Review: The Working Stiff Cookbook
Every other 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.
I was looking for a book to review this week and noticed a small book tucked away on the shelf with all my other cookbooks. I think it’s Betsy’s because I don’t remember ever getting it. The book was “The Working Stiff Cookbook” by Bob Sloan. It got my attention because, well, I’m a working stiff and I like to cook! The perfect book for me right? Let’s find out.
Hi, Honey. I’m home!
Let’s face it. People work hard these days. While it used to be that most families were single income, I think it’s much more common these days to have dual income families where both people work. That, of course, means less time for other things like cooking.
As the author says, this book isn’t something that is intended for leisure reading. He doesn’t go into detail on aromas and smells or tell stories of “Venetian trattorias.” You don’t have time for that!
“I present easy recipes that make allowances for a hectic schedule and will result in satisfying and great-tasting meals for you, your family, and your friends.”
Sounds good to me.
The Basic Basics
Before the recipes, the author spends some pages going over some kitchen hurdles that sometimes stop people from getting in the kitchen. Actually, this is one of the more succinct explanations of basic kitchen tools that I’ve read. He starts by emphasizing the importance of a well-stocked pantry. By keeping some things in stock, you won’t have to spend so much time shopping. I’m not sure that I agree with all the ingredients that the author considers vital (Pickapeppa sauce?). I would probably add a few things also, but I like to have a really well stocked pantry.
He also spends a few pages addressing basic equipment needs and handles some starter questions like how much oil to use in a pan and what the heck does it mean when a recipe says “salt to taste”? For a beginner cook with not a lot of time, this is actually a great summary of equipment, recipe planning, and cooking tips.
The first section of recipes is all about the quickest meals. I don’t know that any of them are “instant” exactly, but all of them take probably under 30 minutes start to finish. That’s not to bad few a full dinner. There is a fair amount of seafood in this chapter which lends itself perfectly to quick cooking.
Once I started getting into the recipes, I realized that there are some dishes that I wasn’t expecting at all. I wasn’t expecting a swordfish dish or a Thai style flounder both of which sound fast and tasty.
I don’t know if I agree with everything in this chapter though. One of the sides that he presents is herb-roasted new potatoes. It’s my experience that these take 45-60 minutes to cook these guys so I don’t know if I would include them in the “instant” section. Maybe some quick green beans or asparagus would have been a better bet.
In general though, most these recipes look great.
This is maybe not the best title for this chapter. It isn’t really about dishes that you can make in one pot. Instead it’s about meals that have very little prep work, but take a bit longer to cook. That means you can get the dish cooking, do some other stuff, and come back to dinner.
I love the stuffed flank steak recipe that the author presents because you could make it the night before or in the morning and then just cook it when you walk in the door. The most interesting dish for me was the “steak in a brown paper bag.” Yes. You read that right. Oven roasted steak in a paper bag.
Pastas are the signature quick and simple dish. When I don’t have a lot of time, I pretty much always default to pasta. The author does a great job of presenting recipes in this chapter that can be ready exactly in the time it takes to cook the pasta which he estimates at 32 minutes. Not really sure how he got that, but I’ll allow it I guess. The one exception to this is the Baked Penne dish, but that’s worth it because baked pasta is delicious.
After the pastas chapter there is a final chapter based around quick soups, salads and sandwiches. A lot of this stuff could be a good dinner or a really good lunch while you’re working!
Are you a working stiff?
This book really exceeded my expectations. At about 140 pages, it’s a really quick read but is filled with a surprising amount of recipes. This book may not be worth it if you are a decent cook who already takes the time to cook regularly. That said, I think this would be a great book for someone who wants to start cooking but doesn’t have a lot of time.
It would also be a perfect gift for a recent grad who is just entering the work force.