The New York Times
How to Cook: An Easy and Imaginative Guide for the Beginnerby Raymond Sokolov, Peter LaVigna (Illustrator)
A fully revised and updated edition of the classic kitchen primer, filled with 150 simple, sophisticated recipes, easy-to-learn techniques, and indispensable advice.How to Cook does not assume any prior cooking instruction or skills but, rather, guides the reader through the entire cooking process with simple explanations in ordinary language. In this sophistication of even adamant noncooks in today's food-obsessed climate while he sticks to an unfussy, straightforward approach that made the original such a hit. Home cooks will learn everything they need to know for years' worth of fabulous meals, from how to decipher recipe measurements to how to fry an egg or steam a lobster. Written with Sokolov's trademark wit and wisdom. How to Cook is an invaluable kitchen classic you'll turn to again and again.
The New York Times
Read an Excerpt
How to Cookrevised EditionAn Easy and Imaginative Guide for the Beginner
By Sokolov, Raymond A.
Spareribs with Garlic Sauce
I once wandered into a nondescript tavern in central Frankfurt, Germany, and saw a romantic couple eating something that smelled wonderful with a single fork and knife. I asked the waitress what it was and she replied, "Leiterchen mit Knoblauchsosse" ("a little ladder with garlic sauce").
I ordered it and found out that "ladderlet" was the colorful and quite accurate Frankfurt dialectal way of naming a rack of ribs. It was delicious, and came with a green bean and onion salad, potatoes and local hard cider.
Yield: 2 servings
4 pounds spareribs
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic (see page 35)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Lay the spareribs down in a pan in a single layer. Spread them on both sides with the garlic puree.
- Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until the ribs are browned and cooked through. Turn every 15 minutes.
Great fortunes have been made purveying this classic Southern food idea to millions of hungry people in other regions. It is the most successful of all traditional American regional dishes. But even, or perhaps especially, as a fast food, fried chicken is quite a variable recipe. Some like it crisp; others like it seasoned sharply. There are chicken chains for every taste. But I think none of them matches the quality of chicken fried at home. It is almost as convenient to do it yourself -- and a lot cheaper -- than waiting in the plastic glare of a fast-food place and letting Colonel Whoever-he-is decide how much "secret" spice mixture to use.
This recipe is meant only as a basic guideline. Once you have tried it, you will certainly want to fiddle with the spicing. If you like hot food, you may want to join the vocal subculture that adds plenty of cayenne pepper to the basic flour mixture.
The quantity of chicken called for here is a deliberately generous amount for two people with normal appetites. But, as you have already observed, some people eat piles of chicken, even when it isn't very good. Should there be any of your impeccable fried chicken left over, it will be just fine served cold the next day. (Traditional Southern cooks use lard for frying, because that was the fat their forebears had in abundance. I prefer it today, because it adds personality to the flavor of the chicken.)
Yield: 2 servings
2 ½ pounds chicken, cut into serving pieces
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Lard or oil for frying
- Chill the chicken (if it has been in the refrigerator overnight or more, leave it there until you are ready to cook it).
- In a bowl, sift or mix together the flour, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture in a paper bag large enough to hold all the chicken pieces.
- Take a skillet (or skillets) large enough to hold the chicken. Fill it (them) to a depth of ½ inch with the lard (melt it a bit at a time over low heat until you have the right amount) or oil. Use medium-high heat. You want the lard or oil to be quite hot but not smoking when you put the chicken into it. If it starts to smoke, reduce the heat a bit but not drastically.
- While the lard or oil is heating, put the chicken in the paper bag and shake gently to cover the pieces thoroughly. This method is quick, efficient and allows you to keep your hands off the chicken, leaving the flour where it should be, not on your fingers.
- Put the bag on the stovetop near the skillet. Tear it open. Disturbing the flour as little as possible (picking the chicken up with a tongs or a serving fork), put the chicken into the skillet(s). Cover (to promote even cooking) and cook for about 6 minutes, or until the pieces have browned underneath. You may have to adjust the heat to maintain a good bubble in the lard or oil after the chicken has been put in and lowers the temperature. This is not a violent process, but you will have to peek after a couple of minutes to make sure there is no smoke or burning. Turn, cover again and continue cooking for another 6 minutes, or until the other sides are browned and the thickest part of a thigh or leg is cooked. The juices should run clear when pricked with a fork.
- Drain on paper toweling.
Excerpted from How to Cookrevised Edition by Sokolov, Raymond A. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Raymond SokoloV was a food columnist for Natural History magazine for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks, a much-praised novel, Native Intelligence, and a biography of New Yorker critic A. J. Liebling.
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