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Become a pro in the kitchen by mastering these 10 essential recipes, which are featured in The Great Cook, a new cookbook from Chef James Briscione and the editors of Cooking Light.
Whether you’re just learning to cook, or have your go-to dinner rotation set in stone, these 10 recipes build the basic foundation that every great cook needs. From homemade pasta, to fudgy brownies, we’ve set you up for success.
First up, we have Chicken Stock. A good stock is the base to many great dishes, included soups, sauces, braises, even rice pilaf and risotto. Keep a heavy-duty zip-top bag in the freezer and anytime you have chicken, reserve the wings, necks, and backs. When you’ve saved up enough, make a pot of stock. Clear, clean-tasting stock comes from a gentle simmer, so keep an eye on the heat.
Buy the Book: The Great Cook: Essential Techniques and Inspired Flavors to Make Every Dish Better
French Onion Soup
There’s a lot of love in a bowl of French onion soup. There’s the rich, homemade beef stock and the properly caramelized onions, both of which form the base of the soup. Properly caramelizing onions can take up to an hour. But you don’t need to clear your entire afternoon to make a pot of soup. After the first five minutes or so you only need to check in periodically.
A properly seared scallop is a thing of beauty, one of those perfect foods that demands to be celebrated. Make sure to dry your scallops before seasoning them, then pat the surface with paper towels again just before putting them in the pan. Don’t be tempted to move the scallops—this will only slow down their cooking.
Classic Pasta Dough
If the idea of making fresh pasta dough intimidates you, quit making excuses. It’s really no more difficult than measuring flour and letting the machine do the work of mixing it with a few eggs. It’s a job that can get a touch messy, though—but the end result makes it all worthwhile. To make cleanup easier, tape a piece of parchment paper to the countertop and knead on the paper if you’d like. Make your own noodles or ravioli tonight!
Working with yeast dough can be one of the most satisfying journeys in the kitchen. The alchemy of transforming the flour and water into perfectly light, buttery rolls or chewy, pillow-soft breadsticks goes beyond cooking. It’s an art that's mastered with practice, but worth every minute. Extra rolls can be shaped, then frozen for up to eight weeks.
Lower in fat and high in flavor, flank steak is also incredibly versatile. It readily takes on flavors of Asia, Spain, or Latin America, but it’s beefy enough to stand on its own as well.
Cooking flank steak is best done with high heat like a grill or broiler. It’s thin cut, so intense heat gets you great browning on the outside without over-cooking.
Tomato Stack Salad
There’s really nothing more exciting than the first day heirloom tomatoes arrive at your local market. Perfectly imperfect, with all sorts of funky shapes and colors. Look for larger heirloom tomato varieties (Brandywine, Mr. Stripey, Cherokee Purple) to make the slices needed for this stack salad. Firm flesh that yields slightly to gentle pressure is the best test of ripeness.
Lemony Kale Salad
Kale is one of the most nutritious and versatile vegetables you’ll ever find. Some varieties of kale have fairly tender, edible stems. But if stems are large and tough, remove them with a knife or kitchen shears. Or try this chef’s tip: Loosely grasp the base of the stem between your fingers and pull the leaf through the fingers with your opposite hand.
Mastering the stir-fry technique is your secret weapon for flavor-packed healthful meals that are ready in minutes. The key to successful stir-frying is organization, in other words, getting your mise en place together before you begin cooking.
A handful of common Asian condiments come together to make a sauce that gives this dish a slightly smoky taste that is reminiscent of a good Chinese restaurant stir-fry.
Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies
These gooey, chocolate-studded light brownies are out-of-this-world good! Simply combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another. Add all of the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined.
The best test of doneness is to insert a wooden pick into the center of the pan. When moist crumbs cling to the pick when you pull it out, the brownies are perfectly baked.
