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The Carefree Cook

The Carefree Cook

by Rick Rodgers

The Carefree Cook introduces a new, relaxed way of cooking from an award-winning star of the culinary classroom. Rick Rodgers, author of the “101” cookbook series (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Barbecues) and many other cookbooks, presents more than 150 recipes that busy home cooks will love, both for their ease and their flavor.Many home cooks’


The Carefree Cook introduces a new, relaxed way of cooking from an award-winning star of the culinary classroom. Rick Rodgers, author of the “101” cookbook series (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Barbecues) and many other cookbooks, presents more than 150 recipes that busy home cooks will love, both for their ease and their flavor.Many home cooks’ palates have reached lofty levels of sophistication, but the amount of time and energy available for cooking has plummeted. With that in mind, Rick Rodgers has come up with a brilliant solution.In his most comprehensive book to date, Rodgers replaces stress and fuss with creativity and ease. While Rodgers has included numerous quick ideas in this collection, he believes “slow food” has a place in the kitchen of the busiest home cook, so many of his selections simmer and roast at a leisurely pace while the cook does something else—or nothing at all. Written in Rodgers’s appealingly irreverent style, each of the 150 recipes in The Carefree Cook draws dazzling flavor from just a handful of ingredients. What’s for dinner? Rodgers has compiled an enticing array of entrées, including meat, fish, chicken, pasta, and vegetarian dishes: Pork Tenderloin with Lime Butter Sauce, Halibut with Herbed Oil, Grilled Five-Spice Chicken, Bucatini Carbonara with Zucchini, and Santa Fe Corn Pudding, to name just a few. Soups, salads, and hot and hearty main-dish sandwiches (Potato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Carrot Slaw with Miso Vinaigrette, Bistro Skirt Steak Sandwich) can be mixed and matched for satisfying suppers.

To make life even easier he supplies what he calls “bonus recipes.” These are based on making larger quantities of a dish that can serve as the basis for future meals. Thus a meat stew can turn up as a pasta sauce later in the week with the addition of crushed tomatoes and some extra simmering, or a large roast chicken can be the basis of a chicken casserole the following night. He also provides the easiest and best recipes for sweets he has collected over the years, including Rocky Road Chocolate Cake, “Faux” Peach Tarte Tatin, and Banana Streusel Coffee Cake. Every recipe is conveyed in the realistic, detailed format that has won Rodgers so many fans.A down-to-earth approach to fine cooking, The Carefree Cook will give even the most inexperienced novice in the kitchen the confidence to cook well and have a good time doing it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
In addition to writing more than 20 books (including Barbecues 101), Rodgers is also a cooking instructor. His first lesson here is that one chef's idea of carefree is another's definition of complex. Semantics aside, this is a well-rounded collection of unusual recipes that are challenging to the palate and hassle-free to those who are advanced enough in the kitchen to own a sieve and a sifter. He also throws in some neat hints, like how to sharpen a knife using a ceramic coffee cup, and includes a list of "Million-Dollar Flavors" to always keep handy (blue cheese, ginger and eight other taste boosters). Catfish en Papillote with Gingered Tomato Sauce is easier than it sounds with the fish, tomato and just a handful of seasonings wrapped tight in foil and baked for 15 minutes. There are also upscale variations on several bachelor pad favorites: Pork Chops in Creamy Mushroom Sauce replaces the canned soup with sherry, sour cream and shiitake mushrooms. Spaghetti is either topped with Pork Meatballs, with uncharacteristic pine nuts and currants, or else stirred up in a peculiar concoction of Cool Tomato Sauce, Green Olives and Goat Cheese. For Warm Blackberry Pie Sundaes, one can use crumbled shortbread cookies as the foundation for the warmed fruit and vanilla ice cream. Black Forest Chocolate Pudding is rife with dried cherries and kirsch. Best not to think about the constant whisking of milk over medium heat till it boils and the five hours it takes the pudding to chill. For Rodgers, carefree is merely a state of mind. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Rodgers (Barbecue 101; Thanksgiving 101) offers 150 recipes, primarily for the weekday. His background as a cooking teacher and winner of Bon App tit's Outstanding Cooking Teacher of the Year Award doubtlessly accounts for the clear, easy-to-follow instructions. Comparisons with Rachel Ray's wildly popular "30-Minute Meals" series are probably inevitable, as Rodgers does offer recipes that can be completed in under a half hour-Mussel, Potato, and Saffron Chowder and Pork Souvlaki are notable examples. However, there are also dishes that require fairly short preparation time followed by long, slow cooking-e.g., Short Ribs Proven ale and Tuscan Roasted Spareribs. Rodgers feels that, despite the popularity of celebrity chef cookbooks, most home cooks are still struggling with the basics, so he provides recipes for things such as perfect rice, notes on knife skills, and a section of helpful "Tips" at the beginning of each chapter. Highly recommended for most libraries.-Mary Schlueter, Missouri River Regional Lib., Jefferson City, MO Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.25(w) x 9.35(h) x 1.26(d)

Read an Excerpt

Soups It is appropriate that this book starts off with soups, because there is no other category where the cook gets such a payoff for the time invested. Chop up some vegetables, toss in some meat, and let the pot simmer into a wonderful conglomeration that can be served immediately with salad and bread for a quick meal, or stored for the future. My freezer is packed with containers of homemade soups. When I think I don't have a thing

To eat, it's great to discover that chicken soup in the freezer. It's best to make big batches to be sure that there are those leftovers to squirrel away. (The few soups in this chapter that don't freeze well have smaller yields.)

