Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New to Cooking? How To Boil Water

I won't insult your intelligence, as I assume even the most novice of you cooks have once placed a pot on the stove...well, I hope. Come to think of it, I did have a roommate in college who didn't know how to boil water...

In any case, many gals on the STLWed board have mentioned they'd like to get more involved in cooking. How To Boil Water: Life Beyond Takeout from the Food Network Kitchens serves as an excellent starter cookbook to get you in gear. The book begins with the fundamentals and provides clear yet entertaining background information about kitchen equipment, ingredients, and cooking methods such as chopping and veggie preparation. I usually skip this section of cookbooks, because it's typically boring and written in a language that insinuates you're not intelligent if you didn't already know that celery stalks should be peeled. How To Boil Water takes nothing for granted and provides guidance on how to adapt a recipe to "make it your own" by adding or substituting alternative ingredients and interesting side notes and tips about each recipe. For example, for novice improvisers the book suggests frying up a small patty of meatloaf to ensure the spices are right. Brilliant! Did you know that there's fundamentally no difference between brown & white eggs (beyond the chicken who laid it)? I didn't. Best of all, this cookbook is equipped with beautiful and colorful photos throughout to get you inspired (and give you a clue what your food should look like :)

So, for those of you out there that are kitchen shy, consider this book as a starter and let me know about your recipe successes! Here's one that we enjoy:

Buffalo Chicken Sub Sandwiches
Courtesy of How To Boil Water: Life Beyond Takeout

3 boneless, skin-on chicken breast halves, about 1 1/2 pounds (I usually just stick with skinless, though its not as crispy this way)
2 teaspoons chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (you can get away with using less)
1 to 2 ribs celery
1/2 bunch watercress
1 baguette (aka French bread, 15 to 18 inches long)
4 tablespoons hot sauce
2 ounces creamy blue cheese
1/4 cup mayo or sour cream (I use light)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with chili powder & salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add 2 tbsp of butter. Lay the chicken skin side down and cook without moving until the skin is golden and crispy, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until the chicken is opaque, about 4 additional minutes. Reserve the skillet. Put the chicken in a baking dish or roasting pan and bake until firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Set chicken aside to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  2. While the chicken bakes, thinly slice the celery. Trim and discard the tough stems from the watercress. Rinse, dry and set aside the leaves.
  3. Cut the bread crosswise into 4 equal pieces; cut each piece in half for sub style sandwiches. Add 2 tbsp butter to the reserved skillet. Once butter stops foaming, toast half the bread, cut side down, pressing and moving to soak up butter, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and brush with half the hot sauce. Repeat with remaining butter, bread and hot sauce.
  4. Spread cheese evenly on the bottoms of the bread. Layer the celery over the cheese. Thinly slice the chicken and place on the celery. Top with watercress and finish by smearing the top pieces with mayo. Press the tops on the sandwiches and serve immediately or wrap and serve within 2 hours.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Sharon - this post made me LOL really loud! I was actually given this cookbook as a gift by one of my bosses when I moved into my first "real" apartment. I love it!