Cookbooks That Never Let You Down

I think that all cooks have one old school, go-to cookbook that they've used a million times and know that regardless of what they make from that book, it always works. I'm not talking about fancy books with lots of photos or challenging recipes, but rather those that house standard American cuisine and include foolproof recipes for simple dishes like roast beef, chicken pot pie, or chocolate cake. Some people swear by The Joy of Cooking for this, while for others it's The New York Times Cookbook or The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but for me, it is Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.

My first copy, the splattered, dog eared version I still turn to today, was given to me as a gift by my ex-boyfriend's mother when I was in college and had recently announced to the world my plans to become a professional chef. When I unwrapped it, I snickered to myself and scoffed at the dated book. Didn't this woman realize that I was off to the greatest culinary school in the country? I was going to be burying myself in books about classic French cuisine and learning to make mushroom veloute and coq au vin, not fussing with recipes requiring canned cream of mushroom soup or making chicken and dumplings.

So I stashed the book away, fully expecting to get rid of it at a later date so that I could make room for what would eventually become a cookbook collection that boasted close to 1000 titles. But alas, today, 21 years later, with my cookbook collection as vast as I had earlier envisioned, I walked straight over to the American cuisine section of my well organized library, and pulled Betty Crocker’s Cookbook out, as I've done numerous times before. I still shy away from the canned soup recipes in the book, but do find it to be a good point of reference for many other things.

Today it was the recipe for dinner rolls that I sought out. I've tried a million different recipes for basic dinner rolls, but few come out as tender and light as these and few create a dough as versatile. Tonight, I decided to make them into garlic-cloverleaf rolls that are made by rolling small pieces of dough into olive sized balls and then placing three of the balls into the cups of a buttered muffin pan. Before baking, I slather the rolls in butter and sprinkle them generously with granulated garlic and coarse sea salt. As always, they were perfect.

Sure, I love my fancier cookbooks, and certainly derive a great deal more creative inspiration from them, but when it comes to the standards, I know that there will always be a spot for Betty on my bookshelf.