by Sybil PrattOctober, 2003
Tom Valenti, a working chef and chef/owner of two top-rated New York restaurants, also loves to cook and entertain at home, but he hates to do the dishes. That deep-seated dish-doing dread led him to develop the 125 recipes that appear in his new book, Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals, written with Andrew Friedman. When he's working, Tom has prep cooks and dishwashers galore; at home, he's like most of us, sailing solo in his kitchen without a support group. As a result, his favorites are dishes where everything cooks together in a single vessel, where there's a steady building of flavors. Tom is a realist; he knows that you and I cook in what he calls the Real World, a place where stock comes out of a can and shock-and-awe plating techniques are not part of the deal. I have to admit that finding "store-bought" broth in the ingredient lists for some recipes removed the pang of culinary guilt I always feel when substituting for the homemade stock that never seems to find its way into my freezer. Tom's style is relaxed and easy, with added advice for using leftovers creatively and for alternative ingredients. You'll savor his Butternut Squash Soup with Minced Bacon, Tubetti with White Wine and Clams, Mushroom-Braised Short Ribs, Sausage and Cabbage Stew, classic Coq au Vin and other fabulous recipes. This chef isn't showing off, he's sharing what he savors most.