Back in the 1970s, when many Americans were under the impression that wrapping a boneless chicken breast around a stick of butter and deep-frying it was "gourmet" cooking, Sheila Lukins started helping some bachelor friends with their dinner parties. Her food was healthy, simple and, above all, tasty. That impromptu business morphed into The Other Woman Catering Company, and then, with a partner, into a gourmet store.
The Silver Palate opened on New York's Upper West Side --- then a culinary wasteland --- the same year that Dean & DeLuca opened downtown. And the food world suddenly changed.
In 1982, The Silver Palate published a cookbook. It presented 350 recipes, most of them pleasingly toothsome, all of them easy. It too rocked food world --- in 2007, having abandoned several grease-stained copies, I couldn't not buy the Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition.
Ten: All the Foods We Love and 10 Perfect Recipes for Each should also be around a quarter century from now --- and I suspect I'll have gone through several copies by then. It's not just that the recipes are simple, sane and sensible. It's that this book is built on a great idea.
And it's a simple idea: We may like many different kinds of food, but we have our favorites. For the carnivores, that's steaks, chops, burgers, ribs and stews. For fish-lovers, that's shrimp, lobster, clams and seafood salads. For pretty much everyone, it's mashed potatoes, pasta, corn and tomatoes. Add desserts, cocktails, salads and a few others, and you have 32 favorites.
But here's the smart part: In each category, Lukins presents ten recipes. Some are classic. Others play with the possibilities. Chicken, for example, begins with the basic: herb-roasted chicken; it's nicely conventional, but then she adds a touch I've never tried --- a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the gravy. Then it's on to a roasted chicken that's been brined for 12 hours, Asian-scented orange chicken, orange-ginger-tomato glazed chicken, Vietnamese-style chicken, Tandoori-style roast chicken, Daniel Boulud's chicken grand-mere, a salted roast chicken, a South American chicken and herb-roasted drumsticks. A trip around the world of chicken, in ten recipes. I want to make them all.
In every category, I admire the creative details. A vanilla bean added to stewed tomatoes. Mac and cheese with equal amounts of cheddar and mozzarella. Stalks of lemongrass in the steamed clams. These ingredients could, in other books, turn recipes into tricks. Here, they just make food taste better.
Ten hasn't been in our kitchen long. But it's already muscled out some formidable competition. Soon, I suspect, it will be our go-to cookbook.
The old Motown Records motto was "It's what in the grooves that counts." So let some recipes speak for the excellence of Ten.
ROASTED CARROT GINGER SOUP
1 and 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 pound parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 large onion, sliced
1 piece (3 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
8 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, or more if needed
Salt, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup creme fraiche, for garnish
Snipped fresh chives, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.
Combine the carrots, parsnips, onion, and ginger in a shallow roasting pan. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar.
Pour 2 cups of the broth into the pan, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the vegetables are very tender, 2 hours.
Transfer the vegetables and broth to a large soup pot, and add the remaining 6 cups of broth. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
Puree the soup, in batches, in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding more broth if needed. Return the soup to the pot, adjust the seasonings if necessary, and heat through. Serve each portion dolloped with a teaspoon of creme fraiche and sprinkled with chives.
CARAMELIZED APPLE MASHED POTATOES
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
1 and 1/2 cups half-and-half
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Coarse (kosher) salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place the potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover. Salt the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the apples: Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add the apples and cook, stirring, until they have softened, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and continue to cook, shaking the pan, until they are caramelized but not burned, 2 to 3 minutes. Set the apples aside.
Heat the half-and-half in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbles just begin to form around the edges (do not let it boil). Set the pan aside.
Drain the potatoes well and return them to the pot. Place the pot over very low heat and shake it for about 1 minute to dry the potatoes well.
Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, and add the 8 tablespoons of butter. Using a ricer, a potato masher, or a large fork, mash the potatoes with the butter. Stir in the half-and-half, and season generously with coarse salt and black pepper. Fold in the reserved apples. Serve immediately.
[cross-posted from HeadButler.com]