Simple to Spectacular: How to Take One Basic Recipe to Four Levels of Sophistication

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Overview

What happens when a four-star chef and a culinary minimalist decide to join forces to create something different? They invent a new style that adapts to every occasion and every level of cooking expertise. Simple to Spectacular introduces a unique concept developed by one of the world's top chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and the New York Times's hugely popular column "The Minimalist." Ever since their award-winning collaboration on Jean-Georges: Cooking at ...
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Overview

What happens when a four-star chef and a culinary minimalist decide to join forces to create something different? They invent a new style that adapts to every occasion and every level of cooking expertise. Simple to Spectacular introduces a unique concept developed by one of the world's top chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and the New York Times's hugely popular column "The Minimalist." Ever since their award-winning collaboration on Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef, the acclaimed duo has been cooking up a repertoire of new dishes that can be prepared in any of five progressively sophisticated ways.

Simple to Spectacular features a total of 250 recipes in 50 groups. Each group begins with a simple, elegant recipe--a few ingredients combined for maximum effect--followed by fully detailed, increasingly elaborate variations. For example, a recipe for Grilled Shrimp with Thyme and Lemon leads to Grilled Shrimp and Zucchini on Rosemary Skewers, Grilled Shrimp with Apple Ketchup, Thai-style Grilled Shrimp on Lemongrass Skewers, and Grilled Shrimp Balls with Cucumber and Yogurt.
Every aspect of the meal is covered, from superb soups and salads to unforgettable side dishes, entrees, and desserts. In Simple to Spectacular, everything--from the basics to innovations by a four-star chef--is tailored for a quick Tuesday night dinner or an elegant weekend party.  And in the now-classic Vongerichten-Bittman style, all of the recipes can be made in the kitchen of any home cook. With 80 full-color photographs giving a mouthwatering view of the Simple-to-Spectacular transformations, readers and cooks will eagerly explore the possibilities.Jean-Georges Vongerichten (right) won the 1998 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef and Best New Restaurant. His Manhattan restaurants include Vong, Jo Jo, The Mercer Kitchen, and Jean Georges, which earned a rare four-star rating from the New York Times.  

In Simple to Spectacular, two titans of the food world have created a truly groundbreaking cookbook.  Here are 250 superb recipes arranged in a uniquely useful way: a basic recipe and four increasingly sophisticated variations, with each group (there are 50 groups in all) based on a given technique.  This ingenious organization enables cooks of all levels of expertise to understand how a recipe is created and to re-create the brilliantly simple recipes and dazzling variations from one of our best food writers and home cooks teamed with one of America's greatest chefs.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Our Review
If you can boil lentils or roast a chicken, you can make Terrine of Lentils and Squab and Roast Chicken with Truffles. That's the promise of Simple to Spectacular, the second collaboration by New York Times "The Minimalist" columnist Mark Bittman (Mr. Simple) and celebrated chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Mr. Spectacular). They provide definitive recipes for such standbys as chicken stock, scrambled eggs, seared tenderloin, and poached pears -- plus some you may not have in your repertoire, like buckwheat crepes and rabbit. Each basic recipe is followed by a handful of variations and elaborations that transform it into a dish that would be at home in one of Vongerichten's restaurants.

It's such a brilliant premise that it's amazing no one has used it to organize a whole cookbook before. It puts the emphasis on the foundation of simply prepared seasonal vegetables and meats and builds upon what it teaches. A recipe for salmon cooked in a low oven, for example, lends itself to versions with lemongrass; fresh horseradish; herbs, mushrooms, and tomato fondue; culminating in Slow-Cooked Salmon with Mussels and Coriander. Many of the "spectacular" dishes take no more time than the dish in its purest form. The four variations on Chicken Breasts in Foil with Rosemary and Olive Oil, for example -- even the luxurious one with foie gras and porcini -- all share a speedy 20-minute prep time.

The book is a reminder that even the fanciest food often comes down to straightforward cooking. It emphasizes the continuity between home cooking and sophisticated restaurant food; simple and spectacular aren't opposites here, just the different forms that good food can take. I was pleasantly surprised by how little effort yielded unusually flavorful dishes. The roasted vegetables and the Roast Tomatoes Stuffed with Bitter Greens were excellent, and the recipe headnotes unfailingly helpful and to the point. The focus isn't quick meals, but when you can make Skate with Sesame Beurre Noisette or Steak au Poivre with Mustard Sauce in 20 minutes, who needs to eat lackluster food to save time?

I've heard that most people have a repertoire of five or six different dinners, which they more or less rotate. If this is true, Simple to Spectacular really speaks to how people cook. Once becoming comfortable with a dish, it's easy to throw a spin on it with a variation, or make a more involved version for company using the same basic technique. And the format makes it appealing to cooks at any level of expertise. This felicitous collaboration between two of America's most talented chefs earns its shelf space several times over.