The soups in this book are purposely "fork-and-knife soups." They are rib-sticking, chunky, hearty affairs that you will most likely eat with a fork and knife as well as a spoon. They are not delicate soups for light first courses at elegant supper parties but soups with backbone to fill you up.

The Carefree Cook's Tips for Soups

Use a large heavy-bottomed pot Don't try to crowd soup ingredients into a small pot. The ideal utensil is an 8-quart pot with a heavy bottom to discourage scorching. Pots with stainless-steel or enameled interiors are best, because they don't pick up flavors as easily as unlined pots.

Don't rush the cooking For my meat soups, I usually include tough, bone-in cuts that add lots of flavor to the broth. But they need time to simmer and become tender. Use a moderately low flame so the soup cooks at a steady simmer. A hard boil is bad not only because it leads to burning, but also because it suspends the fat in the broth, resulting in a stable emulsion, and a greasy-tasting soup. (Even if the soup chills and you remove the hardened fat, it will still taste greasy.) Stir the soup occasionally to be sure nothing is sticking.

Be careful when blending pureed soups Soups can be pureed in a food processor or a blender, or directly in the pot with an immersion blender. Each machine has its own caveats. With a food processor, the pureed soup has a tendency to leak out of the center shaft area. To avoid this, puree in batches to avoid overflow. Transfer the soup solids to the work bowl with a slotted spoon and process, adding just enough of the liquid to keep the soup level from rising above the top of the center tube.

With a blender, the velocity of the blade can create a strong jet of steam that forces the scalding-hot soup up, pushing off the lid. Vent the lid by leaving it slightly ajar, and start the machine on low speed, or pulse, to puree the soup. Better yet, replace the lid with a kitchen towel, as the steam will pass easily through the fabric's weave.

Immersion blenders are great, but they take some getting used to. They are not as fast as food processors or blenders, but most cooks who have one prefer them to the other machines. Just keep the "business end" of the blender immersed in the soup and watch out for splashing.

Stock up on covered containers Unless you are serving a crowd, you will have leftover soup with most of these recipes. Be sure to have a supply of good containers for storage. Because there are lots of leftovers in my life (testing recipes will do that), I purchase cases of 1-pint and 1-quart plastic containers with lids at a local restaurant supply or wholesale club. Although they are designed to be disposable, they can go through the dishwasher to use again a few times. You can buy smaller quantities of containers from your delicatessen or supermarket at a very reasonable price. The 1-pint size is perfect for single servings, and the 1-quart works well for about three bowls. These containers make efficient use of small freezer spaces.

Chinese Beef, Bok Choy, and Noodle Soup Under 30 minutes

Makes 4 servings

As a frequent customer of the noodle shops in New York's Chinatown, I am constantly amazed at how fast they can get a steaming hot bowl of soup on the counter. Of course, the secret is to have everything ready before you get started. If you have the time, freeze the steak for about thirty minutes or so to firm it up—it will be easier to slice. Bean threads, also called cellophane noodles, are made from soybeans. You'll find them in the international section of most supermarkets or at Asian grocers.

2 skeins (about 2 ounces total) bean threads

12 ounces boneless beef sirloin steak, trimmed of excess fat

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)

2 tablespoons shredded fresh ginger (use the large holes on a box grater)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium head bok choy (11/4 pounds), root end trimmed and leaves cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices, or substitute 3 cups sliced (1/4-inch-wide) napa cabbage

2 cups canned reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons dry sherry

2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon chili paste with garlic or 1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

1. Remove any strings from the skeins of bean threads. Place the bean threads in a small bowl and add enough very hot tap water to cover. Let stand while you prepare the soup.

2. Holding the knife at a 45-degree angle, cut the steak across the grain into thin slices (holding the knife at this angle makes wider slices). Cut the slices into pieces about 3 inches long.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over high heat until very hot. In batches, without crowding, add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until it loses its pink color, about 11/2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the saucepan. Add the shallot, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry until the shallot softens, about 1 minute. Add the bok choy and stir-fry until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chili paste and bring to a boil.

5. Meanwhile, drain the bean threads and return to the bowl. Using kitchen scissors, snip through the bean threads a few times to make shorter lengths (this makes them much easier to eat with a soupspoon). Stir the beef and bean threads into the soup. (The soup can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.)

6. Ladle the soup into deep soup bowls and serve hot.

Chinatown Shrimp and Spinach Soup

Substitute 12 ounces peeled, deveined medium shrimp for the beef and stir-fry until it turns opaque, about 3 minutes. Substitute 8 cups loosely packed baby spinach (about 7 ounces) for the bok choy.

Soy Sauce

There are countless brands of soy sauce, which is made from a brew of fermented, aged, and distilled soybeans. The problem is that each producer has its own recipe, and the quality varies enormously (I have ruined a recipe by using a soy sauce that was too strong). To confuse matters further, there are three grades: light (not to be confused with low-sodium), medium (also known as thin soy sauce), and dark (with added molasses, and sometimes called superior soy sauce—which is not an indication of quality), as well as mushroom-flavored soy sauce. Asian cooks use each of these differently.

What's a Westerner to do? Supermarket soy sauce is usually a Japanese brand with reliable quality and flavor, so that's what I recommend. Traditional Asian cooks can argue that it is worthwhile to appreciate the differences among the three soy sauce varieties, but for everyday cooking, I am very happy with the supermarket brand.

Meet the Author

Popular cooking instructor RICK RODGERS has written more than twenty books, including Thanksgiving 101, Christmas 101, and Barbecues 101. His previous book, Kaffeehaus, was nominated for an IACP cookbook award. Winner of Bon Appétit’s Outstanding Cooking Teacher of the Year Award and a frequent guest on radio and television, he lives in the New York City area.

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