Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham

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Here at last is a much needed cookbook designed to instruct and inspire beginning cooks who don't know how to cut up an onion or scramble an egg--and who are reluctant to try.

Marion Cunningham, today's Fannie Farmer--who embodies the best of American home cooking--is the perfect guide for the uncertain cook. Not only are her recipes simple, they are easy to master, because she writes in clear, straightforward language that anyone can ...
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Overview

Here at last is a much needed cookbook designed to instruct and inspire beginning cooks who don't know how to cut up an onion or scramble an egg--and who are reluctant to try.

Marion Cunningham, today's Fannie Farmer--who embodies the best of American home cooking--is the perfect guide for the uncertain cook. Not only are her recipes simple, they are easy to master, because she writes in clear, straightforward language that anyone can understand. She addresses the needs and concerns of beginning cooks: how to shop, how to determine the quality of ingredients, how to store fresh produce and to ripen fruits, what basic kitchen utensils to use, and how not to waste food.

With 150 recipes woven through eleven seductive chapters, such as Soup for Supper, A Bowlful of Salad, Thank Goodness for Chicken, and Extras That Make a Meal, Ms. Cunningham reveals the secrets of relaxed and efficient home cooking. She stresses the importance of thinking ahead--not just one recipe at a time. Today's dinner can be recycled into a lunch treat for tomorrow, Sunday's leftover polenta is fried up and topped with Parmesan for a weekday supper dish, small treasures in the fridge can make an omelet filling, a pasta garnish, or stuffing for a baked potato, and homemade biscuits can be transformed into strawberry shortcake.

The side dishes she recommends are simple and are coordinated with the timing of the main dish. Often she gives us a recipe in which everything is cooked together--for instance, a chicken is roasted along with onions, carrots, and potatoes, so everything is ready at once, and when you're finished there's only one pan to clean; easy fish is baked over a bed ofvegetables; a steak supper combines watercress, mushrooms, bread, and a delicious steak all in one.

Above all, Ms. Cunningham demonstrates that the satisfaction of cooking lies not only in the good taste of all these wonderful home-cooked dishes but also in the pleasure of sharing them with friends and family.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Marion Cunningham is the legendary cooking teacher behind The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and in this new book, she takes beginners through every step of learning to cook. From shopping for ingredients to storing them to turning them into a simple home-cooked meal, Cunningham offers uncertain cooks expert advice and reassurance. Illustrated with wonderful step-by-step photos.
Laurie Glenn Buckle
A good book for a novice cook is such a rare and wonderful thing that the best of the breed stay in print for decades. Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham may well become one of those treasures.
Bon Appetit
School Library Journal
YA-The 150 recipes in this book are simple, the ingredients humble (nothing more exotic than cilantro), and the directions detailed. Hints and techniques abound-how to whip cream, how to steam potatoes, whether or not to soak beans, what to do with leftovers, how to separate eggs, and how to make lemon pudding cake. Readers learn that adding a little salt to garlic when you chop it brings out the juices. This book illustrates basic techniques and will give novice cooks a firm foundation. It is clear and simple enough for beginners, especially for YAs who don't always have someone around to teach them to cook. For recipes with a little more pizzazz and a more contemporary flair (wraps, tiramisu), consider Betty Crocker's Cooking Basics (Macmillan, 1998).-Marilynn L. Zauner, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375401183
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 8.19 (w) x 10.29 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Marion Cunningham was born in Southern California and now lives in Walnut Creek. She was responsible for the complete revision of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and is the author of The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, The Breakfast Book, The Supper Book, and Cooking with Children. She travels frequently throughout the country giving cooking demonstrations, has contributed articles to Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Gourmet magazines, and writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times.
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Read an Excerpt

How To Carve A Chicken

Carving a chicken is a simple process that takes a little patience; it gets easier each time you do it. If your chicken truly is cooked enough, it should be easy to remove the meat. It's not a delicate process, though, so don't be shy about manhandling the chicken a bit. Wait until it has cooled just enough for you to handle it comfortably.

Set the chicken breast side up. Pull the leg and thigh back to expose the joint that attaches it to the body (have a little patience; wiggling the thigh section and pulling it away from the body with your hands helps).

1) Use a sharp paring knife to probe for the socket and cut through it, separating the leg and thigh from the carcass. Repeat with the other leg and thigh.

2) Use the knife to cut through the joint that connects the leg to the thigh.

3) Pull off the wings by gently twisting them away from the carcass. You may need the aid of your knife to separate the wings fully.

