Campanile and Tar Pit) and his Classic Family Dinners. With a title like that, you'd assume he assumed you had, like, a family, and you wanted to feed them. And, one might even go so far as to surmise he'd think you had to do other things for them, like spend time with them not in the kitchen (as you're busy straining, with cheesecloth, your bechamel), or save for their college education. But, despite the recipes in the book usually delivering, it's not clear Peel had those ideas in mind.
Take his macaroni cheese. It does end up delicious, the day after you start making (or the day you take off to make it). But one reason it does is it contains a good $40 worth of dried and fresh mushrooms. Sure, you get to eat it for a couple of days, too, as it make a lot, but for a vegetarian meal, that's a hefty price tag. (And, to tell the truth, it seems more a mushroom-noodle casserole by the end, which isn't a bad thing, just a bit of a dodge.)
Then the above lovely dish is his (well, even better, my) linguine with clams. Even buying clams on sale, this calls for 48 littlenecks, and 4 dozen is about 8 pounds of shell-heavy bivalve. Which is a painful cash register ca-ching of about $40. That pain was mollified once I started eating the dish, as it is quite possibly the best linguine and clams I've ever had. You end up making just enough juice and then give the pasta a quick pan braise in that after cooking it, so all the clam-brothy goodness gets sucked right into the semolina. One of my weaknesses as a both a chef and eater is I prefer a hefty saucing (LA Times critic Irene Virbila, ever on the alert for too much sauce, would probably find me horribly gauche), but this recipe cures me of that problem. Just get the darn sauce to hide inside the food!
So, should you buy this book? Depends upon how much time and money you have. And, I have to admit, not all the dishes are intensive/expensive. He's got a pan-fried trout that's already become a go-to staple in our kitchen.
But I'm still looking for that perfect mac 'n' cheese recipe.