robinson
I gotta tell ya, I love cookbooks. Must have a couple hundred of them -- ranging from Apicius (ancient Rome) to Le Menagier de Paris (14th Century French) to Cake Doctor to The Joy of Cooking and about every little church and school cookbook I've been able to get my hands on. I've kept up with a battered dogeared copy of the early '80s St. Vincent Infirmary cookbook Cornerstone Cookery with care and respect, have two copies of the gigantic tome The Best Recipe (the original and the update that came out last year) and jealously guard my mostly complete Time Life collection of The Cuisine of... books. I keep close tabs on my signed copy of Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt and my autographed copy of Big Kevin, Little Kevin. I even have the Favre family cookbook and Penn & Teller's How to Play With Your Food and Dom DeLuise's Eat This, It'll Make You Feel Better.
But when it comes down to talking about cooking here in Arkansas, I've been hard pressed to point someone in the right direction, one commercially available book that contains not only Arkansas favorites but information about this city I grew up in. Something worthy of being a fantastic Christmas gift.
Guess what? I found it. More on the jump.
It's a pretty book, I'll grant you that, full of gorgeous food photos and a nice layout. I've been thumbing through it for the past three weeks, wondering what I'd attempt first. Cookbooks are like that to me. Some folks dream over catalogues for their favorite stores, others over full color ads of their next vacation spot. With me it's what'll I attempt in the kitchen.
Big Taste of Little Rock isn't the only cookbook the Junior League of Little Rock has put out. I enjoyed Little Rock Cooks and added it to my collection. But this one... well, it's not just a bunch of recipes. It focuses on the city, full of suggestions about places to visit and pieces of history and, of course, our food and how we choose to cook and enjoy it. I rather appreciated that bit.
Over the weekend I tried some of the recipes. The Mashed New Garlic Potatoes were to be expected, sure, but I made up the Candied Carrots and the Chipotle Sweet Potato Casserole as well. And I gotta tell ya, I was impressed. My daughter couldn't get enough of the carrots... she hollered for more, and I'm sure the hubster woulda as well if he knew I wouldn't have smacked him for yelling in the house.
It was the casserole, though, that really struck paydirt. Sweet yet with a nice firm zing of peppers, something I plan to add to holiday meals instead of my own somewhat tired recipe. Better than the cooked-in-butter-and-cinnamon-and-topped-with-marshmallow bit we're all used to. Hearty. I'm all over that.
Next in the cue for us, Roast Beef with Burgundy Mushroom Gravy. I have everything I need except the mushrooms (how'd I miss those?) so I'm heading to the store later. It's served over crusty French bread. Should be good!
If you're looking for a copy, you can head to the JLLR website, or you might drop by Eggshell Kitchen Company in the Heights. It's $29.95, which may seem like a bit more change than you expect, but seriously, check it out.