The breastbone runs along the top center of the chicken carcass. Feel for it with your fingers. Make a 3-inch-long slit along both sides of the breastbone. 4) Dig your fingers into one of the slits and peel the entire half of the breast meat off the carcass. Do the same to remove the breast meat on the other side. Slice each half of breast meat crosswise, making 5 or 6 slices per breast half.

Pick or cut off whatever meat remains on the carcass. Arrange the legs, thighs, wings, and meat on a platter and serve.

Roast Chicken with Vegetables

Serves four

New cooks are intimidated by the idea of roasting a chicken, but nothing could be simpler. If you roast the chicken withsome vegetables in the same pan for about an hour, you will have a moist, golden bird and savory accompaniments--all ready to eat at the same time. While they cook, you can set the table, watch the news, maybe make a dessert. Sometimes it's handy to roast 2 chickens at the same time; it takes no extra effort, and you will have plenty of leftovers for salads, soups, sandwiches, or a main dish of cold chicken with Green Sauce.

8 whole carrots
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 medium-size yellow onions        4 sprigs fresh or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
8 small white or red potatoes  (about 1H inches in diameter)        
1 whole chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds
3 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Preparing the Vegetables

Peel the carrots and cut them crosswise into 1H-inch-long pieces. Cut the thicker pieces in half lengthwise as well.

Peel each onion and cut into quarters.

Wash the potatoes under cold water to get rid of any dirt. Leave them whole and unpeeled.

Scatter the carrots, onions, and potatoes on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking or roasting pan. Sprinkle 1H teaspoons of the salt and H teaspoon of the pepper over them, and lay 2 sprigs of the rosemary on top. If you are using dried rosemary, put 1 tablespoon in the palm of your hand and crumble it over the vegetables.

Preparing the Chicken

The giblets, which consist of the liver, gizzard, and heart, plus the neck, are usually in a package inside the cavity of the chicken, between the legs. Remove them and discard or refrigerate them to use later.

If there is a pale-yellow chunk of fat on either side of the cavity, pull or cut it off and discard.

Hold the chicken under cold running water and rinse it inside and out. Shake off excess water and pat dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle the remaining 1H teaspoons of salt and H teaspoon of pepper over the outside of the chicken, rubbing them all over the skin.

Set the chicken, the breast side facing up, on top of some of the vegetables, with the remaining ones surrounding the bird.

Insert a dial-type (not instant-read) thermometer into the breast, taking care that the rod of the thermometer does not touch any bones.

Roasting the Chicken

Put the chicken in the center of the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

When the timer rings, remove the pan from the oven and, using a large spoon, turn over the vegetables that surround the chicken. Don't bother with the vegetables under the chicken.

Return the pan to the oven and set the timer for 30 more minutes.

After 30 minutes, take the chicken out of the oven to check for doneness. Insert the tip of a small paring knife into the meat of the thigh where it attaches to the body. If the juices that run out are pink, the chicken needs to continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes. If the juices are clear, it is done. The meat thermometer should show a temperature of 170 degrees F to 180 degrees F when the chicken is done.

Carving the Chicken

Carve the chicken according to the instructions on the preceding page.

Scoop the vegetables out of the roasting pan and onto a serving platter. Remove the fat from the pan juices.

Arrange the cut chicken pieces on top of vegetables, spoon some pan juices over the chicken and vegetables, scatter the 2 remaining rosemary sprigs on top, and bring the dish to the table for serving.
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Recipe

I wrote Learning to Cook because fewer and fewer people are going into the kitchen these days! I know there are many excuses for that -- people are too tired after a full day's work, kids take up time and energy, etc. -- but I've found that it really comes down to fear. Fear of failure and embarrassment because more people are not familiar with the cooking process. They have not grown up watching others cook and thus have never had anyone to learn from. Also, it's so tempting and easy today to eat without cooking -- with frozen foods, take-out meals, and a multitude of affordable restaurants at our fingertips -- that people have strayed away from learning how to cook for themselves. While all these things are true, I know that eating a meal can be much more than gaining sustenance for survival, and I wanted to teach people how to realize that for themselves.

Home cooking can be a true step toward community and satisfaction at the family table and among friends. I know from my own years of cooking for my family that it can be simple, rewarding, healthy, and economical, as well as therapeutic. Even if you work outside of the home all day, making a quiet meal after a long day at the office can bring you a sense of accomplishment and peace that can add to the quality of your life. I've found that it is also a delight to talk about cooking -- to share recipes and share experiences, favorite dishes. Cooking is always a cheerful topic and never inspires bad feelings. And home cooking is not about shopping everyday for the freshest ingredients. You can go to the store maybe twice a week and cook more than you need and enough for three more meals. Some people like to cook on the weekends with their children and make enough to last. Cooking can bring people together with conversation, shared experience, and that personal touch. I hope that my book will provide the tools and the recipes that will make home cooking a possibility and hopefully a staple tradition in more households today.

