Too Many Cookbooks

After more than five months, we finally have the cookbooks unpacked and shelved. There are possibly more in the garage of doom, but as of today, we own 413 cookbooks. (Thanks, Librarything for the counting!) A few dozen of those are on Kindle only. Still, that’s a lotta cookbooks.

The cookbook library nook. We decided to put the books up now before we remodeled the room. Who knows when we'll get rid of the hideous wallpaper and parquet floor?

It was great fun to unpack the books and put them on new, uncrowded shelves. Inevitably as we sorted and shelved, there was much reading aloud. There were old, much-used favorites, yet many, many books we’d never cooked out of. It seemed sort of ridiculous that there was so much knowledge at our fingertips, yet we were not utilizing it. After about a hundred cries of “we should make this,” I said, “Hey, let’s cook something out of every book!”

So we’re going to! We flipped a coin and we’re going to go backwards alphabetically through general cookbooks, then hit baking, vegetarian and international, then historical cooking and anything in food writing that’s applicable. (Oh, and there are about three dozen cocktail books in the bar closet! Should we do those, too?) The recipe from any given book can’t be one we’ve made before, and it needs to be typical of the book. For example, in a book about (foreshadowing!) salads, we can’t just make an accompanying bread or soup. It’s gotta be salad.

Well, no time like the present! The first (last) book in the collection is The Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout. I’ve never actually read any Nero Wolfe, but after exploring this delightful book, I’m keen to get the fiction unpacked. It was very challenging to find a doable recipe in this book, due to the extravagant nature of the recipes. We’re doing Weight Watchers right now and can no longer throw cheese and butter around like drunken sailors. But one recipe leapt right out – Lamb Chops with Walnuts.

This was an extremely simple recipe with ingredients that I would never have thought to put together. It’s chopped green bell peppers, shallots, black walnuts, and lamb chops. Strange, but it works. You cook up the chops in sweet, forbidden butter and set them aside, then sauté the peppers and shallot in the lamby buttery drippings, then add the weird, tannic black walnuts and cook a little longer. Then plate up the chops (I roasted a few small local potatoes to go with) and top them with the pepper/walnut mess. Deglaze the pan with white wine, then pour the lamby winey goodness over the chops and then HAVE AT IT.

It was SO good. The local lamb Nathan got from Pinkham’s was very, very lamby. It beautifully complemented the assertive, tannic peppers and black walnuts. And of course, the fluffy young potatoes were perfect for mopping up the butter and wine sauce. With it we drank a Wente Monterey County (Arroyo Seco) pinot noir, which was just right. It was very rich and full-bodied for a pinot, and stood up to the gamey lamb and the strong nuts and vegetables like a champ. A lighter, more floral pinot would have disappeared.

So that’s recipe #1 out of at least 413. Who knows how long this will take, or if we will finish, and how many more cookbooks we’ll acquire in the meantime. We’re still working on cooking through the genius The Cooking of Southwest France  by our dear acquaintance Paula Wolfert, (See how I name-dropped there? YEAH, Paula knows who I am! Don’t you wish you were me?) and we’ve also got this enormous 215 year-old house to finish restoring, and places to go, and people to meet, but you know us – we’re always up for a challenge.

Up next: Patricia Wells’ Salad as a Meal. Oh boy, salads in pre-winter rural Coastal Maine. This is going to be interesting.