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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Weekend Cooking- Old-School Comfort Food by Alex Guarnaschelli

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Old-School Comfort Food-The Way I Learned to Cook by Alex Guarnaschelli
Published by Clarkson Potter ISBN 978-0-307-95655-2
Hardcover, $30, 304 pages
I didn't know much about chef Alex Guarnaschelli until I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at Random House's Open House in May. I knew that she was on the Food Network shows Iron Chef and Chopped, but that was about it.

She was very funny and blunt in her talk, and I enjoyed her stories about growing up on 55th Street and 7th Ave. in Manhattan. Her mother edited cookbooks and her father was an adventurous cook himself, so Alex learned much about food from both of them. (My post on her talk is here.)

Her cookbook Old-School Comfort Food- The Way I Learned to Cook is a terrific blend of stories and recipes that she created. She is a wonderful writer, and her voice comes through clearly in her stories. The beginning of the book, with her fascinating food history from helping her mother with recipes in her childhood to her culinary education working in the kitchens of famous chefs like Guy Savoy in France and Daniel Boulud in New York, could be expanded to a full length autobiography it is so interesting. (I loved the Prince story!)

Sometimes cookbooks by chefs contain recipes that as I peruse them I think "that is too complicated for me", and frankly after reading Guarnaschelli's history I thought that might be the case here. She has incredible skills that I do not possess.

But looking through the book I had over a dozen post-it notes for recipes I want to try, including:

  • Broccoli and Onion Dip
  • White Mushrooms on Toast
  • Arugula and Strawberry Salad
  • Beef Meatballs and Sauce with Rigatoni
  • Braided Short Rib French Onion Soup
The recipe for Beef Meatballs and Sauce with Rigatoni is available on her website here.

At the end of the book Guarnaschelli has a section titled "Sources" that lists some of her "old-school favorite places to explore new ingredients or taste a bit of nostalgia." Since she lives in New York, many of the places are there, and that means I will be adding them to my list of places to explore. It's great that she tells you which vendors to visit at Union Square's Greenmarket.

I wasn't sure that this would be a cookbook that I would like or use, but I'm so glad that I got a signed copy at the Open House. It's always fun to find something you didn't expect.

rating 4 of 5 


  1. I've never heard of her, maybe because I've managed to NOT get hooked on cooking shows yet? (Maybe when I retire....) Sounds like a fun speaker, but I find I don't want to tackle complicated recipes as much as I used to, these days!

  2. Jealous!!! (in a good way) I really like Alex Guarnaschelli as she appears on the Food Network. And how lucky that you are in her city and can use her advice. I'm definitely going to try to come in for the next open house.

  3. I'm going to try to make it to the next open house, too. This book sounds wonderful... and I love the Union Square Greenmarket!

  4. Yes, that happens to me a lot; I buy a cookbook only to discover everything in it is too hard for me. Glad that did not happen this time.

  5. I think it is so great you are able to see and hear so many authors and chefs in person. A true percent for where you live.

  6. New to me - but comfort food has to be good. Cheers

  7. The stories of growing up with a cookbook editor and adventurous cook would be fun. Cool that you got a signed copy and to see her in person.

  8. I LOVE Alex Guarnaschelli -- I am SO glad her cookbook was even better than expected! I am looking for cookbook recommendations this week -- I am going to put this on the list!

  9. This sounds like a cookbook for reading more than using in my case (and by that I mean, one to cuddle up with on a rainy day and soak in the stories more than the recipes). I'll have to see if my library has it. Thanks for sharing, and good luck visiting some of the places Alex mentions!

  10. I almost went to this open house. I decided not to juggle childcare at the last minute. Too bad I did! I would have loved to see her speak. I'll have to look into this cookbook!