Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cuisinarts & Cookbooks

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We spent ours with my in-laws, Dee and Jim. We don't get to see them very often, so it was very nice.

I am lucky to have a mother-in-law who loves to cook and entertain. It is her passion.

At 83, she is still cooking up a storm. She starts planning meals months ahead of time. And she thoroughly enjoys recipes and cookbooks. You should see how many recipes she has collected.

This is a lamb shank recipe that she highly recommends. It's Tom Valenti's, a well-known NYC chef, and probably his most famous recipe. So, I thought I'd try it and post it someday.

Some things she does I find fascinating. Even though we were going to their country club for Thanksgiving, she still made a "pre"-Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey with all the fixings -- the whole smear -- just so they could have leftovers for sandwiches! It was just the four of us and we were supposed to be taking it easy because my father-in-law is recuperating from hip replacement surgery. But I think she loves cooking so much, she can't help herself.

Earlier this year, when we saw them at their summer place on the St. Lawrence, she was, as usual, cooking like crazy. When I got my camera out, she was making rack of lamb, using one of Ina Garten's cookbooks. Again, just for the four of us.

She learned to cook seriously when French cuisine was the rage (think Julia Child). But she gives lots of credit to the Joy of Cooking as the resource for how she learned the most as a young, inexperienced cook. She experimented on her children while Tom's father traveled. As a result, Tom loves to eat and cook, too.

For her, a Cuisinart is a must. She has not one, but two, Cuisinarts at their summer cottage!

When our kids ---her grandkids --- moved into their first homes, she immediately bought them Cuisinarts. I doubt they have yet to be used. Well, maybe I do recall one being used for an experiment in making baby food from scratch. Nonetheless, Dee doesn't need to know.

One of the best things I learned from her is to treat cookbooks as journals. She makes notations in the cookbook when she uses it. What works, what doesn't. Substitutions she makes, and ideas for the future. So, I started doing it, too.

I write all over my cookbooks now. My mother-in-law often lists the pages of her favorite recipes in a cookbook on the front insert so she can find them quickly. (I am pretty organized, but not that organized.)

What I do differently is to write down the date and why we made it. It is fun to see when and why we started using a recipe. And what we thought of it.

So, one of the things I am thankful for this year, is that my mother-in-law is such a good cook. I always enjoy her food. And I love collecting new recipes from her and hearing about her cooking adventures.

Thanks, Dee!

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