As a renowned food critic and editor-in-chief at Food and Wine magazine, Dana Cowin can definitely tell you what tastes good. But she had a dirty secret: She had no culinary skills of her own. Thankfully, a few of her chef friends stepped in to help, and her new cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen, is an ultra-accessible guide to becoming a more than passable home cook.
The three most important men in my life have one very unexpected connection: crepes. My father, whom I adored, passed away more than twenty years ago. He was a businessman, an art collector, an architecture buff—one thing he was not was a cook. But on Sunday mornings, he’d sometimes make crepes for us, an act of love. (My mother tells me he fell for crepes on their honeymoon in Nassau, where they ate them almost every day.) It was a very special family ritual.
Fast-forward to today: My husband rarely cooks, but on Sunday mornings, he’ll sometimes make crepes, because our son is a picky eater and it’s one of the only things he likes for breakfast. Three generations of love united by batter swirled in a pan.
When Barclay isn’t around or in the mood to make crepes, I’ll step in. Unfortunately, mine don’t live up to the legacy of my father’s. They are often pocked with flour and a little too thick. So I asked Joanne Chang, of Flour Bakery in Boston, to show me how to avoid these mistakes, and she revealed the secret to making the most miraculously smooth batter ever: Mix the warm milk, melted butter and the rest of the ingredients in the blender.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes 18 crepes
1. Stir together the chocolate, cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Put the butter, milk, eggs and sugar in a blender and blend until just smooth. Add the flour and salt and blend until the batter is completely smooth.
3. Heat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat and brush it lightly with melted butter. Pour in ¼ cup batter and, holding the pan by the handle, swirl the pan so that the batter coats the bottom evenly. Cook the crepe until the bottom is just lightly browned, about a minute. Loosen the edges with a spatula, carefully flip the crepe and cook until lightly browned on the other side, about 1 more minute. Transfer the crepe to a platter and roll it up like a loose cigar. Continue cooking and rolling crepes until you’ve used up all of the batter, brushing the pan with more butter as necessary.
4. Scatter the chocolate mixture over the crepes and serve warm.
The batter can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Stir well before cooking the crepes.
Chef Tips from Joanne Chang
ON SUGAR AND EGGS
Once you’ve poured sugar onto eggs, whisk them together immediately. If you leave sugar on top of eggs without whisking them, the sugar will basically cook the egg yolks and cause them to create lumps.
ON PREVENTING CREPES FROM STICKING
A nonstick pan is good here! Even so, add butter to the pan every third or fourth crepe.
ON MAKING THIN CREPES
Add the batter while holding your pan up on an angle, ladling in just a bit of batter and immediately swirling your pan.
ON CREATING EVEN CREPES
Your pan shouldn’t be too hot, or the batter will start cooking instantly when it hits the pan and not spread evenly.
From Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin. Copyright 2014 Dana Cowin. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Read our review of this book.
A mere mention of preserving and canning can cause the most confident of home cooks to run in the opposite direction, but Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi break down the surprisingly simple steps behind pickling, brining, smoking, salting, canning, fermenting and more in The Gentle Art of Preserving.
This recipe for Summer Fruits in Brandy doesn't even require a stovetop! Who knew preserving at home was so easy? Get ready to knock out a chunk of your Christmas gifts in one fell swoop.
Summer Fruits in Brandy
This method is suitable for preserving all sorts of summer fruits, including berries, plums and apricots. The boozy fruit should be ready to eat within 2 weeks, but you can leave it to mature for longer if you wish—we make this using late summer fruits to give as Christmas presents. Our favorite way of serving the boozy fruits is with ice cream, yogurt or cake. The fruity brandy is delicious served hot in shot glasses, or mixed with red wine for a variation on mulled wine. Alternatively, purée the fruits with their liquor and use as a sauce for desserts or with game dishes.