--Stephanie Hartman

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following their James Beard Award- winning collaboration, Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef, Vongerichten and New York Times food columnist Bittman (The Minimalist) team up again, this time ingeniously leading home cooks from simple to spectacular dishes. "A mastery of basic recipes and an idea of how to vary them leads to almost limitless options," writes Bittman. They emphasize time-saving techniques and offer an intriguing range of flavor possibilities. An excellent section on seasonings and sauces introduces innovative flavor-enhancers such as Citrus Salt, Mint-Licorice Spice Mix and Lobster Oil Mayonnaise. The authors expertly marry an updated French culinary sensibility with Asian-inspired influences, gradually transforming one basic recipe into four increasingly sophisticated dishes by adding luxury ingredients (e.g., truffles, caviar) or unusual seasonings (like harissa or pistachio oil), or by incorporating more advanced techniques (such as making beurre noisette). Among the mouthwatering permutations on French-bistro basics, One-Hour Chicken Stock morphs into Rich Chicken Soup with Chestnuts and Mushrooms; Best Scrambled Eggs is elevated to Oeufs au Caviar; and Tuna Tartare takes a fancy turn as Tuna Spring Roll with Soybean Coulis. Clean, pared-down prose, helpful "Keys to Success" sidebars and clear recipe instructions ably guide both novice and seasoned cooks. With a masterful understanding of today's global pantry, the authors have produced a modern classic. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Based on the premise that "almost all recipes proceed from the basics," this is a book about learning to cook. Its ten chapters cover soups; salads; eggs, crepes, and savory tarts; pasta, noodles, and rice; vegetables; fish and shellfish; poultry; meat; seasonings and sauces; and desserts. Each begins with the fundamentals for working with that category and then proceeds linearly to build a basic recipe into mouth-watering complexities by introducing new techniques and ingredients--often Thai influenced. In less expert hands, this could have been a formula for fussiness and frustration, but the steps are so clearly explained (with rarely more than five per recipe) and the progressions so logical that even novices should feel confident. Vongerichten, a four-star chef, and respected food journalist Bittman have collaborated before, notably on the highly acclaimed Jean-Georges. This outstanding new work should be no less well received. Highly recommended.--Wendy Miller, Lexington P.L., KY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Susie Middleton
What sounds like a gimmick is really an ingenious learning tool.
Fine Cooking
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767903608
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 313,655
  • Product dimensions: 8.07 (w) x 9.99 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Bittman (left) has won IACP Julia Child Awards for his books Fish and How to Cook Everything, which has sold more than 400,000 copies. He is also the author of The Minimalist Cooks at Home, based on "The Minimalist" column he writes for the New York Times.

Vongerichten and Bittman are coauthors of the James Beard Award-winning Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef (Broadway Books, 1998).

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Read an Excerpt

SOUPS

CHICKEN STOCK

STOCKS are said to be the fond--foundation--of great cuisine, but they are really more than that. Once made, they are among the best flavor enhancers, a wonderful addition to countless dishes. We rely primarily on the first two given here. The first of these is traditional chicken stock, a combination of chicken and vegetables that is simmered for just about an hour. Most people think stock takes forever, but it need not, and, as Jean-Georges says, "The best stock tastes of meat, not bones. Shorter cooking times, with lots of meat and not many bones, produces the best stock."

The other is jus rôti, a dark stock of intensely roasted chicken and vegetables, which, when reduced, makes a fine sauce. We use it throughout the book, and I recommend that you try making it at least once; you will understand why we like it so much.

From there, we offer an Asian-flavored stock, great as a basis for Asian-style soups and stews, as you might expect; a super-enriched jus rôti, which needs only a few noodles or vegetables to become a meal; and consommé, a nearly forgotten classic that looks like chicken broth and tastes like . . . heaven.

Keys to Success

We prefer chicken wings. They have the right balance of gelatin and meat and produce a full-bodied, rich stock quickly. They're also easy to handle. But you can use any chicken parts you like, as long as you include meat and bones, not just bones.

All of these recipes can be multiplied as desired, since those given here make relatively small amounts.

Store stock in the refrigerator; if you bring it to a boil every three days it will keep nearly indefinitely. Or freeze for up to several months.

One-hour chicken stock
1/2 big onion
4 cloves
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 leek, trimmed, well washed and chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
3 sprigs thyme

Our basic stock, quick and easy enough to make while you're doing something else. It's so flavorful that you may find yourself regretting using canned stock when this runs out.

1. Stud the onion with the cloves and combine all the ingredients with 6 cups water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that the mixture bubbles steadily but not rapidly. Cook, skimming any foam that accumulates, for about 1 hour.

2. Cool slightly, then strain. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page 2 for storage suggestions.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: 1 1/4 HOURS, LARGELY UNATTENDED

Dark chicken stock (jus rôti)
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
3 sprigs thyme

This takes a little time and a little care; the chicken must be fully browned before you add the vegetables, or their liquid will stop the browning process. If you like, you can strain the stock and reduce it, over high heat, to a cup or two of shiny glaze, enough to make a flavorful sauce for meat, chicken, fish, or vegetables. Store the sauce as you would the stock.

1. Place an oven rack in the lowest possible position (if you can roast on the floor of the oven, so much the better) and preheat the oven to its maximum (550°F is ideal).

