The flap reads: "Chock full of more than 200 delicious recipes and 300 color photographs, Fine Cooking Annual, Volume 2, is packed with a year's worth of the best recipes, tips, and techniques from Fine Cooking magazine."
Prior to acquiring this book from Random House, I wasn't familiar with the magazine at all, but I am all of a sudden a new fan. The Fine Cooking Annual, Volume 2, is a beautiful, mesmerizing hunk of food porn indeed.
Covering all the usual topics from starters to soups to salads, to poultry to seafood to desserts, the volume also includes very clear instructions on how perform various culinary techniques, like how to cook and pick whole crabs (page 265), how to butterfly a whole chicken (page 167), and to properly dice an onion (page 49). Additionally, there are loads of tips about various ingredients. For instance, page 69 is all about demystifying mesclun mix; page 149 provides an olive guide; and pages 276-277 gives you a step-by-step guide on how to trim baby artichokes.
The three recipes I chose to make for the purpose of this review were the Chopped Shrimp "Waldorf" Salad on page 87, the Grilled Chicken with Tomato, Lime & Cilantro Salsa on page 136 (pictured), and the Double Ginger Pound Cake on page 352.
The "Waldorf" was excellent and very easy to make. I did substitute low fat mayonnaise, however, but that was one of the things I like about the recipes in this book - you can easily make a lower-fat or healthier version of the recipes if you so choose. The same went for the grilled chicken dish; I omitted the olive oil and it was still great. The salsa was very fresh and perfectly complimented the mild spiciness of the chicken. As for the ginger pound cake, it took much longer to bake than the directions indicated, but the cake itself was moist, flavourful, and had a wonderful, velvet crumb.
While there was a ton of variety in this cookbook, there seemed to me to be one category glaringly missing: breads! I would love to have had a chapter full of wicked new bread recipes. Not that I don't have enough as it is, but still, this book seems a bit incomplete without that key element of a great meal.
This book is well worth the investment for cooks of any calibre. The recipes are well-written and contain easily-found ingredients. The photography is beautiful, and the information on techniques, ingredients, and cook's tips are well-illustrated and simple to follow.