Makes approx. four 12-oz jars
Wash the fruit and pat dry on paper towels. Pit and halve the fruits. Divide the fruit and sugar among the sterilized jars and top up with brandy. Seal and set aside in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks, turning the jars upside down every day until the sugar dissolves. Store for 3 months before sampling, although it can be matured for up to a year in a cool, dark place.
Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi break down an often intimidating branch of home cooking in their wonderfully accessible cookbook, The Gentle Art of Preserving. Stock up on fresh summer fruits and veggies while you still can—their recipes will let you enjoy them all winter long.
Try this recipe for a childhood favorite: Fruit Leathers! Choose your favorite fruits and get started.
Makes 1 fruit leather, approx. 14 inches square
Raspberry and Banana Leather
Cut the fruit with or without the peel into chunks and puree in a food processor or blender. Pour the purée onto silicone mats or plastic wrap-lined sheets. Make sure the pool of purée doesn’t go over the edge of the sheets; smooth out by shaking and tilting the sheet to make it spread out. The purée should be no thicker than ¼in. Dry in the dehydrator at 135°F for 4–6 hours, or in the oven at 140°F for 6–8 hours. Fruit leathers are ready when they are not sticky to the touch, but can be peeled easily from the mat or plastic wrap. Lift the edge, which will adhere lightly to the surface, and peel it back. If it peels back easily, it is ready.
STORING YOUR FRUIT LEATHER
Either eat immediately or cover the dried leather in a layer of parchment paper and roll up, or cut into 2-inch-wide strips and roll up. Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place for up to 6 weeks, but do check regularly for any signs of mold. Alternatively, pack into vacuum bags and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
David Lebovitz lets us all live vicariously through his picturesque (and delicious) adventures in Paris in his book, My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories. Parisian desserts may strike fear into the hearts of inexperienced home cooks, but Lebovitz offers a solution with this simple stunner: a ridiculously decadent recipe for salted butter caramel-chocolate mousse that just might take some of the sting out of being stuck stateside.
Salted butter caramel-chocolate mousse
MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT AU BEURRE SALÉ
There’s not much I can say about this. One bite will leave you just as speechless.
1. Spread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a wide saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium heat. As it begins to liquefy at the edges, use a heatproof spatula to very gently drag the liquefied sugar toward the center. Watch carefully, as once the edges start to darken, the sugar is in danger of burning. Continue to cook, stirring very gently, until all the sugar is melted and begins to caramelize.
2. When the caramel is a deep amber color and starts to smoke, wait a moment for it to smell just slightly burnt, then remove it from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter, stirring until melted. Gradually whisk in the cream and stir until the little bits of caramel are completely melted. (A few can be stubborn, so be patient. You can strain the mixture if they simply refuse to budge.)
Once smooth, add the chocolate, stirring gently until it’s melted and smooth. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and let it sit until it’s at room temperature. Once it’s no longer warm, whisk in the egg yolks.
In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold one-third of the whipped whites into the chocolate mixture, sprinkling in the flaky salt. Fold in the remaining beaten egg whites just until no streaks of white remain. Divide the mousse into serving glasses, or transfer it to a decorative serving bowl, and chill for at least 8 hours. While it might be tempting to serve this with whipped cream, I prefer to serve it pure, straight up with just a spoon.
American cook and baker David Lebovitz has spent the past 10 years living, eating and cooking in Paris. In My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories, Lebovitz offers captivating stories alongside 100 recipes that convey the spirit of the Paris food scene he's grown so fond of. This unfussy recipe for Green Olive, Basil and Almond Tapenade is perfect as a delightfully decadent snack or appetizer.
Green Olive,Basil, and Almond Tapenade
tapenade d’olives vertes au basilic et aux amandes
Serves 6 to 8
When I started my website back in 1999, I never intended to focus on recipes. It was meant to complement my cookbooks by providing additional information, stories and a way to be in touch with readers. But then I moved to Paris. And as I shopped and hit the markets, I got so excited to share all the great things I was tasting and learning about that I couldn’t resist posting those recipes right after I made them. However, I soon realized that I had to respond to an onslaught of recipe requests if I posted a snapshot of a basket of croissants or a gilded gateau Saint-Honore I had admired in a bakery.
