I cook every day, nine meals a week, and am always on the lookout for new recipes. That's why I was pretty excited when a review copy of The Chew: An Essential Guide to Cooking and Entertaining arrived at my doorstep. My exposure to ABC's daytime cooking show has been minimal, being that I'm at work when it's on. However, I've loved the episodes I have seen and each chef leaves a lasting impression with their vibrant personalities.
The title of this book is a little misleading. It's not really a guide as it doesn't make suggestions for hosting friends and family, as the title implies. Rather, it's a cookbook that combines some of the most requested recipes from The Chew. It strays from grouping the recipes by meal or meat-type and instead splits them into five sections, each with an introduction from a different chef from the show. The sections are Back to Basics, Comfort Classics, Feel-Good Family Favorites, Old Faves/New Flaves, and Guilty Pleasures.
You can't really judge a cookbook without making a few recipes, so I selected four items to prepare over the course of the week to see how this book measures up. First up was tacos for my household's Taco Tuesday tradition. From the Feel-Good Family Favorites section, I found Daphne's Turkey Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Dressing. They were incredibly flavorful and while a tad spicy, the salad topping cooled them down. However, I found that the cookbook was way off on the amount of time these would take. 15 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking in reality was more like 30 minutes of prep and 20 minutes of cooking.
On Wednesday, our tastebuds were taken to Italy with Mario Batali's Toasted Ravioli with Pecorino Fonduta, which is a really rich cheese sauce. These were absolutely wonderful, but once again the times were way off. 20 minutes of prep and 20 minutes of cook time became 90 real minutes. The problem is that the recipe calls for some very specific cheeses which only come in solid forms and assumes you have them pre-grated. If you are hand grating these cheeses, there's no way your prep time will be less than 40 minutes. But the flavor was amazing and I plan on making this again... just not on a weeknight.
One of my favorite comfort foods is chicken potpie and my grandma made the very best potpie I've ever had. From the Comfort Classics section, I was very excited to try Carla Hall's Chicken Potpie with Cheddar-Chive Biscuits. This is primarily made in an iron skillet, but the homemade biscuits necessitate some oven time. Total prep and cooking time was estimated to be 55 minutes and I even pre-chopped my vegetables to see if that would change things, but I still found setbacks that delayed it by an additional 30 minutes. However, the effort involved payed off in a big way. This is the second best chicken potpie I've ever had!
The final meal was another from Comfort Classics and by the same chef, Carla's Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese. I'm always looking for an excuse to use my crock pot and this semi-spicy macaroni dish was very easy to make. Prep time says 10 minutes, excluding the time it will take to actually boil the pasta, but this only doubles the prep time and not the effortless cooking time. It has a bit of a kick to it, but was mild enough for the spice-hater in my house to still eat it.
All four recipes I made from The Chew: An Essential Guide to Cooking and Entertaining were wonderful and I even found a few new favorite recipes to add to my rotation. The book loses some points for not including pictures of most of the recipes and also for drastically incorrect time estimates. It's clear that these chefs have help in the kitchen to prep their ingredients, but you at home should add at least 30 minutes to most recipes. However, I still recommend this cookbook to anyone like me who finds themselves cooking daily and is looking for some new recipes to try.