There are some dishes that are perfect for the home cook, and many of them include chicken because, frankly, it is good, as well as easy to prepare; highly complementary with vegetables, rice, and stir-fry; and widely enjoyed. I've included a chicken recipe that is simple, tasty, and perfect for beginning home cooks: Smothered Chicken with Mushrooms.

Smothered Chicken with Mushrooms
Serves 4
This is one of those dishes that everyone seems to like. The flavors are captured in the simple sauce that brings together the delicate chicken flavor and the earthy mushrooms.

  • 4 chicken half breasts (with their ribs and skin)
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth, canned or homemade
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose white flour
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 4 slices bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
    Starting the Chicken
    Rinse the chicken pieces under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Peel and chop the onions. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Put the oil in a large skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Hold your hand about an inch above the bottom of the pan, and if it feels hot it's ready. When the oil is hot, place the chicken, skin side down, in the hot oil. After 1 or 2 minutes, spear a piece with a fork and inspect the underside to see if it's turning brown. If so, turn it over and cook for another 2 minutes; if not, cook another minute or two before turning. When all the pieces are browned, put them into a casserole (one with a lid).

    Put the onions in the same skillet you cooked the chicken in, and stir them around to brown just slightly. This takes about 2 or 3 minutes. Put 1/2 cup chicken broth and the flour in a jar with a lid. Tighten the lid and shake the jar vigorously for a minute, until well mixed and without any flour lumps. Put into the skillet with the heat still at medium-high, and keep stirring continuously for about a minute as the sauce thickens. Slowly add the remaining cup of chicken broth and constantly stir all around the sides and bottom of the skillet. You can use a whisk to help break up any small lumps. Keep stirring -- the sauce will thicken in a minute. When it is smooth and the consistency of thick soup, remove from the stove.

    Pour the sauce over the chicken in the casserole, put the lid on, and place in the oven.

    While the chicken is cooking, wipe the mushrooms clean with a paper towel and cut them into quarters.

    After 20 minutes, remove the lid from the casserole, add the mushrooms, cover again, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

    Preparing the Parsley and the Bread

    While the chicken is in the oven, finely chop enough parsley to make about 1/2 cup.

    Just before the chicken is done, toast 4 slices of bread an butter generously.

    Serving the Chicken

    Remove the casserole from the oven, and taste the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Put slices of toast on 4 plates, place a chicken breast on each toast, and spoon the mushrooms and sauce over the top. Sprinkle the parsley generously over the chicken and mushrooms and serve hot.

    Recipe from Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham , copyright c 1999 by Marion Cunningham. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2002

    I'm cooking like a Pro with this book!

    As a 38 year old woman who was clueless about cooking, I had more embarressing moments in the kitchen than I care to mention. I realized I needed remedial help. I looked at several basic cookbooks including cookbooks for kids, all without success, till I found "Learning to Cook" in my local library. It is wonderfully easy to read and explains the minute details of setup/prep AND their rationale that other cookbooks assume you already know. More importantly I was inspired to try these recipes and became confident in the kitchen. My family has been raving about my cooking and coworkers want to know Marion's secret for Parslied Red Potatoes. I am getting Overdue notices from the library and I realize I can't live without this book! I must buy it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 1999

    A Good Start for the Beginner Cook

    Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham is an excellent cookbook for the novice cook and a welcomed addition to the cookbook library of a more experienced cook. The recipes are simple and basic. The step-by-step directions on cooking techniques (e.g., peeling an onion, chopping a tomato, preparing garlic, beating egg whites, etc.), along with their illustrations, would be very helpful for someone not familiar to food preparation. The recipes' directions are clear, making this one of the easiest cookbooks to follow. I made the Pot Roast with Vegetables and Gravy recipe, and the results were fantastic. The Lemon Pudding Cake was great. You must make the Raised Waffles; once you have tasted this recipe, you will never eat frozen waffles again. Novice cooks should not be intimidated by most of the recipes in this book. (Only a few of the recipes might be challenging for a novice cook on the first attempt, however.) I am an experienced cook and had no difficulty with any of the recipes I tried. Great gift for a bride and/or groom, for someone moving out of their parents' home, or for someone who does not know the difference between an egg white and an egg yolk.

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