10 Dishes Every Jamaican Should Know How to Cook
Whether or not you’re a foodie, you certainly do have to spend significant portions of your life eating food. And it certainly adds to your reputation as a Jamaican when you not only know how good food, but you know how to cook them as well. Here are 10 dishes that every Jamaican should be able to prepare.
1. Jerk chicken and jerk pork
Jamaican Jerk Pork – Photo by X. Murphy
Jerk meat dishes are loved everywhere for the spiciness and smoky flavour that many swear are as a result of super secret ingredients in the jerk seasoning. So what are these secret ingredients? Most likely allspice – a spicy seasoning made from dried pimento berries, scotch bonnet pepper, onion, thyme and ginger. If you’re aiming for the authentic jerk taste, allow the meat to marinate in sauce made from the spices, and then slow cook on a grill with pimento wood. And that’s real Jamaican jerk! However, if you’re using the oven you may also want to add bottled jerk sauce to your list of ingredients and forget about the pimento wood.
2. Ackee and Saltfish
Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish with yellow yam, flour dumpling, boiled green bananas, fried plantains and steamed cabbage – Photo by Xavier Murphy
Ackee and saltfish is an easy-to-prepare dish that’s quite sumptuous and gaining fans beyond the country’s borders. As the country’s national dish – every Jamaican should know how to prepare it. The saltfish is put to soak hours before preparation to remove excess sale. When it’s cooking time, the saltfish and ackee are washed and boiled separately. When boiled to satisfaction, the saltfish is de-boned, flaked, and sautéed in onions, scallion, thyme and black pepper, then combined with the ackee for one of the most heavenly creations ever to grace the tastebuds.
3. Curry chicken and goat
Succulent and juicy to the bone, curry chicken and curry goat are two very popular dishes at many Jamaican gatherings. Jamaicans have developed a special love for curry! You’ll need curry, garlic, allspice, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, black pepper and vinegar. The meat whether chicken or goat is first seasoned with the spices and allowed to marinate. The next crucial step is what Jamaicans call, “burning the curry’ which involves heating the oil with curry powder until the colour starts to change. Finally the meat is added and allowed to slowly simmer until tender and cooked to perfection.
Jamaican Oxtails – Photo by X. Murphy
This belly-filling dish can be found at almost every Jamaican restaurant. But for cooking this dish at home, you first need an ounce of patience – cooking may take an hour and a half or even longer. To get the taste just right, the meat is fried on high heat until both sides are a dark brown colour. (Some persons skip this stage and just add browning during cooking.) Then, the oxtail meat is cooked in a pressure cooker for 20-30 minutes until the desired softness is reached. The pot is then seasoned with local herbs and spices along with carrots and optional butter beans and simmers until the sauce is thickened.
5. Red Peas Soup
Jamaican Red Peas Soup – Photo by X. Murphy
Red peas soup is a delicious hot soup that is sold all over the island. However, the best bowl of soup is the one you make at home. It uses mostly the same ingredients as other soups with the exception of a healthy dose of red kidney beans which give the dish its unique flavour and colour. Some cooks swear that red peas soup could never be complete without a small addition of pigtails, however, others insist it is just as tasty without it. A bowl of red soup is especially welcomed when it is raining.
Adam Liaw’s fish sauce roast chicken. Photograph: Adam Liaw's Asian Cookery School/Hachette Australia
Roasting a chicken is to cooking as riding a bike is to transportation. You only need to learn how to do it once. My advice: if you’re not going to stuff it, butterfly (spatchcock) it so it can be laid out flat. It’ll cook faster and you’ll get tastier skin. Try this one with a bit of a twist.
The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunc
Catfish is a popular dish down South, and for good reason. Most of the farm-raised catfish in the United States comes from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. And although it can be prepared in a variety of ways including grilled, frying in a cornmeal coating is the most traditional. For a traditional Southern fish fry, serve catfish with hushpuppies, tartar sauce, and coleslaw.
Gourmet Meat Curry
Gourmet Meat Curry restores 20 full Hearts, arguably more than any one player should need during gameplay. On Master Mode, however, having quick access to high tier healing goes a long way during harder encounters.
