Beat This! Cookbook: Absolutely Unbeatable Knock-'em-Dead Recipes for the Very Best Dishes

Overview

Do you think you have the absolute best recipe for apple pie? Maybe your neighbor claims to make the best meatloaf around. Did your Italian grandmother serve the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Atlantic? Well, unless you or that neighbor or your grandmother is Ann Hodgman, you’re wrong!

The book that the editor in chief of Vanity Fair called “the funniest, most engaging book about food I’ve ever come across” has now been revised and updated: more than half the recipes are ...

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Overview

Do you think you have the absolute best recipe for apple pie? Maybe your neighbor claims to make the best meatloaf around. Did your Italian grandmother serve the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Atlantic? Well, unless you or that neighbor or your grandmother is Ann Hodgman, you’re wrong!

The book that the editor in chief of Vanity Fair called “the funniest, most engaging book about food I’ve ever come across” has now been revised and updated: more than half the recipes are completely new, and many of the originals have been “oomphed up” to make them even more shamelessly delicious.

Beat This! Cookbook contains more than a hundred all-time favorites, from Burnt Sugar Ice Cream and White Chocolate Raspberry Pie to Chili-Cheese Casserole and Onion Rings. Each one is guaranteed to make people take a bite, stagger with joy, and beg you for the recipe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this revised and updated edition of Ann Hodgman's 1993 book, there are fewer breads and cakes, and more main dishes, vegetables, and sides. Recipes are arranged in alphabetical order rather than in categories, making this book better for browsing than for looking up a particular dish (although there is a traditional index). The premise, that the recipes are the best of their type ("there's just no point in trying any other recipes for these foods but these," Hodgman asserts), at first seems a bit haughty and also doubtful. But Hodgman admits that these matters are subjective ("doesn't every cookbook author think her recipes are the best?"), and the book emerges as a truly personal collection of tried-and-true formulas for classics like brownies, apple pie, roast chicken, beef stew, artichoke dip, and mashed potatoes. There is, in a sense, something very enticing about trying these recipes; anticipation is high as one thinks, "Will this really be the meatloaf recipe I've been waiting for all my life?" In the case of the banana bread, for example, it just might be. So if you've been looking for that perfect pot roast or carrot cake but haven't quite found it, or if you need a dish you can count on to serve to a crowd, give Hodgman's recipes a whirl. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

"This book emerges as a truly personal collection of tried-and-true formulas for classics... There is...something very enticing about trying these recipes... So if you've been looking for that perfect pot roast or carrot cake but haven't quite found it, or you need a dish you can count on to serve to a crowd, give Hodgman's recipes a whirl."
-Publishers Weekly
 
"The book I have probably recommended more than any other...more than a cookbook, it is a humor book and a self-help book and a security blanket and a kind of a bible."
-Elizabeth Berg on NPR

"Beat This! is the funniest, most engaging book about food I've ever come accross." 
-Vanity Fair

"Anyone who has been blue lately, or has spent more than five minutes in the kitchen, shoudl buy this."
-Corby Kummer, The Atlantic

From the Publisher
"This book emerges as a truly personal collection of tried-and-true formulas for classics... There is...something very enticing about trying these recipes... So if you've been looking for that perfect pot roast or carrot cake but haven't quite found it, or you need a dish you can count on to serve to a crowd, give Hodgman's recipes a whirl."
-Publishers Weekly
 
"The book I have probably recommended more than any other...more than a cookbook, it is a humor book and a self-help book and a security blanket and a kind of a bible."
-Elizabeth Berg on NPR

"Beat This! is the funniest, most engaging book about food I've ever come accross." 
-Vanity Fair

"Anyone who has been blue lately, or has spent more than five minutes in the kitchen, shoudl buy this."
-Corby Kummer, The Atlantic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547437002
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/22/2011
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 642,333
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Along with the original Beat This!, ANN HODGMAN is the author of Beat That! and One Bite Won’t Kill You. She has written more than forty children’s books, including, most recently, How to Die of Embarrassment Every Day. Hodgman has written articles for The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, the Atlantic Monthly, Food & Wine, Smithsonian, and just about all of the women’s and parenting magazines.

