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A new reference for the kitchen


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"The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook"

America's Test Kitchen, $34.95

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WHAT IT IS: This 848-page compendium from the experts behind Cook's Illustrated magazine and the public television show "America's Test Kitchen" aims to be a kitchen bible in the tradition of Betty, Better and Joy. Still, it has its own personality. Boy, does it ever. The no-apologies-approach to culinary detail that characterizes editor Christopher Kimball and Co. resonates here too - in the more than 1,200 recipes, the countless charts and cooking tips as well as the 1,500 well-executed photos of step-by-step techniques and finished dishes. It's packaged in a sturdy three-ring binder.

PRAISE (AND QUIBBLES): In the weeks before Thanksgiving, I used this book to field all sorts of questions from readers, friends and (mostly) myself on myriad topics. It never failed to offer a solid answer. The recipes turned out great, and in each there was at least one useful tip or technique. Even something as simple as lining baking sheets with foil when roasting messy squash halves will pay future dividends. On the downside, the top ring of the binder keeps getting stuck, an annoyance we can overlook. Also, the book is filled with product recommendations from the magazine's testing columns that will eventually become dated. Finally, a note on the authors' tone. More "textbookese" than warm and fuzzy, it's also occasionally exasperating, like when they tell you to throw out your wok. But their hearts are in the right place and, more important, their credentials are impeccable. (Remember, it's OK to disagree with Teacher once in a while. So keep the wok.)

WHY WE THINK YOU'LL LIKE IT: What a great book to give novice cooks embarking on life in the kitchen. As for seasoned cooks, it will be an invaluable resource in their culinary library.

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(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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