2. Combine the chicken and olive oil in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring and scraping occasionally, until the meat is nicely browned. Add the vegetables and seasonings and stir once or twice, scraping the bottom of the pan, then return to the oven for about 20 minutes more, stirring once or twice.

3. Place the pan on top of the stove (careful--it is very hot) and add 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring and scraping occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page zzz for storage suggestions.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS, LARGELY UNATTENDED

Asian jus roti
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
6 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
4 ounces ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 head garlic, cut in half
1 tablespoon Szechwan peppercorns

This is dark chicken stock with Asian seasonings. It makes a lovely broth--garnished with some chopped scallions--or a base for noodle soup with lightly cooked vegetables.

1. Place an oven rack in the lowest possible position (if you can roast on the floor of the oven, so much the better) and preheat the oven to its maximum (550°F is ideal).

2. Combine the chicken wings and peanut oil in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally, until the meat is nicely browned. Add the vegetables and seasonings and stir once or twice, scraping, then return to the oven for about 20 minutes more, stirring once or twice.

3. Place the pan on top of the stove (careful--it is very hot) and add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring and scraping occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page zzz for storage suggestions.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: ABOUT 1 1/2 HOURS, LARGELY UNATTENDED

Ultra-rich dark stock (fond riche)
2 tablespoons olive oil
One 8-ounce piece prosciutto or other dry-cured ham, cut into chunks
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
3 sprigs thyme
1 recipe One-Hour Chicken Stock (page 3)

Simple chicken stock turned into jus rôti, with the addition of ham; a powerful combination. After cooking, this can be reduced to a glaze, of just about 2 cups, and can then serve as a wonderful sauce especially for simply steamed vegetables. But it is so flavorful that it can just be used without reduction as a light sauce, or as part of other sauces. Really delicious.

1. Place an rack in the lowest possible position (if you can roast on the floor of the oven, so much the better) and preheat the oven to its maximum (550°F is ideal).

2. Combine the olive oil, prosciutto, and chicken in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally, until the meat is nicely browned. Add the vegetables and seasonings and stir once or twice, scraping, then return to the oven for about 20 minutes more, stirring once or twice.

3. Place the pan on top of the stove (careful--it is very hot) and add the stock. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring and scraping occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page zzz for storage suggestions.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: ABOUT 1 1/2 HOURS, LARGELY UNATTENDED

Consommé
1 recipe One-Hour Chicken Stock (page 3)
10 to 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken meat, preferably from the leg
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 leek, trimmed, well washed, and chopped
1 tomato, cut into quarters
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 egg whites
1 cup ice cubes

You might think consommé, a crystal-clear broth, is for sick people, but you'll change your mind after you try it. It's deceptively addictive, a rich, clear soup that makes you wonder where all its intense flavor comes from. There is some time and patience involved here, mostly after adding the egg whites, which act as a magnet to clarify the broth.

1. Place the stock in a large saucepan, turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles steadily but not too rapidly.

2. Meanwhile, chop the chicken, onion, carrot, celery, leek, and tomatoes into 1?4-inch pieces; or put them in a food processor and grind all together, but not too fine. Season the mixture well; season the simmering stock too.

3. Stir the egg whites and ice cubes into the chicken mixture and add it all at once to the simmering stock. Whisk once or twice and bring back to a boil. Adjust the heat so that the liquid bubbles steadily but not too rapidly; the solids will form a "raft" on top of the liquid. Create a "chimney," a hole in one side of the raft, simply by spooning some of the solids out of the way. Let cook for about 10 minutes, gradually enlarging the chimney by scooping the solids from the edge of the raft onto the middle.

4. Ladle the liquid (it's okay if you take some of the raft with it) through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. If you like, you can remove some of the fat by laying paper towels flat on top of the consommé and quickly removing them. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page zzz for storage suggestions. Serve hot, garnished with diced tomatoes, thin noodles, and/or pieces of meat, or completely naked.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: ABOUT 30 MINUTES

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 25, 2009

    Wow, Please buy this cookbook

    I love cookbooks, because I love to cook and seek new ideas. I own a plethora of them. This book will stand with my Joy of Cooking, which was the first one I purchased at age 17. Please do yourself a favor and purchase this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2001

    Simple yet Spectacular

    I am very familiar with the delicious recipes created by Mark Bittman. In this cookbook, Jean-Georges Vongerichten (New York City star chef and author of 'Simple Cuisine' and'Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef') and Mark Bittman (New York Times Colomnist and author of 'The Minimalist Cooks at Home,' 'How to Cook Everything,' 'Fish,' and 'Leafy Greens') have collaborated on a collection of sophisticated, yet easy to prepare dishes. These basic recipes use basic uncomplicated ingredients to produce exceptional results. Together, Jean and Mark provide great recipes and include some time saving kitchen hints. Their 'gazpacho' was voted the best Food & Wine Magazine editors had ever tasted. It has just eight supermarket ingredients and can be easily made when you get home from work.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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