From School Library Journal
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Minute Recipes 1
Fish and Shellfish 59
Poultry and Meat 93
Potatoes, Rice, Pasta, Pizza, and Bread 140
The Menus 218
Author’s Acknowledgments 223
Producer’s Acknowledgments 226
The best, freshest ingredients are essential as well for this "fast food," even though great use is made in the book of the pantry and canned food. This is not a paradox: your canned sardines will be better served on a bed of the freshest baby arugula with a sprinkling of great olives, and a can of cannellini beans that you have transformed into a soup will be accented and improved with great sausage, fresh herbs, mild onion, and roasted croutons from an earthy country bread. Using the supermarket the right way, you can buy good-quality partially cooked or prepared food and make that food personal with a few additions or changes. It’s a gratifying way to cook and it makes you feel that you have created something. This is the easiest of my cookbooks for beginners, for people afraid to cook, for people pressed for time or limited by a poorly stocked supermarket or by a family of finicky eaters, or for anyone who wants great food quickly.
When I think about "fast food" cooking, I realize that I have always cooked this way. My mother did so and so occasionally do my professional chef friends. We all have moments when, pressed by time, we’ll use a can of tuna and a tomato to make a first course or we’ll transform frozen raspberries into a scrumptious dessert in minutes. It’s a question of choosing the right recipes. On a leisurely weekend I may take my time making long-simmering stocks, puff pastry, and slow-cooked stews. A couple of days later, I may be stuck in traffic, come home late, and be hungry and short of time, so I’ll concoct a few fast dishes with what is available in my pantry and fridge—often with as much success as a long-planned, time-consuming meal. These recipes are as much a part of my culinary past and as much a part of my cuisine as are the more complex, longer-to-make recipes from my other books.
Good seafood chowder can be prepared in minutes. In this recipe, I use shrimp, fish, and clam juice and finish the soup with a sprinkling of crabmeat. Oysters, scallops, and mussels are good alternate choices. The most important thing is to have a good base, of which leeks are an essential component. Mushrooms lend complexity, zucchini adds more texture, and potato flakes give a velvety smoothness and the proper thickness. The chowder can be made ahead up to the point where the fish and shellfish are added, which should be done at serving time. Bring the chowder barely back to a boil and serve immediately, with crabmeat sprinkled on as a special garnish.
4 SERVINGS (ABOUT 6 CUPS)
1½ cups trimmed, split, washed, and sliced leeks
1 tablespoon coarsely
2½ cups bottled clam juice
1½ cups water
1 cup coarsely chopped white mushrooms
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ cups diced (½-inch) zucchini
1 cup instant mashed potato flakes
¾ cup 1-inch pieces peeled uncooked shrimp
1 cup 1-inch pieces boneless fish fillet
2/3 cup half-and-half
About ½ cup crabmeat, for garnish (optional)
At serving time, bring the soup back to a boil, add the shrimp, fish, and half-and-half and bring back just to a boil. The fish and shrimp will be cooked through. Divide among four plates or bowls and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons crabmeat, if using, onto the middle of each serving. Serve immediately.
I often make this recipe at home when I am in a hurry, because splitting and flattening the chicken and cutting between the joints of the leg and the shoulder reduce the cooking time by half. I use kitchen shears to split the chicken open at the back and to cut the cooked bird into serving pieces and a knife to cut between the joints.
The mustard crust can be made ahead and even spread on the chicken a day ahead, if you like. I pour the cooked chicken juices into a fat separator with a spout and serve over Fluffy Mashed Potatoes, leaving the fat behind.
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Tabasco hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
½ teaspoon salt
1 chicken (about 3½ pounds)
Fluffy Mashed Potatoes (page 142; optional)
Put the chicken skin side down on a cutting board and spread it with about half the mustard mixture. Place the chicken flat in a large skillet, mustard side down. Spread the remaining mustard on the skin side of the chicken. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, then place the skillet in the oven and cook the chicken for about 30 minutes. It should be well browned and dark on top.
Let the chicken rest in the skillet at room temperature for a few minutes, then cut it into 8 pieces with clean kitchen shears. Defat the cooking juices. If you like, mound some Fluffy Mashed Potatoes on each of four warm dinner plates and place 2 pieces of chicken on each plate. Pour some juice on the mashed potatoes and chicken and serve.
This stew features an unusual combination of vegetables. Petite peas are the small ones in the pods, which are sweeter and more tender than the starchy large peas. The slight bitterness of the endive and the earthy taste and firm texture of the mushrooms lend complexity to this dish.
1 cup coarsely chopped white mushrooms
1 large Belgian endive, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices (about 2 cups)
2 cups (about 8 ounces) frozen petite peas
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
A classic apple charlotte is made in a deep metal charlotte mold that has been lined with buttered bread slices and filled with sautéed caramelized apples and sometimes nuts. The apple mixture is then covered with more bread and the charlotte is baked, unmolded, and served with apricot sauce. In this quick version, apple wedges are sautéed with honey and maple syrup, covered with buttered bread slices, baked and then turned out of the pan like a tart Tatin.
(about 1½ pounds total)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey
4 slices white bread
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
About ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)
Trim the crusts from the bread slices and arrange them, touching, in a square on a cutting board. Trim the corners to create a rough disk that will fit into the skillet and cover the apples. Butter the bread on one side with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and arrange the slices buttered side up on top of the apples.
Sprinkle on the sugar and place the pan in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned on top.
At serving time, if necessary, reheat the dessert on top of the stove to help loosen the apples and unmold the charlotte onto a serving platter. If the apricot preserves are firm, heat them for 30 seconds in a microwave oven to soften. Pour and spread them on top of the apples. Serve the dessert in wedges as is or with a couple of tablespoons of sour cream or Greek yogurt, if you like.