Friday, December 5, 2014

Cookbook Review ~ Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook by Nancy Vienneau

The second Southern Cookbook to be added to my collection, Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook by Nancy Vienneau is a treasure of recipes and stories that celebrate local, seasonal food with family and friends.

What started off as a couple of friends wanting to get together once a month to share good food and company turned into a hugely successful monthly gathering and a cookbook to boot! The book features just over 150 recipes (taken from their monthly potlucks) and the chapters are divided into months which I know I have said before but I personally love! There are quite a lot of photographs throughout the book however a lot of them are for ingredients rather than the recipes which is worth noting. The theme is potluck but this is no ordinary potluck….Instead it is a group of friends getting together to celebrate the local bounty with new and innovative dishes. What each guest brings is a total surprise as there is no RSVP, no assigned dishes and absolutely no rules!

Quite honestly I didn’t even know where to start with this book because I bookmarked SO many recipes (the book was literally a sea of yellow post-it notes!!), however I finally managed to narrow things down and in the end I tested 4 recipes.

Tested Recipes:

Silky Butternut Squash Bisque
Fresh Dill-Feta Quick Bread
Cara Cara Cashew Chicken
Italian Meatballs in Hearty Italian Tomato Sauce

The first recipe to be put to the test was the Silky Butternut Squash Bisque since it looked delicious and I love Butternut Soup. The recipe was straightforward and I really liked the idea of roasting the vegetables first which added another level of flavour. I tasted the soup after each stage (and each new addition of the final ingredients) and I’ll be honest, for me it tasted best before the Greek Yogurt and Vanilla was added. I was definitely hesitant about the vanilla and in all honesty I wouldn’t do it again. It was a nice soup, definitely a bit different from any type of squash soup I have made before but I didn’t love it. It’s unlikely that I would make it again.
To accompany the soup I couldn’t resist trying the Fresh Dill-Feta Quick Bread. The recipe was once again very straightforward and definitely quick to make, however after that it all went downhill. After the suggested 25 minutes the bread was nowhere near ready so I put it back in. Eventually after it had an additional 15 minutes I thought it seemed ready so took it but when I attempted to get the bread out of the tin I had a total disaster. The top part fell off in chunks and the middle (which was firmly stuck in the pan despite me following the instructions to oil it) was still uncooked. Needless to say at this point I was less than impressed. I tried to piece it all together then returned it to the oven for a further 12 minutes… By the time it came out it was finally cooked (just) but it was not a nice loaf and unfortunately even the taste couldn’t save it (since I wouldn’t have minded eating it in chunks if need be!). It was too salty and just not good. I was so disappointed as I hate when recipes go that wrong and more so hate wasting ingredients which is exactly what happened here as this bread went in the bin…. Major recipe fail.

Determined not to be discouraged I moved on to recipe number 3 which was the Cara Cara Chicken which is their version of Orange Cashew Chicken. I’ll admit right away that unfortunately I had to make do with my normal marmalade since I had no Cara Cara Oranges to make the marmalade suggested for this recipe, but I hoped it wouldn’t matter and it didn’t. I had to half the recipe again as it was to serve 8-10, however it turned out there wasn’t nearly enough sauce and definitely nothing like in the picture so I wished I had kept that to the normal quantities. Despite that though we all enjoyed it (although me more than hubby) and I would make it again but with more sauce.

Considering this book wasn’t turning out quite as I planned I went for a safe option for my next recipe to be tested and chose the Italian Meatballs in Hearty Italian Tomato Sauce. Since we all love Meatballs and Spaghetti I hoped I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe, especially because it sounded delicious. The meatballs were easy to make and came together really well so I was happy with that although was a little worried about them being “dense” from the over-mixing suggested. The sauce was also straightforward but again I had a doubt or two. In the end the things I was worried about happened… The sauce was really bitter (which I put down to too much tomato paste) so to ‘save’ it I had to add sugar to the sauce and quite a bit of water, and the meatballs were really tasty but way too dense and solid. If I was to make this again I would use the meatball recipe but mix it far less and as for the tomato sauce, honestly I would give it a miss. For that reason this recipe was unfortunately also a fail….

As I mentioned above I literally bookmarked this entire book so as well as the above tested recipes I also bookmarked the following:

Plumgood Roast Chicken
Smoked Gouda & Spring Pea Risotto
Italian Cheese Dumplings with 3-Herb and Arugula Pesto Sauce
Tomato & Goats Cheese Tart with Olive Oil Crust
Zesty Gazpacho with Shrimp
Honeycrust Fried Chicken Tenders
Blueberry-Peach Coffee Cake
Buttermilk Peach Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Sauce
Bourbon Pecan Bars
Roasted Fig, Prosciutto and Gorgonzola Pizza
Brown Butter Honey Cake
Fried Green Tomatoes with Bacon-Horseradish Cream Sauce
Jessi’s German Pretzels with Spicy Old-World Mustard
Rich & Garlicky Roast Round of Beef with Horseradish Mousse
Not Your 70’s Green Bean Casserole
Spicy Kale Chips
Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Lime Zest Crema
Santa Fe Pork Stew
Flourless Chocolate Cayenne Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Kale Caesar
Cathey’s Euphoric Raspberry Mojitos
Crab Macaroni and Cheese
Blanched Chilled Asparagus with Green Goddess Aioli

I really, REALLY wanted to love this book. The recipes sounded so good and the photographs included were beautiful. I am a huge fan of using local, seasonal produce so it really did appeal to me. That being said there were some definite lows to this book…. Realistically this is a book for entertaining as the serving sizes are so big. For the majority of recipes I tested I had to half the quantities and even then had lots. However for entertaining it would work. The photographs that were included were beautiful but they were definitely limited which again is a not great in my opinion… On the positive though it really does focus on local and seasonal ingredients and they have come up with some great variations of classic recipes such as Kale Caesar Salad.

Learn anything new? Honestly no… well perhaps to keep the vanilla out of my soup! It didn’t work – well not for me anyway.

Specialty Ingredients? There were definitely a few ingredients that aren’t perhaps that easy to find as they are very specific to the area the author lives in which is fantastic for them, but less so for readers/ cooks in other areas.

This book really stumped me…. I expected it to be amazing and for me to be cooking from it regularly. On paper it had everything: seasonal, local ingredients, beautiful recipes and ones that served many people which is what you need for entertaining. Unfortunately though the recipes fell far from the mark and were a real disappointment. I want to say I will try more as you can see from above how many I bookmarked but there is only so many fails you can take and that is really off-putting. As much as I hate to say it with three recipe fails out of four, Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook does not get the Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops Stamp of Approval…..

Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook by Nancy Vienneau is available to buy from and other good book retailers.

*All opinions expressed for the purpose of this review are my own and have not been influenced by anyone else.

**If you have this book and have some recipes that you love please let me know.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...