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Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Why are people always so proud of their brownie
recipes? Katharine Hepburn, for example. If there’s anything
I’m sick of—besides the way she always says she’s a regular
person and not an actress—it’s reading about how sinful her
brownies are. Actually, Hepburn’s is the dullest brownie formula there is, and
one of the most common. There’s a copy of it in my daughter’s nursery-school
cookbook (prefaced by the remark, “These are sinful”); there’s a copy of it in two
different Junior League cookbooks I own; there’s a copy of it in Fannie Farmer.
All these recipes for an utterly undistinguished product! I guess sin is duller
than I thought.
 Brownies aren’t the only food for which people always think their recipe is
the best. Another one is meat loaf. Ann Landers gets hundreds of requests for
her meat loaf recipe, which is strange considering that it, too, is ordinary in the
extreme. (Ground meat, ketchup, onion soup mix—you get the picture.) There’s
a whole feedlot of recipes out there with self-awarded blue ribbons. But it’s rare
to find a “best” recipe that’s even worth reading—much less eating.
 Except for the ones in this book. These really are the best. There’s just no
point in trying any other recipes but these. I mean, there’s just no point in trying
any other recipes for these foods but these. What I mean is, these are the
best recipes of their type. Well, you know what I mean. I guess I mean, if you’re
looking for a blini recipe, my chili recipe won’t do you much good. But if you’re
looking for a chili recipe, it will. Know what I mean?
I’m not very good at coming up with original recipes, although my daughter
Laura is. One of my favorites is one she composed when she was five:

Plain Dough
Sugar
Raisins
Any fruit
Cookit

 Unlike Laura, I can’t just walk into the kitchen and improvise a brilliant new
dish. But I can figure out how to improve a recipe. I just double the chocolate
and add some bacon.
 Of course it’s a little more complicated than that. Still, some of the recipes
in this book wouldn’t necessarily be considered healthy. Lots of them, I guess.
But the best recipes are rarely the healthiest. When you’re looking for the best
potato salad to take to a potluck (page 188), or the best blueberry pie to bring
to a bake sale (page 40), or—uh—the best French toast to serve to your boss at
that breakfast meeting (page 130), you’re not usually concerned with the dish’s
fat content. You just want people to take a bite, stagger with joy and beg you for
the recipe.
 With these recipes, they will. I know, because it always happens to me.
A word about this book’s organization. Unlike most cookbooks, it lists the
recipes in alphabetical order rather than by category. That’s because I expect
people to use the book when they’re hunting for a specific “best,” not idly
thumbing through the pages trying to decide what to make for dinner.
For the most part, I’ve alphabetized the recipes by each dish’s main quality.
On the other hand, fried chicken and roast chicken do share the same section.
Why is this? Because it makes more sense. Chicken is the main thing about both
recipes, not friedness or roastedness, just as salad is the main thing about green
salad, while potatoes are the main thing about potato salad.
 If you can’t bear to hunt down recipes in this way, you can always turn to
the index. Things are conventionally organized there. But I think it’s more fun
to read a cookbook with all different kinds of recipes jostled together, just as I
prefer bookshelves where books like Betsy-Tacy and Tib are snuggled between 
The Interpretation of Dreams and A Field Guide to Mammals of North America.

Not-Controversial-at-All Apple Crisp, It Turns Out (formerly Very Controversial
Apple Crisp) Serves 4 to 6.

The controversy, explained in my cookbook BEAT THAT!,
was that some people prefer this recipe to the one that appeared in
Beat This! Or so I thought. It turned out that everyone prefers this
recipe. My friend Denise made it for her husband, Peter, who took a
bite and said, “There’s no controversy.” The novelist Elizabeth Berg wrote me
that she’d looked for a fabulous apple crisp she wanted to send me, and then
realized that it was this recipe she wanted to send.
So: thanks to Marialisa Calta for setting me straight. She serves this with ice
cream, but I like heavy cream better. But that’s just a small semantic diff erence.
I sometimes make this with 4 cups of pears and a big handful of dried cranberries.
Excellent!

