Welcome to this year's Piglet Community Picks! Until the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks kicks off in March, we'll be posting weekly reviews of the best new books you cooked from in 2018—written by you. To see other reviews, head here. And to catch up on the books that made it into the main tournament, look no further.
Jessica Battilana's cookbook, Repertoire, promises to be “all the recipes you need.” It's not focused on one particular cuisine, but is instead a vibrant quilt of favorite flavors across many styles and techniques. It's the cookbook version of your mom's well-worn, well-stained notebook that contains all her treasured recipes—the ones you grew up on.
There's a bit of this, a bit of that, but something for every occasion; the recipes themselves have been perfected and tweaked by years of cooking them again and again. They've been polished slowly over the years, notes scribbled in the margins, until each one glistens like a rare, perfect jewel. It is quite a precious collection.
The recipes in Repertoire may not be groundbreaking or trendy, but they work. They are trusty. The tone of the book makes you feel like you're standing in the kitchen of a kind aunt who reassures you with a cozy bowl of your favorite soup. It's a cookbook for when you need a hug.
Repertoire inspired me to spend the afternoon slowly simmering down a big pot of black beans. This is something I probably wouldn't have thought to do with my Saturday, had I not been working my way through this book, but the experience soothed me and fed my soul. The resulting beans were simple yet perfect, and turned into a series of versatile bowls of food that kept me fed for nearly a week. Because your kind aunt knows what you need, even when you don't.
The recipes in Repertoire make food feel approachable, like the Avocado and Citrus Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette. This dish seems almost unattainable–showstopping at first glance, yet Battilana's easy recipe walks you through it so casually, you are done before you even realize what's happened. You look down,and boom!, there's a stunning and elegant dish worthy of any dinner party. Because your kind aunt encourages and makes you feel good about yourself; and, as Battilana writes in the introduction, “a good recipe behaves.”
This same alchemy is present in the Red-Chile Braised Beef and the Cacio e Pepe. Both start with a modest list of ingredients (very modest in the case of the pasta), yet each ingredient is treated thoughtfully. The resulting dishes are perfectly flavored—somehow both cozy and comforting yet effortlessly sophisticated. Your aunt has a knack for making simple things feel luxurious.
Exploring this cookbook was exactly what I needed in the dead of winter. It was cozy, kind, comforting, and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I know I will turn to these recipes again and again. Because they are keepers. And ultimately, that's what the cookbook promises to deliver.
"Love Repertoire. Have made a half-dozen or so of the recipes, and I find myself returning to them again and again. Jessica Battilana's recipe for poaching a chicken for the meat and stock is delicious, easy, and one I’ve now made countless times." —Amanda Lawrence
"The cookbooks I'm loving lately are Melissa Clark's Dinner: Changing the Game and Jessica Battilana's Repertoire. They are so practical but inspirational, and both women are absolute experts in writing smart, reliable recipes that I know will work. The dishes are just the right balance of unfussy but flavorful—like a salad dressing that's kicked up more than your basic vinaigrette, or a roast chicken with a clever spice twist."—Posie Brien
Have you cooked from Repertoire? If so, let us know what you loved best about it in the comments!
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