The Cookbook Club reviews Trish Magwood's In My Mother's Kitchen

motherskitchen-200.jpg First aired on In Town and Out (04/06/11)

Buying a new cookbook can be a tricky task. After all, a store is much less inclined to take a book back after you've spilled olive oil all over it. So how on earth are you supposed to know if what you've got in your hands is a gem or a dud?

That's where host Michael Bhardwaj and the In Town and Out Cookbook Club come in. Each month, they bring a new cookery tome into the CBC test kitchen and let you know whether or not it's worth slaving over the stove for.

This month, Bhardwaj was joined by a mother and daughter team of reviewers, Linda and Bethany Bisallion, to taste test Trish Magwood's In My Mother's Kitchen. Magwood's latest cookbook is a collection of favourite recipes, which she inherited from her mother, grandmother and extended family. The pages are full of classics such as Mom's Meatloaf, Friday Night Burgers and Stove Top Pot Roast.

The Bisallions and Bhardwaj had a full four weeks to read through the book and taste test the recipes. In the end, they found the book's familiarity and ease a refreshing change from the current culinary landscape of complex dishes and far too many ingredients. All three enjoyed Magwood's simple approach to recipes, some of which offered short cuts that involved ketchup, canned beans and occasionally Jello (gasp!). Stories of Magwood's family dinners made the dishes that much more appetizing for the reviewers because they felt like they were cooking alongside a real family. The book gained one of the highest scores the club has ever seen - Bhardwaj and the Bisallions each gave it a nine out of ten.

Linda Bisallion said it reminded her of the things she cooked when her kids were growing up and the staples she wishes she kept from her mother's cookbooks. "My mother could always cook for a crowd with nothing at hand," she said. "I cooked four recipes from the book yesterday and didn't have to go out of my house to get any of the ingredients. I had everything there and I don't keep an unusually stocked kitchen."

Bisallion said all the recipes she tested were a hit with her family. And to find out if they'll be a hit with your family, too, here's a recipe from In My Mother's Kitchen to try at home.

Simple Sole Meunière

Pan-fried with lemon is how my dad used to cook his freshly caught Georgian Bay bass. Later I discovered this was an age-old classic French dish. The first time I made this for my kids, I was nervous they wouldn't go for it, since they were so used to baked fish sticks. But Fin fell in love with it, and it immediately went on his "Fin's Dinners" list. Serves 4.

1/3 cup (75 mL) all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sole fillests, each 5 oz (150 g)
2 tbsp (30 mL) grapeseed oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon zest
1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 250°F (120°C).

Combine flour with salt and pepper to taste in a large shallow plate. Pat sole fillets dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter and quickly swirl. Dredge 2 sole fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides, carefully shaking off excess, and place them in the hot pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until fish loosens from the pan and is lightly golden underneath. Add half the lemon zest and half the lemon juice, then turn fish carefully with a thin spatula. Cook for 2 minutes on the other side.

As soon as fish is cooked through, carefully transfer to warm plates and keep fish warm in the oven while you repeat the process with the remaining 2 fillets.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately with lemon wedges and a good sprinkle of chopped parsley and lemon zest. (I have sometimes omitted the parsley--a classic ingredient for this dish--because the green flecks threw off the kids, but please add liberally!) Serve with steamed rice and your favourite vegetable. I love this fish with grilled asparagus or grilled radicchio.

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