(Unfortunately, recipes for fancy Parisian pastries cannot be condensed into 140 characters, nor am I very good at tapping out instructions for rolling puff pastry while riding home on the metro using those itty bitty keys on my smartphone.)
I also realized that no matter what I wrote about on my blog, the ingredients that were available in Birmingham weren’t necessarily available in Brisbane or Bangkok, and every recipe I posted would be followed by a number of requests for substitutions. I had to learn to cover every conceivable base when writing recipes for a global audience because something common in France or America, like olives or canned artichokes, might not be available in Fiji or Argentina. Not to mention folks have various food preferences, allergies and likes and dislikes, such as my fear of squid, which scare the bejeezus out of me (so I understand them 100 percent).
Fortunately, I am pretty sure that anyone just about anywhere can make this recipe and there’s certainly nothing scary about it. Olives are hardy souls and are available jarred or canned. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a country where almonds aren’t available. (But if you can’t get almonds, pistachios make a great substitute). And basil is grown in greenhouses in places where the climate doesn’t welcome outdoor cultivation. So I think I covered everything and there’s no excuse not to make this—unless, of course, you don’t like olives, are allegic to nuts or have an aversion to garlic. Then I can’t help you.
1. Put the olives, almonds, garlic, lemon juice, and capers in the bowl of a food processor. (I don’t use a mortar and pestle for this because I like the slightly chunky bits of almonds in the finished tapenade.)
2. Coarsely chop the basil leaves, add them to the processor, and pulse the machine a few times to start breaking them down.
3. Add the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Pulse the food processor until the mixture forms a coarse paste, one that still has a little texture provided by the not-entirely-broken-down almonds.
The tapenade will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
Marc Forgione, an award-winning chef and the season three winner of the popular series "Next Iron Chef," combines youthful ingenuity with traditional American flavors in his new cookbook, Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant. This recipe for Apple Pie Soufflé + Salted Caramel is a perfect sweet and salty ending to any dinner party: get ready to hear a lot of "wow" from your guests.
APPLE PIE SOUFFLÉ + SALTED CARAMEL
MAKES 4 TO 6 (6-OUNCE) SOUFFLÉS
This dessert was originally created during an "Iron Chef America" episode for a familiar-to-me themed battle—Thanksgiving—except this was round two, and I was paired with Jose Garces, an Iron Chef, against two other Iron Chefs: Michael Symon and Bobby Flay. Since I was going up against some very stiff competition, I knew I had to dig deep into my bag of tricks and pull out something that would truly wow the judges. The soufflé didn’t disappoint, and Henry Winkler, a.k.a. “the Fonz,” who was one of the judges, said it was the best soufflé he’d ever had.
The recipe here makes six dessert-size soufflés, but if you happen to be making dinner for four people, stick with these proportions (3 cups apple puree to 1½ cups whipped egg whites) to get a perfect soufflé every time. No one has ever complained about having an extra soufflé lying around.
FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL
FOR THE APPLE PIE SOUFFLÉ
MAKE THE SALTED CARAMEL
1. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and ¼ cup of water in a very clean saucepot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to cook the caramel until it becomes a medium amber color (or the color of an Irish setter)—watch carefully and do not let the caramel burn. While the caramel cooks, do not stir it with a spoon, but gently swirl the caramel around the pot. Use a clean, moist pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pot. As soon as the caramel is ready, remove it from the heat and gently whisk in the heavy cream and butter. Be careful: the caramel will bubble and sputter, so stand back. Whisk in the salt. Taste and add more salt if you like. Transfer the caramel to a bowl; you will have about 2 cups salted caramel. Refrigerate the sauce until needed. The sauce will keep, covered, for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
PREPARE THE APPLE PIE SOUFFLÉ
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF; position the rack in the middle. Generously butter 4 to 6 (6-ounce) ramekins and dust the inside of the ramekins with sugar and cinnamon. Set the ramekins aside.