Raw Gourmet Meat is dropped by Water Buffalos, Snowcoat Foxes, and Maraudo Wolves. Hylian Rice can be purchased in Hateno Village or by cutting grass. Goron Spice can be purchased at the Goron Gusto Shop in Goron City or from Traveling Merchant Yammo.
10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know
I live and breathe cookbooks. Every week, the UPS guy leaves another dozen or two. I recipe-test every day of the week. My four-year-old eats octopus. My nine-year-old's favorite food is Turkish börek (filled pastry). I am as smitten with cookbooks today as I was the first day I ever hefted a spatula, and that is why I wanted to have a word with all of you: the publishers who feed the habit I share with millions of American home cooks.
I currently review cookbooks for NPR, the Boston Globe, AOL's Kitchen Daily, and the cookbook indexing site EatYourBooks.com. Although I don't see every last cookbook, I see a wide spectrum, from the spectacular to the half-baked. At the end of every year, I make up best-of-the-year lists, and it invariably pains me to see many books fall out of the running for what are essentially silly reasons. But I also come across books so bewitching, so un-put-downable, that I have to ask myself: what is it that makes them so special?
Here you'll find my attempts to answer those two basic questions: What makes a cookbook awful? What makes a cookbook great? The answers may surprise, nettle, or disturb you--but I hope you'll give them your attention nonetheless. Before my life as a cookbook reviewer, I worked in publishing myself as an acquisitions editor, so I know how hard it is to keep your eye on everything. Some of these tips are for your copyediting and production departments others are for editors and authors. And marketing, publicity, and sales people should be mindful of all of them.
Five Common Mistakes that Make a Cookbook Unusable
Cookbooks remain a non-replaceable, hard-copy artifact in a digital world. They are used as physical objects in a way other books are not. Every time a cook tries a new recipe, she returns to the page at least a dozen times. Format matters, as do details and specifications. The good news is, these mistakes are easy to fix.
1. Page Format. There is nothing worse than a cookbook printed in a miniature typeface. Bear in mind, we're not reading these books in a comfy chair or on the beach. They're often on a messy kitchen counter, three feet away from our eyes and our steamed-up glasses. Often we have to find our place in a rush. Too-small type is a nightmare. Turning a page with sticky fingers is also a problem, so double-page spreads for longer recipes are ideal (even if it means not including a photo). Is the book too long for big type? It's better to cut a few recipes to make your $35 price point than cram them all in in a way that makes them hard to use.
2. Measurement. I know, it's not fair, but American cooks just don't use liters and grams. We work with cups and tablespoons for volume, pounds for weight, and ounces for either. Whenever possible we'll use volumes rather than weights. If you're publishing a buy-in for the U.S. market, make the conversions, or you will have an expensive flop on your hands.
4. Equipment. This one's for authors who happen to be chefs. Don't assume anyone has a restaurant kitchen. If most of your recipes demand a Paco-Jet, a Hobart mixer, or a full set of ring molds, don't bother trying to retail your book. Just give it out free to other chefs, who don't buy cookbooks anyway. Also, if you scale your recipe down on paper to feed four to six instead of 40, actually test it at that scale, and remember the aromatics and spices don't scale down the same way.
5. &ldquoTurn to page 578.&rdquo Often people like to clean up a cluttered page by nesting multiple sub recipes in the ingredients. &ldquoSpicy Tomato Reduction (see page 247).&rdquo &ldquoOven-roasted Peppers (see page 135).&rdquo Then you get to the end of the recipe and it's &ldquoServe with Eggplant Coulis (page 446), toasted Sourdough Crackers (page 394) and Cucumber Trifle (page 752).&rdquo Have a heart, publishers! Incorporate them as extra steps in the main recipe, or if you must, reprint the sub-recipe just after. Our hands are sticky, our glasses are steamed up, and we can't be rifling through a cookbook for hidden recipes.
