As all my fellow food bloggers, I have a passion for cookbooks: as hard as I try to promise myself that THIS book is the last one (... at least for a few months) I inevitably end up with a new addition to my collection sooner than I can say mise en place. You can imagine that when Cathy of A Blithe Palate asked me if I was interested in Getting a copy of Mitchell Davis' new cookbook, Kitchen Sense, to test I simply could not resist.
Now, I must admit that I am most definitely not a huge fan of plain cookbooks. I do use them, to great extent sometimes, but they're not exactly what I would read from cover to cover. Like wise, I must admit I had little idea of who Mitchell Davis is, of his role in the James Beard Foundation and of his previous books, The Mensch Chef and Cook Something.
And still, once the book arrived, I found myself reading through it (almost) from cover to cover captured by the clear and concise recipe descriptions, the short introductions to each and the very welcome tips for variations and leftovers. I cannot even complain too much about the Italian recipes, one of my favourite hobbies. Apart one or two details and a semantic disagreement, these keep the original spirit if not always the original ingredients. Nonetheless, this makes the recipe more feasible for the US public the book is aimed at.
If I really had to look for something to criticise I would mention the fact that the book's difficulty slope might be a bit too steep for real cooking beginners. Otherwise there is plenty for anyone else, from cooks wanting to improve their skills and recipe collection to experts who are looking for new versions of old time favourites.
Kitchen Sense has definitely an American metropolitan sense to itself, with its mix of "ethnic" recipes and American classics. As a European I was actually more interested in the latter, especially those dishes hailing from the cuisine of the South. I had been reading about some of these for years now, so it was time to have a go myself. After a tempting recipe seeking session, I decided for Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy. If I had to pick a classic, this seemed like the perfect choice.
Would the easy to follow recipes on paper translate into easy to prepare ones? One recipe is maybe not enough to be 100% sure, but the verdict is definitely a positive one. The biscuits and gravy recipes turned out just fine, and only needed a little tweaking in the buttermilk amount (which might have to do with the flour here, since it is not the first time I notice this with American recipes). Served with a little mixed greens, the bisciuts got enthusiastic comments between bites. I don't know how a real Southerner would have judged them, apart probably mentioning that my gravy is too thick (my fault there), but to a first timer like me Davis' recipe and tips were all I needed. Isn't that exactly what such a cookbook should be about?