Taking the lead from our friend Apur, we refer to Mark Bittman’s behemoth How to Cook Everything as Bittman*. When we’re making the Saturday morning pancakes with the boys, we’ll say to one of them, “Get Bittman.” The cookbook has become indispensable for recipes and techniques. When I bought Bittman, we already had Lukin’s and Rosso’s The New Basics Cookbook, as well as Julia Child’s The Way to Cook, and thank goodness we did because I learned a lot from them. Ultimately I found The New Basics kind of overdone and, though I love Julia, The Way to Cook is kind of out of step with the way we eat.
Bittman’s great if you’ve got a gorgeous cut of meat, say a New York strip, or even a tough cut of meat, say a skirt steak, and you want to know how to broil or grill or pan-saute. You look up steak and find straightforward methods that are completely do-able, regardless of your kitchen skills. You may even find pan sauces, as well as references to recipes that go well with steak. Even if you don’t think you need a recipe for something as obvious as, say, deviled eggs, you can use Bittman as a guideline. Maybe you need a reminder of how long to boil an egg. He also give good recipe tweaks. How about adding herbs to your egg-mayo-mustard mixture?
I love Bittman's voice. Here's his note on Basic Pancakes:
Americans must have been sadly alienated from the kitchen for pancake mixes to ever have gained a foothold in the market, for these are ridiculously easy to make.
Our copy's binding is broken. It opens right to breakfast foods. You’d think we’d have that pancake recipe memorized by now.
*We also really like Bittman’s Minimalist column in the New York Times, as well as the themed 100 lists that occasionally run as larger features in the Wednesday food section.