The 2008 Olympics have come to an end, but in honor of the events of the past couple of weeks, I couldn’t resist getting in a little tribute by highlighting a cookbook with a bit of global flair. The Best International Recipe is one of the newest cookbooks put out by the Cook’s Illustrated team that, instead of concentrating on recipes that are already close to home, aims to find the best way (in terms of flavor and preparation) to make recipes from further afield in your own kitchen.
The cookbook is divided up into chapters based on region, obviously influenced a bit by how well known/popular the cuisines in question are. For instance, Mexico, Italy and France have their own chapters, while Africa and the Middle East are lumped together, as are Latin American and the Caribbean. That said, there is still a very good selection of recipes to choose from. CI chose recipes that are famous/well-known from each cuisine to work with and this type of recipe makes up the bulk of the cookbook. This means that the book gives an excellent overview of some of the world’s best known dishes and will probably be able to provide you with a recipe for that one favorite dish you always wanted to learn to make, but it will not give you the same kind of in depth look that a country/region-specific book can. The recipes vary widely in difficulty, from quick-fix salsas to long marinating and slow cooking roasts. The instructions are well written and the signature descriptions of the recipe development process that serve as introductions to each recipe will give you a clear picture of how to prepare every recipe.
By now, you shouldn’t really expect to find tons of full-color photos in Cook’s Illustrated publications. There are a handful in the center of the book, but that’s about it. There are some black and white diagrams to illustrate some of the more complex techniques throughout the book. Overall, pictures or not, this book serves as a great introduction to world cuisine and ci has done an excellent job of selecting recipes and making do-at-home versions of them that are as true to the originals as possible. They don’t take many (if any) shortcuts, but the flavor of the finished products should make them worth the wait.