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The Food 52 Cookbook, a Book Review

November 22nd, 2011 · 3 Comments

The Food 52 Cookbook
140 winning recipes from exceptional home cooks
A review by
Ryan Boudreaux

This is one big book! The hardback is 425 pages plus an index, and includes recipes for summer, fall, winter and spring, a section about the contributors, and menus.

From the book, the Best Cooks Are Home Cooks. Accomplished food writers and editors Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs had a mission: to discover and celebrate the best home cooks in the country. Each week for fifty-two weeks, they ran recipe contests on their website,, and the 140 winning recipes make up this book. They include:
Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies
Secret Ingredient Beef Stew (which is shared below)
Simple Summer Peach Cake
Wishbone Roast Chicken with Herb Butter

These recipes prove the truth that great home cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or precious to be memorable. This book captures the community spirit that has made the Food52 web site and blog a success. It features Amanda’s and Merrill’s thoughts and tips on every recipe, plus behind-the-scenes photos, reader comments, and portraits of the contributors—putting you right in the kitchen with America’s most talented cooks.

This book is one of those great collaborations that only a blog could obtain with the community and sprit of great home cooks. And what I really like about this recipe and the reason for it’s "secret" ingredient is the anchovies. They really do add a wonderful background flavor for a stew like this one. I have been using anchovies as a similar flavoring ingredient for my tomato sauces, especially with meatballs.

I will share the recipe for Secret Ingredient Beef Stew by SmallKitchCara found on pages 257 – 259 from the cookbook.

Secret Ingredient Beef Stew by SmallKitchCara
Secret Ingredient Beef Stew by SmallKitchCara

Secret Ingredient Beef Stew by SmallKitchCara

5 – 5 ½ Lbs. Beef stewing meat, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 Cup Olive oil and canola oil mixed
2 Each Leeks, washed well, sliced thinly
1 Large Onion, diced
8 Each Garlic cloves, minced
2 Each Carrots, diced
4 Ribs Celery, diced
4 Ounces White mushrooms, roughly chopped
½ Cup Tomato paste
2 Each Anchovies
1 Cup Red wine
½ Cup Red wine vinegar
1 Cup Canned whole tomatoes with juice
3 – 3 ½ Cups Beef broth
3 Each Bay leaves
¾ Tsp Dried Thyme
1/3 Cup Chopped Parsley


1. Season the beef with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over high heat and brown the meat in batches, adding more oil as needed. Remove the meat to a plate.
2. Lower the heat and add the leeks, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Cook until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and the anchovies and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to melt and distribute the anchovies.
3. Add the beef and its juices back to the pot. Add the wine, vinegar, and tomatoes with juice (breaking them up against the side of the pot as you go) and raise the heat to bring to a boil. Pour in the broth to cover (you may need a bit more than 3 cups) Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt, the bay leaves, and the thyme and bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, until the meat is tender, 2 to 3 hours. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours.
4. When cool, skim off most of the fat from the top. Reheat over low heat, letting the stew simmer for 30 to 45 minutes before serving.
5. Mix in half the parsley and garnish with the rest.

Tips and Techniques
Make this a day ahead-its flavor will improve and you can enjoy the stew without thinking of all the dishes you have to wash.

About the Cook
Cara Eisenpress is the co-author of the blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen and the book In the Small Kitchen.

Bon appétit!
©2011 CCR

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Tags: Book Review

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Patty // Nov 22, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for this beef stew recipe,looks wonderfully delicious! And the cookbook review, I’m definitely adding this one to my collection;-)

  • 2 Jessica @ Cajunlicious // Dec 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Ryan that stew looks amazing, a bowl of southern comfort!

  • 3 Jersey girl cooks // Dec 9, 2011 at 7:47 am

    The stew looks great especially for a cold winter day. Love how the cookbook is geared for the average home cook.