Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cookbook Review: Cheap.Fast.Good! by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross

The Desperation Dinner Duo, Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, earned my respect with their earlier books, Desperation Dinners! and Desperation Entertaining! In fact, I checked them out from the library so many times that I finally purchased them for my very own. Their newest book, Cheap. Fast. Good! is another winner.

A large book of over 475 pages, the title is a pretty accurate representation of its contents.
  • Cheap: The authors contend that "saving money in the kitchen is as simple as one four-letter word: Cook." The amount of money slashed from the food bill directly correlates with the willingness to increase time in the kitchen. There is room for personal discretion and variation here, depending on how much time you want to invest and how much convenience you are willing to sacrifice. What is it that keeps you out of the kitchen? Is it fatigue, poor planning, disorganization, or fear of failure? All of these issues are addressed.
  • Fast: Obviously, if I am going to skin and bone a chicken, that meal does not qualify as fast food. But every available hint for streamlining the process has been provided.
  • Good: No one wants to invest precious time on a meal that is not satisfying. The recipes here are everyday "good" rather than gourmet. Chapters include soups, everyday entrees, skillet meals, pastas, sandwiches, salads, sides, batch cooking, sauces, breakfasts, and desserts.
More than a cookbook, this is a great little home economics course. Is it worthwhile to use coupons? How do you carve a whole roasted chicken? What kitchen gadgets should I invest in? Should I buy a freezer? These questions and many more are addressed with wisdom. These ladies have done their homework (literally!)

I am pretty comfortable in the kitchen, having spent much time there in college (dietetics), in managing a nursing home kitchen, and in serving my own family. But I like to sharpen my skills and learn new things. And I have learned a couple of very useful, new things from this book.

First, baked potatoes. What new thing could be learned about something this basic? Just wash, prick, and bake for an hour at 350 degrees, right? Right, if you want an average potato.

But if you would like a higher quality baked potato, one that has a crispy skin and a moist, fluffy interior, use the high-heat method. Bake the potatoes directly on the oven rack at 475 degrees for an hour. Bake extras to use later for twice baked or chili in spud bowls. Great tip, painlessly executed!

The other new thing I have learned is to roast whole chickens. By standing them upright (I use a bundt pan instead of the beer can the authors suggest), the poultry receives even heat from all sides. I have always used chicken pieces because I disliked the chore of carving the finished product. But I've overcome that little obstacle, too, by following the step-by-step instructions in the book and by using kitchen shears.

The cold winter months are especially suited to the art of cooking. I have enjoyed the spark of inspiration that Cheap. Fast. Good! has provided and recommend it if you are also endeavoring to make your time in the kitchen both economical and satisfying.


1 comment:

Terri said...

Thank you for the recommendation. This book sounds like exactly what I need!