Five Things that Make a Good Cookbook Great
Design plays a role in making a great cookbook, but for the most part, it's the content that separates the wheat from the chaff. The author of a great cookbook has passion to spare, and a vast fund of knowledge. That shows up in the details, whether they&rsquore technical, historical, scientific, or anecdotal.
1. Great headnotes. Headnotes are what make me fall in love with a cookbook, because that's where the author tells us what this recipe is doing in this book, and why they love it so. It's a place for stories and helpful tips ("if you can't find banana chiles, serranos will do"). Headnotes aren't just decorative--they can give you vital clues. If the author describes how she first was captivated by this recipe because of the smell of perfectly caramelized onions wafting out a window, that gives you a sense of something to watch for in the cooking.
2. "Instant classics."
3. &ldquoWhat to Look For.&rdquo This is perhaps the clearest indicator of a great cook and, more importantly, a great teacher. The halfhearted cookbook author might merely say, "Fry for five minutes over high heat," maybe adding a perfunctory "until golden". But gas and electric burners are variable, and times vary. Tell us how the spices should smell when they're toasted, how big the bubbles in the sauce should be when it's simmering properly, how salty the curry paste should be. There's nothing wrong with a wordy recipe--it just shows someone cares.
4. Sidebars, glossaries, indexes. Although we don't use them while we're actually cooking, these peripheral materials distinguish the cookbook that stays on your shelf for years from the one you give away after a season. It's not just the useful information, like how to shop for Japanese groceries, or the equipment you need to make your own pasta. It's the quotes from other cooks, the story about Nana and the fishmonger, the lore that makes your cookbook different from anyone else's.
5. Art. Good design is essential good art can make a buyer fall in love with your cookbook right there in the store. But don't let your food stylist go so crazy with the shot that it no longer bears a relationship to what the home cook can reasonably produce. Nothing's more infuriating than seeing perfect grill marks on a piece of meat when you've been told to run it under a broiler, or having beautiful little heirloom cherry tomatoes not mentioned in the recipe prettying up a beige risotto under false pretenses. Honest photographs, preferably facing the recipe page, are great. Drawings, whether whimsical or realistic, can work, too. (And type can be every bit as powerful as art. I am partial to the mixed-typeface designs you see more and more these days--they punch up a page and often help me parse a recipe at speed.)
Of course, these are just my opinions. To some extent, they're arbitrary--yet I've heard cooks here, there, and everywhere echo these thoughts. Of course, the single most common refrain you hear among cooks is "I already have too many cookbooks!" But superior content, captivating design, and thoughtful editing will overcome that lament every time.
As for my favorite cookbooks: It takes a few years to know whether a cookbook is going to end up being a favorite. I have many, so it's hard to choose. But here are a few I find myself returning to again and again.
The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter)
Filled with good things to read, not just to eat--fascinating food quotes, sidebars, and anecdotes in a punchy type design that makes them easy to read. Many easy, instant classics.
Tasty by Roy Finamore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Finamore is a model of clarity as a recipe writer, and his cuisine is comfort food that works every time. His recipes are perfectly balanced, flavorwise--often with thoughtful, unexpected ingredients. This book is chock full of instant classics.
660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer (Workman)
Abundant, well-tested recipes with clear instructions, good background introduction, and an excellent glossary for hard-to-get ingredients.
A Passion for Ice Cream by Emily Luchetti (Chronicle)
Beautiful photographs and perfectly triangulated flavor combinations.
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop and Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop (Norton)
Both of these do a fantastic job with hard-to-describe, hard-to-find ingredients. Expansive headnotes that instruct and amuse.
Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
A course in baking unto itself. Very strong theoretical basis, clear explanations, pristine photography.