3. Toss the apples with the butter, 1 cup of the sugar, the cinnamon, ginger and cloves and transfer the mixture to an ovenproof roasting pan. Bake the apples for about 30 minutes or until they are soft and falling apart.
4. Transfer the cooked apples, without their cooking liquid, to a blender and puree until they are completely smooth; the texture should be smoother and finer than regular applesauce. (At the restaurant, we use a Vitamix to get our apple puree to the right consistency, but at home you can use a regular blender and then strain your puree through a fine-mesh strainer or a chinois to get any remaining lumps out.) Transfer the apple puree to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. You should have about 4 cups apple puree.
5. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on medium speed and slowly add the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and cream of tartar. Continue beating until the egg whites become foamy. Raise the mixer speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form (when the whisk is lifted from the mixture, there should be a standing peak in the area where it was lifted).
6. Measure 3 cups of the apple puree into a separate bowl, and use a rubber spatula to gently fold in 1½ cups of the whipped egg whites.
7. Fill the ramekins to the top with the batter, and smooth out the tops with an offset spatula. Place a kitchen towel on the counter and gently tap the ramekins on the towel to release any trapped air bubbles. Transfer the ramekins to a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes or until the soufflés have risen and are firm when lightly tapped. While the soufflés bake, do not open the door to the oven.
8. While the soufflés bake, gently reheat the Salted Caramel in a small saucepan over low heat until warm and easily pourable.
9. Remove the soufflés and sprinkle them with confectioners’ sugar. Poke a small hole in the middle of each soufflé and drizzle warmed Salted Caramel into it. Serve the soufflés immediately, with the remaining salted caramel sauce on the side.
We're ringing in the month of May with Marc Forgione's recipe for one of his signature "multicomponent masterpieces" from our Top Pick in Cookbooks, Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant. The acclaimed New York chef and star of "Iron Chef America" offers a lineup of his most spectacular dishes alongside details of his rise in the culinary world and the challenges he faced along the way. Are you ready to take Forgione's dare to become fearless in the kitchen? Then roll up your sleeves and take on this Chili Lobster + Texas Toast.
CHILI LOBSTER + TEXAS TOAST
This has become a dish that, along with the Chicken Under a Brick (see page 213), we’ve sort of become known for. But it didn’t become wildly popular until Sam Sifton, the dining critic for the New York Times at the time, wrote his review of the restaurant, devoting a whole paragraph to Chili Lobster, and adding it to his list of recommended dishes. After that, Chili Lobster got on everyone’s radar and has since remained one of our most popular offerings on the menu. On any given night, we go through anywhere from 30 to 50 lobsters, and when you’re doing 130 covers, 30 to 50 is quite a big chunk!
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Remove the tails from the lobster bodies and cut the tails into 1-inch pieces while they are still in their shells. Remove the claws and place them in the pot of boiling water. Simmer for 4 minutes. Transfer the claws to an ice bath. Once cool, remove the meat from the claws and knuckles and set the meat aside. (See page 134 for instructions.)
2. Bring the Lobster Stock to a simmer and add the sriracha and soy sauce. Piece by piece, using a hand blender or a whisk, whisk in 6 tablespoons of the butter until emulsified. Finish with the lime juice and season with salt. This sauce may seem too spicy at first but the sweetness from the lobster will help balance it out.
3. Season the lobster tails with salt on both sides. In a wok or a large sauté pan set over high heat, heat just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Just before it starts to smoke, add the lobster tails, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 1 minute, undisturbed. Add the ginger and onion and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add the lobster stock emulsion and deglaze the pan, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 1 more minute or until the lobster is cooked through. Remove the lobster meat from the sauce and distribute it among 4 plates.
