Podcast: Amanda Hesser

Amanda Hesser

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After much wrangling, David finally sat down with the harried, busy, sleep-deprived New York Times food columnist and editor Amanda Hesser to record a podcast about her monumental accomplishment, The Essential New York Times Cookbook. The tome is a collection of the most noteworthy recipes that have appeared in the pages of the Times since the mid-1800s, when the paper began covering food.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook, which weighs in at a whopping 4 1/2 pounds, is arranged in a unique fashion: within traditional chapters such as salads, poultry and game, breads and baking, the recipes are arranged chronologically. This structure allows the cook—and reader—to trip lightly, or thoughtfully, through the past 150 years of American food—or at least the food presented by the Old Gray Lady, as the Times hasn’t alway been as ecumenical in coverage as it has during the past decade or so.

In the podcast, Hesser explains that she, together with assistant Merrill Stubbs, sent out a request to New York Times’ readers as to their favorite recipes from the paper. To their surprise, they were inundated with thousands of responses via e-mail and snail mail—many containing treasured yellowed clippings as fragile as pressed leaves. Soon, categories of favorite dishes became apparent: chicken recipes, dessserts, and anything from the Minimalist Mark Bittman. Still, many individual recipes (some listed below) distinguished themselves as all-time winners.

The duo was then left with the daunting task of reaching back into the archives to find those recipes they felt wove a story through time—creating a culinary narrative arc, if you will—and rewriting them for the modern cook without being unfaithful to the dishes. In all, Hesser includes  more than 1,400 recipes (which I’m honored to be part of with my Jacques Torres-inspired ultimate chocolate chip cookies).

The Essential New York Times Cookbook—part chronicle of American eating, part history book—is destined to share shelf space with Craig Claiborne’s classic New York Times Cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Listen in.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook Recipes

David Eyre’s Pancake
Boeuf Bourguignon | Burgundy Beef
Purple Plum Torte
Teddie’s Apple Cake

Have a question for Amanda about The Essential New York Times Cookbook? Or want to leave her a message? You know what to do below.

Back to Podcast: Amanda Hesser on Leite's Culinaria