“Dinner: Changing the Game” By Melissa Clark
First I would like to thank you for checking out my first post & first review here on the blog. Thanks for stopping! I will spare you more of an intro and get right to the reason you all are here… my review of Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark.
Let me start by admitting the following- I didn’t want to love this book! I tend to shy away from books that are marketed as “easy cooking” or “simple techniques”. I find many books that fall into the simple or easy categories to be lacking in interest and flavor. They are just kind of boring typically, and if I want something boring I will turn to those “recipes” in my head. We all have those I think- those things we make that we could do in our sleep. For me that is ground beef tacos, basic chicken quesadillas, a traditional cheese lasagna, a spicy farfalle etc. Most of them are delicious, un-fussy, and beloved.
If I am in a hurry and am just trying to feed myself- these are the kinds of recipes I turn to. If I am going to go so far as to pick up a book for a recipe, I am just not looking for a ground beef taco. Too many “simple” and “easy” recipes are for the things I already have in my repertoire, and provide little improvement to my mental recipe.
My second admission is that when I first picked up this book in 2017 I did not know who Melissa Clark was. Yup- it is true. I now know that Clark is a RENOWNED columnist for the New York Times, author of some 30 odd cookbooks (you read that right, 30!!) and all around recipe guru. Perhaps If I had known these things my attitude would not have been so crummy when I first purchased the book.
My crummy attitude was front and center when I first flipped through the book! Did the world need another sheet pan chicken meal? Aren’t we over grain bowls yet? Why do I need a recipe for guacamole and quesadillas?! I was not sold.
My third and final admission was that I was WRONG. Friends I was OH. SO. WRONG. Sure there are some basics in here a few that I will admit I have glossed over, but Clark truly does combine the basics with some game changers that I have returned to time and again (enter PEA Guacamole).
Let’s start with the organization of the book. Clark provides a table of contents that lists all the individual recipes by categories (Chicken, Meat, The Grind (aka burgers, meatballs kebabs), Fish & Seafood, Eggs, etc etc..). This well organized table of contents gives you a quick idea of whats in the book and helps readers find what they are looking for quickly! The index in the back is thorough- for instance Pea Guacamole is found not just under guacamole but under peas as well. (Yes this seems intuitive, but let me tell you it’s not always the case.).
The recipes are well written. Clark goes the extra mile to suggest alternate cooking methods, ingredients and substitutions in the recipe introductions every time. This to me is the mark of a book written with the home cook in mind. The photos are beautiful, and if I have one criticism it is that, like in oh so many books, a few of the photos show the dishes with items that are not listed in the ingredients.
For instance the Creamy Caramelized Broccoli Soup (one of my favorites) clearly shows what appears to be diced red pepper floating in the bowls of the soup! The only red pepper in the recipe is in the form of dried chili flakes. These things tend to happen, and in this book it is never to the detriment of the dish, in my opinion.
None of the recipes call ingredients that caused any major difficulty to source- and often Clark offers suggestions for more common substitutions, for instance her cucumber salad calls for Chinese Black Vinegar OR a more commonly stocked Rice Vinegar. There are no tricky techniques here, and any and all are well described in the text. For example Clark provides pages of general tips including methods and hints for roasting chicken, as well as spatchcocking and, to use Clark’s term “splaying” as well.
There is a variety of complexity to the dishes- from a quick “Stovetop Mac and Cheese” to a whole roasted “Branzino with Grapefruit and Rustic Olive-Caper Tapenade”. Before Clark’s book I had NEVER cooked a whole fish at home. She made it seem so simple, and in all honesty it was. Leaving the fish whole and stuffing it with citrus insured a delicious and moist fish throughout. The stovetop mac and cheese served as one of those “OH sh**” I am starving and already in my pajamas so there is no way I am going out, meals. I had all the ingredients in the house already and it was a perfect lazy night meal for one.
I have made over a dozen recipes from Dinner Changing the Game, and have repeated MANY of them over the last two years, and almost all were wroth the time and effort to make. I will admit there was a white bean salad I made that was not my favorite, and it is the singular of the recipes I have made that I would not repeat.
I recommend Dinner Changing the Game, and I recommend it for all levels of cooks! There is truly something for everyone here. An entire section on tofu and loads of veggie and meat free options even make this a great cookbook for a vegetarian or for someone who relishes meatless Mondays.
I have used the book for multi course dinner parties (stay tuned for an upcoming post on one of those), 15 minute dinners for one, savory pot luck sides, and have even gifted the book to a recently engaged friend who is learning to cook for her soon to be hubby!
The good news is that if my review has yet to sell you, you can find a few of her recipes from the book floating around online and give them a try for yourself before taking the plunge. Check out my post and the recipe for the Fusilli & Roasted Cauliflower:
Have you cooked from the book already? Are you purchasing it based on this review? Have photos you would like to share of the recipes you have made? Let me know here in the comments, tag me on social media #luluslogcabinkitchen, or holler at me on instagram @luluslogcabinkitchen .