Cookbook Review: The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution by Elisabeth Bailey

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who works full-time and comes home with the daunting task of having dinner ready with enough time to spend doing all the other things I want to do on a weeknight, I really felt like the author was speaking to me. She gets it. Life doesn't slow down just because you have people to feed. The premise of this book takes a little getting used to. Rather than teaching you how to cook many different meals, Elisabeth Bailey teaches you how to make many different sauces, which you can then apply to any "starter recipe" for a whole host of possible meals. For instance, her pineapple ginger sauce can be spooned over rice, chicken, shrimp, scallops, pork, or beef for any number of meal possibilities. Once that premise sinks in, you realize just how flexible and open it can be. Any meal can be whipped up with something as simple as a cooked chicken breast and a pre-made sauce that's been thawed out of the freezer.

Ms. Bailey begins by teaching you how to prepare some basics, such as a flour-dredged, pan-fried fish to simple roasted pork loin to pan-seared steak. Then come a parade of sauces, so many that my head was spinning with all the possibilities. There are classics, like sausage ragu, red wine sauce, and pesto. And then there are delightfully creative sauces, such as coconut lemon and green peppercorn and tomatillo avocado. There are recipes for each sauce accompanied by meal suggestions. A particularly smart idea incorporated in the book is "my family's favorite", which denotes the meal suggestion that best suits the sauce. For instance, there are 9 listed meal suggestions for spinach pesto, but the "my family's favorite" is to spread the unique pesto on pan-fried fish fillets and serve it alongside couscous and tomato salad. That sounds like a delicious meal to me, and I envy Elisabeth Bailey for how well her family must eat!

However, at times the meal suggestions seem to be not fully fleshed out. Spooning a sauce over rice and pairing it with something like squash doesn't sound like my idea of a complete meal. Neither does spooning sauces over baked potatoes, which is another meal suggestion that comes up quite frequently. Some of the meal suggestions are puzzling, such as pairing an Asian sauce with sides such as a green salad or sliced baguette.

The book itself is not lacking in recipes, and each sauce comes with a delightful little photograph of a wooden spoon cradling the sauce itself, which was a smart way to photograph something as unphotogenic as a sauce. There are also some photographs of complete meal suggestions, though these are much rarer. I found myself wishing for more of those photographs.

I have yet to try any of the recipes, though there are a number that I've bookmarked and will be trying out in time. This is definitely a book that inspires you to get into the kitchen and get cooking, even if you're short on time. I'm not sure if I would buy it myself, since I think I still prefer traditional recipes to this copy-and-paste approach to cooking, but it's a great idea, and I'm sure it will go over very well with many readers.

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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