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A Cookbook Full of Recipes Within Recipes Can Be the Greatest of Them All

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I wrote a really crazy cookbook with lots of sub-recipes. It can be confusing at times, and since the notion of recipes within recipes can be a contentious one at times, Food52 has asked me to express my feelings on the subject. Nobody ever asks me to express my feelings about feminism (I think it’s great!) or the environment (I think we should keep it!), so we will just have to settle for my feelings about cookbooks.

Piglet Day 2: Julie Klam and a Rant on Recipes within Recipes
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Piglet Day 2: Julie Klam and a Rant on Recipes within Recipes

And I love cookbooks that have recipes within recipes! You know, the ones that call for another recipe in the same book as an ingredient in the recipe that you’re working on. Yes, if you’re trying to make the complete recipe, it can lead to the stress of having to run out and buy more ingredients that weren’t obviously stated in the initial recipe, and I can see why that could be annoying. My cookbook is quite frankly silly with them: Some recipes call for three or four other recipes and it can just get so complicated! But I think that a book full of sub-recipes can actually be the greatest cookbook of them all!

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I have always loved cookbooks and as a professional cook of the last 15 or so years, I have spent many hours obsessing about recipes in all kinds of cookbooks. And it has literally never bothered me when there is a recipe within a recipe, but that said, I have never actually attempted to make anything from the really complicated French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller or my personal favorite, A Return To Cooking by Eric Ripert.

That’s because I was just looking for inspiration and would simply read the recipes and then make my own versions of them. But it turns out that 15 or so years later, I’m sick of everything I eat tasting like I made it, so I’ve recently started using recipes from cookbooks to the letter and the results have been so incredibly exciting. It’s as if somebody else is cooking with me. Sometimes I am shocked by how foreign familiar ingredients can taste when they’re not cooked the way I’m used to.

Alex Stupak Told Me to Make My Own Tortillas, So I Did

Alex Stupak Told Me to Make My Own Tortillas, So I Did by Sarah Jampel

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Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, Signed Copy

Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, Signed Copy

$35

The point is that despite my newfound love of actually cooking recipes from cookbooks, it’s pretty rare that I actually cook an entire dish from a book. I’m still usually using components of recipes to augment things that I already have in my refrigerator. And that’s why, if Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman’s amazing book Tacos had been full of start to finish recipes for tacos, each with their own tortillas, proteins, salsas, and garnishes, I probably wouldn’t have used their salsa macha recipe to augment my leftovers recently. And that would be such a ridiculous bummer because I have never had anything that tasted like it ever and it changed my life a little.

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And if Michael Solomonov’s recipe for cooked carrots in Zahav had been buried in a 12-hour braised lamb recipe, my wife’s Uncle Larry and I may not have experienced the joy of that simple garnish after getting drunk and roasting a chicken.

A Super Neurotic, Juicy Cookbook (Mostly About Sandwiches)
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A Super Neurotic, Juicy Cookbook (Mostly About Sandwiches)

My point is that sometimes, or maybe always in my case, I would prefer not to dig through a book of recipes and their lists of ingredients just to figure out how to make one component of one dish and that’s why in my book I separated them out! I have a better chance of discovering a recipe I will love if they're seeded in other recipes.

If you hate it, there is literally nothing that I can do about it now because they already printed the books! I guess that if you’re really upset about it, you and your friends could buy all of the existing copies of it so that we’ll have to do a new printing of the book and in the second edition, aside from being able to print “New York Times Bestseller” on the cover (and seriously, thank you in advance for that, even if your motives were less than supportive), I can smash all of the recipes together. In fact, I take it all back, I hate recipes within recipes! Help me fix this! Hate-buy all of my stupid books and we will start a new paradigm of cookbooks with all-inclusive recipes!

Tell us: Are you going to hate-buy or love-buy Tyler's cookbook?