And my worst ever cookbook? I'm not going to name names, but I reserve a special place in my library for the most preposterous cookbook I have ever seen, from an otherwise terrific publisher. It's an extremely high-end book whose most striking feature is the 6-point type laid out diagonally in four different directions on each page. This is illegibly imposed, in turn, on a background of black-and-white photographic negatives. The ingredients, while on the obscure side--micro-amaranth greens and peppercress, pig cheeks, pumpkin seed oil--would have been okay if there had been any instructions as to where you could find them. While the equipment required isn't outrageous (fine sieve, charlotte molds, that sort of thing), simultaneous recipes often require different oven temperatures, which only works if you have multiple ovens. There are no headnotes of any kind. In short, this book is a very pure example of a genre of cookbook I like to call Don't Try This At Home.
10 Recipes Every Ree Drummond Fan Should Master
If you’ve seen Ree Drummond on The Pioneer Woman, you know that she isn’t afraid to crack a joke or put a little extra TLC into every dish that she cooks. As a mother of four and the wife of a cowboy, Ree whips up hearty, comforting recipes — like decadent Chocolate Chip Caramel Sundaes and stick-to-your-ribs Chicken-Fried Steaks with Gravy — that both kids and adults will enjoy.
Whether she’s making a grab-and-go breakfast or a three-tiered cake for a special birthday party, Ree’s recipes are a surefire way to impress your friends and family at any meal. Keep reading below for more of Ree’s comforting classics and check out her Oklahoma ranch for a behind-the-scenes look at where she makes all of these crowd-pleasing favorites.
If you’re wondering what a stick-to-your-ribs meal looks like, Ree’s fried steak illustrates just that. This hearty meal stars a tenderized piece of steak that she coats in a seasoned flour mixture and fries until golden brown. Reserve some of the steak grease for the gravy, and whisk in milk and flour until it’s thick and creamy.
The Ultimate Gourmet Classic
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
By Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. Knopf.
It is hard to overstate the impact Mastering the Art of French Cooking had on home cooking when it first came out in 1961. In addition to introducing the world to late national treasure Julia Child, it also opened American eyes to authentic French cuisine and sparked a national interest in gourmet cooking. Before this book came out, French food was something that only happened in fancy (read: expensive) restaurants and, well, in France. After this book came out, everyone was suddenly rushing to put boeuf Bourguignon on the table at their next dinner party.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking is infamously full of complicated recipes the entire plot of the 2009 film Julie and Julia hinges on this fact. But if you've been too intimidated to try out Child's masterwork, do know that not every recipe requires killing live lobsters or preparing complicated terrines. Since it's spring, check out the section on simple asparagus preparations or make a Filet de Poisson Poché au Vin Blanc—a super-simple poached fish in white wine. Maybe even make them together.
And for what it's worth, this is the only book on this list that did not spark a debate among our editorial staff. Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a shoo-in from the beginning.
6. How to Scramble Eggs
There are five basic preparations of eggs: poached, boiled, baked, omelet, and, finally, scrambled (the simplest of the methods). To make scrambled eggs, crack eggs in a bowl and whisk until very frothy. Cook slowly in melted butter over medium heat, stirring often. Be creative when it comes to mix-ins! Use cheese (cheddar, gruyère, goat), vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, red peppers), cooked meats (sausage, ham, chorizo), and fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives) in countless combinations.
Fried chicken and gravy is a favorite in Emett's home.
"Who doesn't love fried chicken?" Emett said. "This recipe is next level and, although it requires some planning — as the recipe calls for an overnight brine followed by a buttermilk marinade — it's still really simple. This is one of my kids' favorite dishes."
And his kids aren't alone: Fried chicken has been beloved for centuries. A recipe for fried chicken is said to have appeared in a 4th-century Roman cookbook, and the dish was embraced by Americans as early as the 1830s.
The dish is still hugely popular, whether at dedicated fried-chicken fast-food restaurants like KFC and Popeyes or in its many variations in Southern cuisine, including chicken-fried steak (part of the official state meal of Oklahoma) and Nashville's hot chicken.
You can find the chef Sean Brock's fried chicken and gravy recipe on pages 202 to 204 in Emett's book.