Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Best Cookbook Ever.

I am having serious technical difficulties. I still can't get my iPhoto to work properly. In fact, right now I can't even access any of my photos in iPhoto. I was going to do a post with lots of pics from our visit to my parent's house, but now I can't even pull photos from iPhoto to upload them here. So, Plan B.

I have been meaning to write about this cookbook. I know I have written about it's larger predecessor, "The New Best Recipe" from the editors of Cook's Illustrated. I'll call that the Mother Book. It really is the Mother of all cookbooks. I still love the Mother Book. However, though the recipes in it are some of the most delicious I have ever tasted, they take forever to cook. You can read about my adventure in making Coq au Vin (and find the reference for the Mother Book) in my post "The Next Iron Chef?" (I guess I thought I was hot stuff after that particular cooking feat!). It was awesome, but recall it took me about 3 hours. I made it when Miss was barely mobile, and it was doable then, but now that she is all over the place and Lass is on the verge of motating (is that a word? My spell check tells me it is not, but I like it and am going to use it anyway. . . Okay, I had to check. It is in the Urban Dictionary - "To move from one location to another with slickness and style." I'm going with it). Where was I? Oh yes, I no longer have time to take 3-hours to make dinner, no matter how delicious it is. Enter "The Best 30-Minute Recipe" by the same authors.

Oh, how I love this book. It is the first, and often the only, cookbook I reach for when I'm planning meals for the week. The recipes are fast, and most of them can be made in only one skillet. And they are tasty. Seriously, just as good as the longer recipes I've made from the Mother Book. The authors don't use what they call "second-rate convenience products" (and I call over-processed crap) in the recipes to make them quicker either. They use high quality, whole-food ingredients, sometimes in very clever ways that make them work fast. The book includes tips to make the recipes come together more quickly as well as some options for some additional things to make the recipes even more flavorful if you have a little more time (I've never tried these and the recipes are amazingly flavorful without them). I will say that, though the book swears they timed every recipe and included prep time in their 30 minutes, many of the recipes are just not doable for me in 30 minutes with the prep time. Perhaps if I were a professional chef who could wield a chef's knife with super speed, I could do it in 30 minutes. But alas, I am merely a housewife. And though my knife skills are improving, they aren't really all that great yet. So, some of the recipes, especially the ones with lots of fresh veggies needing to be chopped or otherwise prepped, take longer than 30 minutes, but still never more than 45 or so.

Some of the things I have made from this cookbook include Curry in a Hurry, Skillet Paella (yes, paella in about 30 minutes!!), Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Artichokes and Cherry Tomatoes, Skillet Vermicelli with Chorizo Sausage and Black Beans, and Stir-Fried Shrimp and Snow Peas with Coconut-Curry Sauce. All of these dishes are fabulous. On the menu for this week are Pan-Roasted Chicken Parts with Lemon-Thyme Jus, Un-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto, Sage, and Porcini, and Pan-Seared Shrimp with Parsley-Lemon Butter. Yum. The book has recipes for calzones, meatloaf (I know!!), baked ziti, and on and on. Some that I am particularly intrigued by include Saltimbocca, Lamb Patties with Yogurt Sauce, Risotto with Seared Scallops and Tomatoes (they use orzo), and lots of Asian-style dishes like Lo Mein and Pad Thai.

Here is one of our favorites. Miss loves Mac and Cheese. Okay. My husband and I love Mac and Cheese. This is the most delish Mac and Cheese ever. No need for draining pasta. Real cheese. Super flavor. All done in one skillet. And this one has almost no prep work, so it really does cook in 30 minutes. Give it a try.

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese (From The Best 30-Minute Cookbook*)

3 1/2 cups water (plus more as needed)
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
12 ounces elbow macaroni (3 cups)
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (this is the key ingredient, I think!)
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Simmer macaroni: Bring 3 1/2 cups water, 1 cup of evaporated milk, macaroni, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, stirring often, until macaroni is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Thicken and flavor sauce: Whisk remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk, cornstarch, mustard, and Tabasco together, then stir into skillet. Continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

3. Add cheese: Off heat, stir in cheeses, one handful at a time, adding additional water as needed to adjust sauce consistency. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

I love cooking. It brings me great satisfaction to put something healthy and home cooked on my table for my family. And it's even better when that something tastes awesome. The end.

*Editors of Cooks Illustrated. (2006). The best 30-minute recipe. America's Test Kitchen, Brookline, MA.

And now, since I did manage to upload a few photos for the post I originally planned to do, here are some pics of the girls having fun with their Grandma and Grandpa. Hopefully there will be more to come when I can get my photo situation figured out.

This chair was my Dad's when he was little.

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