8 Dishes I Still Make from My Vintage Cookbooks

From Betty Crocker and Julia Child to The Silver Palate and The Cake Bible, these classic recipes cannot be matched.
By Stacey Ballis
August 24, 2021
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Vintage Cookbook
Credit: Getty / Silvia Rico

I'm as much of a cookbook junkie as anyone, but it's rare that a new cookbook ends up in the high-use rotation in my kitchen. Because back in the day, great recipes didn't become famous because they went viral on Instagram but because they were great. Here are 8 undisputed champion recipes from my favorite vintage cookbooks, plus where to buy the books if you don't already own them.

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The Art of French Cooking - Julia Child
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Boeuf Bourguignon

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (1961)

My grandmother gifted me her copy, and you probably don't need me to tell you that you should have one of your own. And at the risk of being cliché, it really is the Boeuf Bourguignon that gets made again and again. The perfect winter weekend project, my only change is that I will usually double the recipe so that I have a batch in the freezer for emergencies.

Buy it: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set) Hardcover – Box set ($81), amazon.com

Joy of Cooking
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Chicken Marbella

The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (1979)

If there is an entertaining dish more ubiquitous than the Chicken Marbella from this book, I don't know what it would be. And while there was a period in the 1980s where we all hit a Marbella wall, I have to say, this dish holds up. Over the years I have altered it slightly to my own taste, using 5 pounds of large bone-in skin on chicken thighs instead of the quartered whole chickens, Italian Castelvetrano olives for their meaty mild flavor, fresh bay leaves instead of dried, and sherry vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Occasionally I may sneak in a pinch of red pepper flakes. But the essence of the dish remains the same: sweet, tart, savory, salty, briny, perfectly balanced, and so so delicious.

Buy it: The Silver Palate Cookbook Paperback – Deluxe Edition ($15), amazon.com

Betty Crocker
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Buttermilk Pancakes

Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book (1950 edition)

Always entertaining for its datedness, but also full of solid cooking info, you cannot do better than the BC recipe for Buttermilk Pancakes. Light, fluffy, and super classic, this recipe gets only one tweak from me: I use half butter and half shortening to give a little bit of that buttery flavor to the cakes.

Buy it: Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book Spiral-bound ($17.59), amazon.com

Dooky Chase Cookbook
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Fried Chicken

The Dooky Chase Cookbook by Leah Chase (1990)

If you only buy this cookbook for the fried chicken recipe, it will still be a good investment. But once you have it, you cannot go wrong. From beans to grits to Creole standards, the straightforward recipes work brilliantly. I used it to learn to make fried chicken when I met my Kentucky-born husband, and it doesn't need any changes.

Buy it: The Dooky Chase Cookbook ($22.49), amazon.com

Cinnamoon Cookbook
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Maltose-Glazed Baked Sparerib

China Moon Cookbook by Barbara Tropp (1992)

This book was all the rage when I graduated from college, and I was among the young cooks who had grown up on Yan Can Cook, new to hosting at our own places and with woks fresh out of their packaging, who gravitated towards the fun recipes in this expansive book. The recipe that the book falls open to? Maltose-Glazed Baked Spareribs, a home version of those sweet sticky ribs you love from your favorite Chinese takeout place. Amazing appetizer for any gathering, but especially events like Superbowl.

Buy it: China Moon Cookbook ($18), amazon.com

Vincent Cookbook
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Quiche Lorraine

A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price (1965)

Yes, THAT Vincent Price, and his wife Mary, legendary Hollywood hosts and cooks, not to mention world travelers and total sophisticates. I love everything about this book, and obsessively look for vintage copies with their metallic padded covers, to gift to people. I can read this book like a novel; it is like a travelogue and cooking course all in one. The dish that cannot be improved upon? The simple Quiche Lorraine, inspired by the one from the esteemed Paris restaurant, Lasserre. The vintage copies can be expensive, so here's a 50th anniversary version that's more affordable.

Buy it: A Treasury of Great Recipes, 50th Anniversary Edition: Famous Specialties of the World's Foremost Restaurants Adapted for the American Kitchen ($33), amazon.com

Cake Bible
Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Cocoa Souffle Cake

The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (1988)

The first baking cookbook I ever bought for myself; this bible has been a constant companion. If you love to bake, this book will change so much for you. The cake that you must make again and again? The Cocoa Soufflé cake, which makes a Swiss roll so easy you cannot help but feel confident and competent. Endlessly adaptable with fillings and glazes, it is an incomparably perfect recipe.

Buy it: The Cake Bible ($28), amazon.com