Jeff Reads Only Decent, Manly Cookbooks

There is a certain irony to the way I cook that is never lost on me.

On the one hand, I absolutely loathe pretense, bravado and fuss.  Food is such a huge source of pleasure and comfort, and a huge part of that comfort is the anticipation.  I want to be able to feel the crispy  chicken skin crackling around my molars while every succulent bite of meat dissolves in a garlickey haze above my tongue.   I don’t want to ruin or even compromise that anticipation by being preemptively confused by some foofy sauce I’ve never tried.  Or by having to wonder if the balsamic reduction is going to taste good on my ice cream.  (As if the answer to that question is ever in doubt).

But the other side to that?  I love to tinker.   How much Amaretto can I add to the brownie batter without changing the texture or imparting bitterness?  How much pimenton goes into the potato spice paste?  How much oj can I drizzle into the vinagrette without overwhelming the sesame oil?

The way I resolve this is that there is a difference between tarting something up and just tinkering around the edges trying to perfect something.  The former is inexcusable, the latter is what I do every day…

Two of these recipes made their way into Sunday Dinner, one as a condiment, the other as a side dish.  Both of these recipes, you notice, are sort of “tweaked standards.” Basic foods with sort of intuitive additions that augment without distracting.

Both came from Braises and Stews: Everyday Slow-Cooked Recipes, a cookbook one would think I’d use more often but I already seem to have a reliable version of the dishes I’m usually interested in, if that makes sense.

I do, however, really like the cookbook.  I would think it would be difficult to write a cookbook of slow-cooked recipes while resisting the temptation to be sloppy.   So many recipes are so forgiving you’d be tempted to just say, “meh, throw it in the pot and wait for a while,”  But no, Tori Ritchie encourages you to carefully prepare your dish without micromanaging, stepping in where needed to help you rinse leeks but acknowledging that your final product may take longer or shorter than expected.

And, really, I like her choices.  A good mix of traditional favorites, a basic pot roast, straightforward chili, carnitas – but she throws in some twists with Korean-Style short ribs or turkey posole.  I’ll make it a point to keep this one out all winter.

Anyway, two recipes.

Lemon Rosemary Salt

2 lemons
2 T chopped rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup coarse (sea or kosher) salt

Zest the lemons and then pulverize the bejeezus out of everything.  Add the salt.  Store in a sealed jar in a cool, dark place for up to two months.

This stuff is good on just about everything, especially roasted chicken.  YUM.

Bacon-Cheddar Mashers

Allow me to confess to a bit of Potato Snobbery.  I keep fantasizing a post about a “how to make your food taste better without buying fancy ingredients or actually, you know, learning how to cook.”  One thing that invariably pops up on my mental list is the rejoinder, “use the right frikkin potato.”

I am NOT hating on the russet.  But, my opinion?  Use a red if you are making a salad (waxy), yukon golds if you are doing anything but chowdering or baking or mashing (because YG’s are buttery and brown nicely), but only for high-fluff applications as stated above, it’s apporpriate to use a russet.

Rule number two?  Mashed potatoes need… Stuff.  You can see why I was intrigued by this recipe.  The bacon , as you may imagine, was an add-on of mine. Anyway,

3 russets, peeled and chopped into cubes
2 T butter
as much garlic as you like
1/3 cup COWS milk (this means you)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
3 strips bacon, chopped, drained, cooked up.
salt.  Enough salt.

Place the cut/peeled spuds in your cooking vessel and barely cover with water.  Add salt, (a couple of teaspoons maybe, but when I made these, they weren’t salty enough) Boil until a piece collapses against the side of the pot with a spoon.  20 min or so.

Pour potatoes into a colander and leave in the sink for a few minutes to eliminate the excess water and steam.

Place the butter and garlic in the pot over medium heat, stir until the butter melts, then return potatoes to the pot.  Add the milk and cheese and bacon, whisk until smoth.

2 thoughts on “Jeff Reads Only Decent, Manly Cookbooks

  1. Wow, the cooking way of this Bacon-Cheddar is great, I’ll try it later and I hope it tastes delicious. Just one suggestion: If you add some cooking pictures it will be easier to follow!

  2. Great suggestion on the salt, which looks beautiful. I can image oodles of things to shake this on.
    On the potatoes, I have to admit to being more a fluffy potato person, which requires a whisking attachment on the KitchenAid. Worth every nickel, too.