4 generous cups Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
. cup all-purpose fl our
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
⅛ teaspoon salt
Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or straight-up heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375°F, with a rack in the middle. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
 In a large bowl, toss the apple slices with the lemon juice and cinnamon sugar.
In a small bowl, blend the brown sugar, fl our, butter and salt together'—'fi rst
with a pastry blender or two knives, and then with your hands.
 Put the apple slices into the loaf pan. Press the topping over them. Bake the
apple crisp for 1 hour. At that point, says Marialisa, “You get this really dense,
chewy, unbelievable candylike topping.”
 Serve the apple crisp warm or cold with the ice cream or cream. It is also
very good when it’s chilled for a couple of days; the topping melts down into the
apples a bit.

Many-Splendored Guacamole
Makes 5 generous cups.

The original BEAT THIS! had a good guacamole recipe,
but my friend Laura Lloyd later sent me one that was way better. “I
was fully levitated when I tried it,” she said.
This guac does have a billion ingredients, but they’re mostly ones
you’ll have in the house already. I’ve taken out the original recipe’s chorizo,
black olives and jicama.
You do remember that the avocado pit does nothing to keep guacamole from
turning brown, right? The thing that will help keep it green is nice, tight plastic
wrap over the top—that, and the lemon juice.
Go thou and levitate!

4 ripe avocados, preferably Hass
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, chopped (include as much green as possible)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 medium tomato, deglopped and chopped
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
. cup medium-hot salsa
. cup grated Monterey Jack
2 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl, mash the avocados. Stir in the other ingredients in order.
Wrap the guacamole tightly in plastic wrap if you’re not serving it right away,
but serve it the same day you make it.

Mom-Style Meat Loaf
Serves 6.

Whenever I make meat loaf, I remember the I LOVE
Lucy episode where Lucy loses her engagement ring. Ricky
says, “Don’t cry, honey. I’ll get you a new ring with big diamonds
all the way around,” and Lucy sobs back, “No! I want my
old ring with little diamonds halfway around!”
This recipe comes from Joan and Eric Brown, who were also the architects of
the Plum Pudding on page 180.

1 pound ground sirloin (see page 245)
. pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 8-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
. pound mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
until they give up their liquid
. cup minced onion
. cup Worcestershire sauce
. cup Dijon mustard
2 large eggs, well beaten
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
. teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
 Mix all the ingredients thoroughly by hand. Press the mixture into a 9-by-5-
inch loaf pan.
 Bake the meat loaf for 1. hours,

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Table of Contents

Dishes by Category

Drinks

Coquito (Coconut Eggnog)_128

Hors d’Oeuvres

“Nothing to Be Ashamed of” Artichoke Dip_26
Caramelized Bacon_28
Party Cheese Crackers_67
Cheese Straws_69
Deep-Fried Dill Pickles_122
Bacony Deviled Eggs_124
Ferrel’s Dip_129
Many-Splendored Guacamole_145
Pesto Torta_177
Pimento Cheese_179

Soups

Jim Paisley’s Current Black Bean Soup_36
Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup_61
Manhattan Clam Chowder_98
New England Clam Chowder_99
Papa Bear’s Own Lentil Soup_153
Not-at-All-Classic Onion Soup_168
Real Cream of Tomato Soup_228

Salads and Dressings

Artichoke and Mushroom Salad_25
Blue Cheese Dressing_37
Chicken Salad for Company_76
Lobster Salad_156
Modern Potato Salad_188
David’s Salad Dressing_198
Parmesan-Peppercorn Dressing Just Like in Restaurants_199
Shrimp Salad_205
Vaguely Thai-Like Beef Salad_222