4. Add the claw and knuckle meat and reduce the remaining sauce until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. While the sauce is reducing, butter the bread slices with the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and season with salt and pepper. Cut each bread slice diagonally—you should wind up with 8 triangular slices. Toast the bread in a toaster oven until toasted and golden brown.
5. Taste the lobster sauce and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Add the claw and knuckle meat to each bowl. Finish with the mint chiffonade and sliced scallions. Divide the sauce evenly among the four bowls and serve the lobster with Texas toast on the side—you will want it all to mop up the sauce afterward.
MAKES ABOUT 4½ CUPS
This recipe will also work to make crab or shrimp stock; just substitute the respective shells for the lobster shells.
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF; position the rack in the middle. Add enough oil to a roasting pan to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the lobster heads and toss to coat them in the oil. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the bones are well caramelized.
2. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Crush the bones with a wooden spoon. Add the onions, celery, and fennel, and deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomato paste, and then add the wine and 4 cups of cold water.
3. Transfer everything to a large stockpot set over medium heat, and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour and 40 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat, add the thyme, tarragon, and bay leaf, and allow the stock to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and let cool slightly. Transfer to an airtight container or containers and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Raghavan Iyer's new cookbook, Indian Cooking Unfolded, is our Top Pick in Cookbooks! Each of these 100 recipes uses 10 ingredients or fewer, all of which you can find at your everyday market. There's no better way to learn to cook Indian food at home!
Makes 12 cakes; serves 6
2. hile the potatoes are cooking, place the onion, cilantro, mint, and chiles in the bowl of a food processor. Using the pulsing action, mince the blend to create an earthy, pungent mix that has a strong minty aroma. Letting the processor run constantly instead of using quick pulses will break down the onion into a watery mess that will create excess liquid.
3. Once the potatoes are fall-apart ten- der, drain them in a colander and place them in a medium-size bowl. Mash them well. Wet the bread slices with warm tap water, then squeeze them tight to remove all excess water. Add the mass to the pota- toes. Scrape the minced onion–mint medley over this mélange and sprinkle the salt and turmeric on top. Using your hand, squeeze the mixture to break apart the damp bread into smaller pieces, making sure you incor- porate all of it into the potatoes to make a bumpy-feeling dough. It will be sun-yellow and speckled with green herbs.
4. Coat the dough with the 2 tablespoons of oil. Form the dough into a thick log. Cut it in half lengthwise and cut each half into 6 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball about the size of a golf ball and press it gently between your palms to flatten it into a patty that is about 3 inches in diameter and 1?2 inch thick.
5. Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels. Pour oil to a depth of 1?8 to 1?4 inch into a large skillet (preferably nonstick or cast iron). Heat the oil over medium heat until it appears to shimmer. Place 6 of the patties in the skillet and panfry until the bottoms are golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. (You are cooking only 6 because you don’t want to overcrowd the skillet and get greasy results.) Turn the patties over and cook them until the second side is nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the patties to the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining 6 patties.
6. Serve the potato cakes warm.
Adam Roberts, the self-taught cook behind amateurgourmet.com, has hung out with 50 of America's best chefs to learn their secrets and adapt their recipes, resulting in his book, Secrets of the Best Chefs.
What I like most about Roberts' book is it, as our reviewer says, "gives you access to the wisdom and knowledge that will make you confident in the kitchen and ready to find and trust your own inner chef."
Here's the book trailer featuring Roberts:
Are you ready to find and trust your inner chef? Will you read Secrets of the Best Chefs?
In Diane Morgan's new cookbook/guidebook Roots, readers are taught the about the history and uses of 29 major roots, including how to store them, their nutritional content, and what to pair them with.
For those of us looking to eat seasonally and healthy, Roots provides a greater pool of foods from which to draw, and 225 recipes to try.
Read our review here and check out the book trailer narrated by Morgan:
Will you consider adding more roots to your diet? What are you reading today?