Essential Guides To Reference on the Fly
Sometimes you just need a quick reminder: At what temperature should I roast a chicken? What’s the ratio of my favorite vinaigrette? How can I make a loaf of bread simply and quickly?
Pulled from over 900 recipes in the archives, these 13 how-to guides, I believe, are some of the most useful. From cooking beans and making stock to poaching eggs and roasting chicken, these techniques form the foundations of so many of the meals I make on a daily basis. I hope you’ll find them useful, too, and I hope you build upon and adapt them to your liking.
1. Bread Baking 101: The Simplest, Best Bread You Will Ever Make This is the bread my mother has been making for over 40 years, the bread I have been making for over 20 years, and the bread thousands of home cooks have attributed with conquering their fear of yeast and getting bread on the table any day of the week. Once you master the main recipe, you can make countless variations.
2. How to Cook Beans and Legumes from Scratch I understand the convenience of canned beans, but to me there’s no comparison taste-wise to those cooked-from-scratch. Cooking beans from scratch requires minimal effort. Moreover, from-scratch beans keep beautifully stored in their cooking liquid in the fridge or freezer.
3. How to Roast A Chicken (and make the most of it) There is nothing more satisfying to me than roasting a whole chicken. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. In addition to feeding my family of 6, it gives me a carcass with which to make stock and enough extra meat to toss into a salad or add to soup for a meal on a subsequent night.
4. How To Make Salad Dressing: Large- (or small-) Batch Shallot Vinaigrette This is essentially the only dressing I make anymore. It’s simple, it’s light, and it can be adapted any which way: juice an orange into it to make a citrus vinaigrette; mash an avocado and some herbs into it to make a green goddess dressing; whisk in a few tablespoons of crème fraîche for a slightly creamy variation, etc. It’s versatile, and once you start using it, it’s impossible to go back to store-bought dressing. There’s a recipe in this post for both a large and small batch of the dressing, but I almost always make the large-batch dressing, which makes for easy meals throughout the week.
5. How to Poach an Egg Knowing how to poach eggs allows simple, healthy meals to materialize in no time. I love poached eggs over toast, of course, but I also love them over pasta, greens, polenta, rice, tortillas, soup, and more — very few savory dishes do not welcome an egg on top.
6. How to Make Ricotta from Scratch I didn’t think I liked ricotta till I made it from scratch. It’s completely unlike the ricotta you find at the store. It’s one of my favorite things to make for an appetizer whipped with herbs and lemon zest, but I also love it unseasoned on homemade pizza and pastas.
7. How to Cut up A Chicken If you have the time, it’s best to buy a whole chicken (as opposed to in parts) because you get so much more out of it: the breasts and legs for meals, the tenders and liver for snacks, and the carcass for stock. With a little organization and practice, you’ll find in under five minutes you’ve set yourself up for a nice dinner with a stock simmering as you work.
8. How to Make Chicken Stock Making chicken stock requires nothing more than chicken meat or bones, water, and time. That’s it, and once you taste it, you’ll never be able to buy boxed or canned stock again. In fact, when chicken stock is recommended in one of my recipes or someone else’s, I’ll use water before store-bought stock if I don’t have any homemade chicken stock on hand.
9. How to Make Vegetable Stock Vegetable stock takes 30 minutes to make and tastes infinitely better than anything you can get at the store. I’ve used this recipe in so many of soup recipes that call for chicken stock, when I want to make something vegetarian or when I simply don’t have chicken stock.
10. How to Roast Bell Peppers For summer salads, pastas, pizzas, and hors d’oeuvres, homemade roasted red peppers are hard to beat. And I repeat: so much better than the store-bought varieties.
11. How to Make Neapolitan-Style Pizza at Home For years I dreamed of investing in an outdoor, wood-fired pizza oven. But when the Baking Steel made its way into my kitchen, I stopped dreaming and never looked back. The Baking Steel is the single most important tool you can invest in for making great pizza at home.
12. How to Make Excellent Skillet Pizza at Home My choice tool for making great pizza at home is the Baking Steel (see above), but when I don’t have time to heat it for an hour, and when I want to involve the children in the process, and when I just need pizza NOW, this skillet method works like a charm.
13. How to Cook Bacon (on a sheet pan) If you’ve never roasted bacon, get ready for a revelatory experience. It’s hard to go back to the splatter and mess of stovetop bacon, when you know your oven will do a beautiful job effortlessly.