Main Dishes

Beef Stew_34
Carol’s Perfect Poached Chicken-Salad Chicken_77
Perfect Roast Chicken_78
Chile-Cheese Casserole_79
The Chiliest Chili_81
Crab Cakes_111
Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls_126
Chicken Elizabeth’s Fried Chicken_132
A Completely Diff erent Fried Chicken_134
Don’s Gyoza_146
Easy Kid-Please-y Lasagna_149
My Macaroni and Cheese_157
Mom-Style Meat Loaf_160
Company Meat Loaf_161
Pasta with Mushrooms_170
Pork Loin with Prunes and Madeira_184
Powerfully Better Than Any Other Pot Roast_186
Pulled Pork_192
Peppered Mapled Salmon_200
Slow-Cooked Salmon with Pistachio Butter_202
Soft-Shelled Crabs_206
Basic Spaghetti Sauce_207
Thai-Like Vegetable Stew_224
Magnifi cent Ultra-Turkey_230

Sauces and Accompaniments

Apricot Conserve_24
Cranberry Jelly_113
Neen’s Peanut Sauce_174

Side Dishes

Savory Bread Pudding_44
The Brussels Sprouts_50
The Other Brussels Sprouts_51
Carrots with Ginger and Cumin_63
Lime and Peanut Coleslaw_108
Pan-Fried Corn_109
Creamed Onions for Our Time_115
Thanksgiving Green Beans_143
Mashed Potatoes_159
Onion Rings_166
Great Tates_196
Spinach Casserole_209
Martha’s Squash Casserole_211
A Really Great Stuffi ng with Sausage in It_218
Wild Rice Stuffi ng_220

Show-off Staples

Base_33
Slow-Cooker Caramelized Onions_59
Easy Preserved Lemons_191
Great ’Mates_229

Breads and Breakfasts

Best Banana Bread_30
Baking Powder Biscuits_35
Sugar Hill Blueberry Muffi ns_38
World’s Best Bread_42
Cinnamon Rolls_96
Kuchen (Coff ee Cake)_102
Connecticut Gooey Butter Coff ee Cake_105
Jalapeno Corn Bread_110
Croissants_117
English French Toast_130

Desserts

Priceless Almond Triangles_18
The Best Regular (or I Guess I Should Say Classic) Apple Pie_20
Not-Controversial-at-All Apple Crisp, It Turns Out_23
Not “Not Yo’ Mama’s Banana Pudding”_31
Blueberry Pie_40
Brownies_46
Layered Brownies_48
Burnt Sugar Ice Cream_52
Buttercrunch_54
Porter’s Butterscotch Sauce_56
Pure, Rich, Great Caramels_57
Carrot Cake_64
Mom-Style Cheesecake_71
New New York–Style Cheesecake_74
Flourless Chocolate Cake_83
Mom-Style Chocolate Cake_85
Mom’s Chocolate Frosting_87
Chocolate Cookies_88
The Only Chocolate Chip Cookies_90
The Only Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies_92
Grandma Weld’s Cookies_93
Chocolate Ice Cream_94
Helen Kenyon’s Chocolate Sauce_95
Coff ee Ice Cream_100
Perfect Fudge _135
Perfect Vanilla Fudge_136
Hot Fudge Sauce_137
Laura’s Better Gingerbread_139
Grape Pie_140
Grape Ice Cream_142
Red Zhello for Grown-Ups_148
Corrected Lemon Squares_151
Lime Sorbet Supreme_154
Mexican Wedding Cakes, Pecan Puff s, Russian Teacakes_163
Even Better Molasses Cookies_164
Peach Pie_172
Pecan Pie_175
Majestic Imperial Regal Yuletide Plum Pudding_180
Mozart’s Rum Sauce_183
Anita Bryant’s Pound Cake_189
Rice Pudding_195
Browned-Flour Shortbread_203
Strawberry Gelato_212
Strawberry Pie_214
Strawberry Shortcake_216
Sugar Cookies_221
Perfected Jam Thumbprints_226
Vanilla Ice Cream_232
White Chocolate–Raspberry Tart_234

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