You love to cook, and you're always looking for great new recipes. But who on earth has time to search out the very best recipes among the thousands in the latest food magazines, new cookbooks, food-related Web sites, and local and national newspapers? Now two seasoned professionals have done all the work for you.
Acclaimed by reviewers from the New York Times to People as the only collection of its kind, The Best American Recipes offers a dazzlingly diverse selection. To create this year's edition -- the most exciting ever -- Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens combed through hundreds of sources, from the most talked about to the most obscure, tracking down thousands of recipes. They thoroughly home-tested each dish so you can be sure that every one is foolproof.
Variety is the key. You'll find inspiration for every meal and every occasion, with rediscovered classics as well as brilliantly simple dishes from the nation's top chefs. The more than 150 recipes include
· a terrific starter you can make in minutes: Minted Pea Soup, from the British cooking sensation Jamie Oliver · an elegant breakfast: Baked Eggs in Maple Toast Cups, from a small Vermont food company · a quick weeknight supper: Chicken Saltimbocca, from a supermarket flyer · a fresh and versatile vegetarian main dish that's great for a party: Cremini Mushrooms with Chive Pasta, from a celebrated New York chef · a truly memorable holiday side dish: Mashed Potatoes with Sage and White Cheddar Cheese, from a major food magazine · the perfect snack: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters, from a soon-to-be-published cookbook by a baking expert
Every recipe comes with tips and suggestions from the editors' home kitchens, which expand your cooking and serving options and give you sterling results the first time, every time.
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Fran McCullough has been an editor at Harper and Row, Dial Press, and Bantam, where she discovered such major cookbook authors as Deborah Madison, Diana Kennedy, Paula Wolfert, Martha Rose Shulman, and Colman Andrews. She is a coauthor of Great Food Without Fuss, which won a James Beard Award, and the author of the best-selling Low-Carb Cookbook, The Good Fat Cookbook, and Living Low-Carb.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
In t r o d u c t i o n
We never quite know what we’re going to find when we begin combing through hundreds of cookbooks, magazines, and newspapers looking for the best recipes of the year which is a good part of why this is such an exciting enterprise. It’s not unlike a massive culinary treasure hunt. Sometimes the treasures are anything but obvious, such as the Manhattan chef Waldy Malouf’s pasta with mushrooms and chives a recipe that looks so plain-Jane on paper that we almost passed it by. Yet as soon as we tested this easy recipe, we immediately fell for its clean but complex flavors. It’s one of those can’t-stop-eating- it dishes that we make again and again a definite best.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of our search is recognizing the hot dishes of the year that seem to pop up everywhere. Once we identify these, we take it upon ourselves to test our way through as many versions as it takes to find the very best one out there. For instance, we knew early on that good old-fashioned crispy fried chicken was a big passion this year, partly because the food writer Jeffrey Steingarten fried his way through some two hundred chickens and devoted an entire column in Vogue to his findings. After testing plenty of different recipes, the one that stole our hearts was Fried Chicken Littles crunchy, tender morsels served with a zingy, eye-opening dipping sauce.
It also didn’t take us long to notice that granita, the sparkling Italian ice that up until now seems to have been waiting in the wings, was suddenly everywhere and in every imaginable flavor. This super-simple frozen dessert easily displaced sorbet and even ice cream this year. Taste the grapefruit and star anise granita in the dessert chapter, and you’ll know why.
These are, of course, very homey dishes.
And without a doubt, homey” is the watchword this year. But that doesn’t mean plain, and it certainly doesn’t mean boring. From shrimp cocktail and chicken noodle soup, to burgers and meatballs, to crisps and crumbles, the recipes that delight us may be familiar, but each has a sophisticated global twist.
Shrimp cocktail comes glazed with a spicy-sweet jalapeno-lime sauce, green chiles show up in macaroni and cheese, burgers are made from fresh salmon and dolloped with a snappy adoli, and old-fashioned chiffon layer cake is flavored with ginger and mango.
We also were struck by a corresponding and equally unmistakable trend: the revival of old recipes that had been forgotten or had fallen out of favor. We freely admit to having a huge preservationist streak, and we were thrilled to find others sharing the same passion.
Resurrecting old recipes is not just an exercise in historic preservation; some are just too good to do without, including the mild southern curry called Country Captain.
We tested several and chose a particularly elegant version.
You probably won’t find a trifle on your favorite restaurant menu, but this big holiday treat from England has been gathering a lot of interest on this side of the ocean. The one we love most is Nigella Lawson’s summer blackberry trifle, which brilliantly simplifies this gorgeous, impressive dessert.
Not that every standout recipe of the year falls into the old-fashioned, homey category.
There are plenty of thrilling new recipes as well, such as Paula Wolfert’s ethereal asparagus, cooked slowly in its own delectable juices with a touch of fresh tarragon.
A quick scan through the recipes that made their way into this collection reveals an impressive facility with global flavors that is no longer limited to chefs or hard-core foodies.
We were happily surprised to see how mainstream several cuisines have become: Spanish and Mexican, in particular, but also West Indian (one reason ginger beer is turning up everywhere). Possibly the most exotic cuisine we encountered is Scandinavian, which brings its own refined excitement to our tables. These influences are changing the contents of our pantries, where you’re now likely to encounter pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), chipotles (smoked jalapenos) in adobo sauce, chorizo, pancetta (the unsmoked bacon of Italy), and panko (wonderfully crisp Japanese bread crumbs). Tomatillos, exotic mushrooms, and an assortment of fresh and dried chiles have entered the everyday realm and are now available in supermarkets almost everywhere.
Americans have been slow to recognize the charms of pecorino Romano, the earthier cousin of Parmigiano-Reggiano. But this year we’re making up for lost time pecorino turns up everywhere.
At the same time, once-unfamiliar techniques are becoming commonplace. For instance, five yearss ago only the most dedicated cooks would undertake grinding their own spices to season a dish. Today a mortar and pestle or a little electric spice grinder (or a coffee grinder) is standard equipment in any well-appointed kitchennnnn. The flavor dividends for the moments it takes to grind your own are simply amazing.
Even after compiling this book for six years in a row, we are seduced (a lot more often than we should be) by recipes that look good on the page but simply don’t deliver in the kitchen. The proof really is in the pudding.
We can assure you that all of the recipes in this collection have not only been kitchen-tested but meet our standards for dishes we want to make again and again. For those recipes that made the cut, we’ve added our own notes from the testing, to give you an idea of what to expect and offer suggestions about how you can play with them. And once again we present our favorite ten recipes from the book, so you won’t miss them.
Fr a n Mc C u l l o u g h and M o l ly St e v e n s
Copyright © 2004 by Houghton Mifflin. Introduction copyright © 2004 by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
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