I am happy to have both Canal House Cooking and The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook on my shelf. I very much responded to the notebook-esque feeling of Canal House Cooking. The way it’s bound makes it feel approachable and doable, like you’re following a favorite girlfriend’s home-assembled book. I like the breeziness of the photos and the stories about the contributors’ food backgrounds. For example, I loved learning from the former Saveur editor about not putting fried food on a paper towel to keep the bottom crisp. The recipes worked really well and were straight-forward. I adored the anchovy breadcrumb stuffing in the baked tomatoes — I would use that on anything. Next time I think I will slow-roast the tomatoes first before stuffing them, that’s the only adjustment I’d make. I adored the Summer Tomato Pasta, the perfect August meal. Finishing cooking the pasta in the sauce did wonders for condensing the flavors. Desserts are not my forte, but the Plum Crostata was easy to make and truly delicious.
I admired the point of view of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. I like how one can feel the work ethic and commitment of the threesome that started the bakery/restaurant and have brought in amazing and quirky local artisans to round out their family. The Lime Tart, albeit delicious, was more complicated than I like and required a lot of cleanup. The Ginger Ice Cream was totally sublime and is now in my summer kitchen repertoire. It was especially good sandwiched between molasses cookies. The Sweet Potato and Yam Pie had all the flavor and comfort of home, but used a lot more cream, egg yolks and cheddar than I’m used to.
I am loathe to choose one book over the other, however my selection is Canal House Cooking. While I genuinely responded to and appreciated the sense of community and slow food ethos that I felt from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, I am more drawn to return back to Canal House Cooking.