September 30, 2013

"Mrs. Hazan embraced simplicity, precision and balance in her cooking."

"She abhorred the overuse of garlic in much of what passed for Italian food in the United States, and would not suffer fools afraid of salt or the effort it took to find quality ingredients."
Her tomato sauce, enriched with only an onion, butter and salt, embodies her approach, but she has legions of devotees to other recipes, among them her classic Bolognese, pork braised in milk and her minestrone.
That sentence happens to name 4 of my favorite recipes in "The Classic Italian Cook Book," my favorite cookbook. Well-used since the 70s, that book lost its cover the 1990s, and in old age, it obligingly splays open to pages festively splattered with the sauces of suppers past.

Goodbye to Marcella Hazan. She was 89.

17 comments:

Fab Forty said...

Will you share which 4 recipes :)

Crunchy Frog said...

Overuse of garlic? There is no such thing.

Ben Calvin said...

Yesterday, I made tomato sauce enriched with onion, butter and salt. I had actually forgotten that I got the recipe from her book.

jacksonjay said...

Law professor opines on cookbooks, silent on re-education and political correctness at UW!

Rana said...

I'd stack my mother-in-law's sauce against Ms. Hazan's anytime. She was right about one thing, though--Italian cooking is regional cooking.

FleetUSA said...

Not a cheap book. But looks worth a try.

FleetUSA said...

p.s. Your copy sounds like my copy of the French equivalent: Je Sais Cuisiner by Ginette Mathiot which dates from the 50's (hand me down).

Grant said...

Neither the book Althouse mentions nor its sequel is still in print, as far as I can tell, but that's probably because Hazan combined and revised them as Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which is definitely still available. If you're of an intellectual bent and don't mind a lack of pictures or a slightly hectoring tone, it's the best Italian cookbook out there. Of course you should buy it from the Althouse Amazon link, which my iPad makes it too difficult to link to.

Ann Althouse said...

Just go to my link and at the bottom will be the links to the other books or click on the author's name, and it will count as an Althouse link.

Thanks to all who do. It's a great, great cookbook.

I especially adore the bolognese sauce.

Grant said...

Indeed, the bolognese sauce is worth every minute of the three or four hours it takes to make.

David said...

The best simple tomato sauce recipes I've seen.

jono39 said...

You are a good human being. How have you survived in law school?

Carnifex said...

I frequent a lot of used book stores. For her birthday last year I got my mom a cook book from 1943, in immaculate condition, for $3. Original price was $1.

(she collects cook books)

Tibore said...

Only an onion, butter, and salt? Wow, that is minimalism. I've got to try that. Way less stuff than I put in my sauce... which in the end is not bad at all but is nothing more than just run-of-the-mill tomato sauce. Nothing special to it at all. :(

Paring down is often the best. I recall my mom and late maternal grandmother's scorn over the complexity of some Chinese cookbook dishes, and how they executed them with far more simplicity. I imagine the same is true for a lot of genuinely home-learned Italian moms and grandmothers. I really wanna get a hold of a copy of this book now.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I need to buy that book over again, or else take some duct tape to it, because I've used it to death. Favorites: the Modenese pork chops with tomatoes and sage, the roast chicken with two lemons, and (yes) the minestrone, the pork braised in milk, and the bolognese sauce. When I am feeling especially ambitious and have two free days, I make a batch of that bolognese, a batch of fresh sheet pasta (also from Hazan's directions), and put together a lasagne. She wouldn't have approved the construction (which came from Cook's Illustrated), but it's good, and wouldn't have happened without her.

Any non-Jewish non-vegetarians reading this: Try that milk-braised pork shoulder, pronto. Okay, it takes forever to cook, but do it anyway. If the milk solids at the end look too icky, use an immersion blender.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Tibore,

Paring down is often the best. I recall my mom and late maternal grandmother's scorn over the complexity of some Chinese cookbook dishes, and how they executed them with far more simplicity. I imagine the same is true for a lot of genuinely home-learned Italian moms and grandmothers. I really wanna get a hold of a copy of this book now.

Oh, you should. The best recipes in there are de minimis ingredient-wise. Salt pepper, and a few other ingredients. The Modenese pork chop recipe I make frequently involves butter, oil, sage leaves, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. The amazing pork-braised-in-milk one really involves nothing but pork shoulder, milk, salt, and pepper, though I throw in some garlic now. And the "chicken with two lemons" really is just that (plus salt and pepper).

Grant said...

A key thing about the milk-braised pork is to follow very carefully her instruction to use a pot only slightly larger than the pork. Otherwise the cooking times and descriptions are off. I've solved the problem of not having the perfect pot by using a probe thermometer to make sure the pork doesn't overlook, after which I reduce the milk like crazy. It doesn't turn out with the same degree of perfection most of her recipes do, but it's still delicious. I'm not sure I'd admit my lack of compliance on the Internet if she were still alive.

My personal favorites are the pasta sauces. Cauliflower with anchovies, zucchini with garlic and basil, touch of the roast, the list goes on and on.

Marcella's Italian Kitchen is also a good book, more relaxed and equally interesting.