In 1994, British writer Simon Hopkinson published Roast Chicken and Other Stories in England. In 2005, the book was chosen as the country’s most useful cookbook of all time, and it shot to the top of the best-seller lists, knocking Harry Potter right off his perch. Finally, this September, the U.S. version of the book is being published by Hyperion. We got a galley of the book and tested it right away. We like it. The approach is simple—it’s an alphabetically arranged list of 40 ingredients, from anchovy to veal, each introduced with some historical context and musings from Hopkinson. What follows are simple recipes (some from favorite chefs and food writers) featuring that ingredient. It’s a blissfully manageable book that’s an entertaining read coupled with appealing, doable recipes. We tested the Crisp Parmesan Crackers (light and addictive, with only six ingredients) and the Curried Smoked Haddock Soup (smoky and rich).
Having said all of that, there are some categories that might not be terribly useful to most American cooks (kidneys, brains, grouse and tripe). Is it the most useful cookbook of all time? Maybe in England, but I won't be giving up my copy of The Joy of Cooking anytime soon.