Beyond the dry–versus–wet issue, the main variable cooks face when roasting is speed, and Stevens explains which foods do best with a blast of high heat (whole beef tenderloin, whole chickens, quail, Cornish hens, most fish, and most vegetables); which ones benefit from a slow, gentle oven (tougher cuts of meat, salmon fillets, high–moisture–content veggies like tomatoes and onions); and which ones do best with an initial searing followed by moderate heat or a combination of temperatures (pork tenderloin, chicken parts, duck). Her book will soothe the most flummoxed cooks, who otherwise might find themselves driven to the wilds of the Internet –– or a panicked phone call to Mom –– when faced with a holiday lamb.
While All About Roasting isn't geared toward vegetarians, it features plenty of non–meat options, along with appealing sauces and relishes. Stevens's best tip on roasting veggies, including the delicious Maple–Roasted Butternut Squash and Apples I made for Thanksgiving: Don't overcrowd the pan, or you'll end up with steamy mush instead of lovely browned surfaces. For those of us who feel there are few meals that roast potatoes can't improve, Stevens offers multiple variations. Don't miss her irresistible, crunchy British–style wedges, achieved by parboiling russets and dusting them in semolina prior to roasting them in preheated fat.
Heller McAlpin is a New York–based critic who reviews books for NPR.org, The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications.