Review: The Silver Palate Cookbook
Every weekend, I review a cookbook in an attempt to lend some guidance in a field that has become overrun. These days everyone is writing cookbooks and it is incredibly upsetting to buy a dud and have it sit on your shelf for years – staring at you, mocking your poor judgment.
Last weekend, I reviewed a really old book that my Dad recently sent me. While I didn’t want to do another book from the 1800s, I did want to write about another classic this weekend. I have a huge pile of new books to review, but I thought it would be nice to share with my readers one of my favorite cookbooks.
Even though it has been out for over 25 years, I just recently discovered “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. This is actually Betsy’s cookbook but I have gotten lots of good use out of it over the last year or so. Let’s dive in and see if it might be a good fit for your cookbook library.
The Silver Palate. In 1977, The Silver Palate opened its doors in New York courtesy of Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Their goal was to provide quality foods to the people of the city – people who were gaining an appreciation for quality food but also didn’t always have the time to make it. They wanted to provide people good food that was fast, but not fast food. As they say about their food:
“We cooked fresh every day, using the best ingredients available, and tried to create clear, full flavors. We aimed for food that was beautiful as well as delicious. We tasted while we cooked and, if we were in doubt, we revised and improvised.”
The end result is a store that provided made-from-scratch specialties and introduced people to all kinds of new foods and recipes.
Hosting a Party. I’m sure I’m not the only one who likes to go to a party and see plates of tiny appetizers being passed around. Even if there are just a few different options, it really adds to the atmosphere to have some simple and delicious finger foods. While I’ve never been to The Silver Palate, you can tell that this is one of their specialties.
The first 40 pages or so talk exclusively about appetizers and they really cover all the bases. From very simple ones with two or three ingredients, to directions on how to prepare the perfect cheese or charcuterie board, to some really dazzling creations.
The authors do a great job at explaining some dishes that some would see as difficult. Things like pates and gougere seem doable. The one recipe that I’ve had earmarked for a few months now is their recipe for Gravlax – Scandinavian cured salmon. It looks fairly simple and would make a killer centerpiece appetizer.
Chicken Every Way. I just thought this chapter name was too funny. Every way? That might be a bit ambitious given that the chapter is only 10 pages long. It might be a bit of a reach, but the recipes that they do give sound very tasty.
What I love about the chapter is that most of the recipes, save a few, are made for cooking an entire chicken. The recipes start with whole chickens and end with delicious meals. In today’s boneless, skinless breast world, it’s nice to read a bunch of recipes that use the whole chicken.
Meat, Fish, and Game. There are full chapters on each of these categories. The game chapter is not something that you see in most cookbooks. It includes wonderful recipes for rabbit and pheasant.
One thing that becomes apparent quickly for this cookbook, but is really clear in these chapters is that these dishes are not semi-homemade. These are real deal recipes. There is a recipe and instructions for roasting an entire suckling pig. Needless to say that is not something you see in a lot of cookbooks these days. If you don’t have the need to roast an entire pig though, there are a bunch of “normal” recipes for classics like beef carbonnade, oxtails, and a really intense chili recipe.
Picnic Fare. I would classify a lot of the recipes in this book as picnic fare. There is a really huge section devoted to salads and things that would pack well and be great while sitting out in the sun. In fact, I made their technicolor bean salad a few days ago and it was really delicious. I’ve bookmarked a few other salads that I intend to make for the upcoming summer including the Tarragon chicken salad, the Basque salad, and the Shrimp and Grape salad with dill.
Desserts and Baked Goods. I imagine that it would be near impossible to walk out of The Silver Palate without something baked. I’m talking pecan bars, butterballs, strawberry shortcake, blueberry lemon cake, and the list goes on and on. Most of the recipes seem very doable for the average at home chef.
There was one recipe that I have doubts I can reproduce and that is the puff pastry. I’m horrible at laminated doughs and even though they walk through the process, I’m not sure I have the willpower to try again (I’ve tried and failed 3 times so far this year). In general though, these chapters in the book are fantastic if you like sweets and all things baked.
This is one of those cookbooks that might not be perfect for the starting cook. Not to say that the recipes are all that difficult, but some of the ingredients used are unique and might turn off a first-timer in the kitchen. For me, this is one of those cookbooks that isn’t loud or in your face. There aren’t a lot of fancy photos or anything. But there are quality recipes that will make you very happy if you spend some time learning them.
The recipes in this book have been tested and tried hundreds of times and when I open its pages, I know I will find something delicious.