Cook by the Book: Impress for Less!

Over the years I've raved to friends about The Secrets of Success Cookbook, Signature Recipe and Insider Tips from San Francisco's Best Restaurants. What makes the book so great is that it translates signature restaurant recipes into workable home versions. Every single recipe I've tried actually has been a success. But it was published in 2000, or ancient history in restaurant years. While I still use many of the recipes, I'd love to see an updated version.

In the meantime I can busy myself with Impress for Less! This new cookbook also shares restaurant recipes that have been adapted for home cooks. Impress for Less takes on recipes from restaurants located in 10 American cities including San Francisco, of course. The San Francisco restaurants contributing recipes are Farallon, Fleur de Lys, La Folie, Jardiniere, Kokkari Estiatorio, Masa's, Town Hall, Michael Mina, The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, and Slanted Door. At least a couple of which weren't even around in 2000. The recipes are not the fanciest, most elegant ones on the menu with five separate preparations and thirty ingredients, they are more straightforward fare. The style of recipes range from Potato Tacos with Avocado Salsa to Prosciutto Wrapped Monkfish with Sauteed Escarole, Cannellini beans, and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes. The recipes are not necessarily signature dishes either, but all solid and worthwhile. Like the recipes in The Secrets of Success, they each come with chefs tips and also include both restaurant information and wine pairing recommendations with both less and more expensive options.

I like this book a lot, the only thing I don't like is the title and the lack of photos. If the recipes are intended to "impress" then seeing how they are presented is key. When it comes to the "less", the idea that somehow you are saving money and aggravation by cooking at home instead of eating at a restaurant doesn't strike a chord with me. I cook and eat at home because I enjoy doing so. Would people eat out in restaurants every single night by choice? Maybe some people I suppose. But cooking at home is a pleasurable experience, or at least it should be. Certainly some of the ingredients in the recipes are expensive, such as porcini mushrooms, crab, duck and oysters, but nothing to break the bank. But perhaps more importantly, they are generally easy to find.

Eggs on Eggs
From Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse in Philadelphia

Serves 4


4 large eggs
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 teaspoons finely chopped smoked salmon
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
4 teaspoons salmon caviar
4 sprigs fresh chervil or parsley
Toast, for serving

If using an egg topper, cut the top of the eggs off, carefully rinse out the shell, and reserve for later.

Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler or in a medium saucepan. Whisk the eggs and cold water together in the top of a double boiler or in a medium stainless-steel bowl that will fit over your saucepan. Place the eggs over the boiling water and whisk constantly until the eggs are soft and have begun to set. Gently whisk in the cream, smoked salmon, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat.

Divide the cooked eggs between the eggshells or four small serving bowls. Top each with 1 teaspoon of the caviar and a sprig of chervil or parsley. Serve with toast.

Reprinted by permission from Impress for Less!, by Hope Fox. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 2007 by Hope Fox. All rights reserved.