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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Minute Recipes 1
Fish and Shellfish 59
Poultry and Meat 93
Potatoes, Rice, Pasta, Pizza, and Bread 140
The Menus 218
Author’s Acknowledgments 223
Producer’s Acknowledgments 226
When I wrote Fast Food My Way, I hoped that many of my friends would prepare my recipes and feel comfortable cooking this way. It turned out better than I had expected and now more people cook from this book than any other of the twenty or so books that I have written in the last thirty years. Friends, family, neighbors, students, and colleagues alike tell me how happily surprised they are by the results, especially given the minimal investment of time. It amazes many cooks that a few simple and uncomplicated steps can produce such great dishes, and they often say, "That’s it!? That’s all there is to it?" Yes, simplicity was one of the main assets of Fast Food My Way, and the same is true of More Fast Food My Way: simplicity of thinking, techniques, ingredients, combinations, and presentation.
The best, freshest ingredients are essential as well for this "fast food," even though great use is made in the book of the pantry and canned food. This is not a paradox: your canned sardines will be better served on a bed of the freshest baby arugula with a sprinkling of great olives, and a can of cannellini beans that you have transformed into a soup will be accented and improved with great sausage, fresh herbs, mild onion, and roasted croutons from an earthy country bread. Using the supermarket the right way, you can buy good-quality partially cooked or prepared food and make that food personal with a few additions or changes. It’s a gratifying way to cook and it makes you feel that you have created something. This is the easiest of my cookbooks for beginners, for people afraid to cook, for people pressed for time or limited by a poorly stocked supermarket or by a family of finicky eaters, or for anyone who wants great food quickly.
When I think about "fast food" cooking, I realize that I have always cooked this way. My mother did so and so occasionally do my professional chef friends. We all have moments when, pressed by time, we’ll use a can of tuna and a tomato to make a first course or we’ll transform frozen raspberries into a scrumptious dessert in minutes. It’s a question of choosing the right recipes. On a leisurely weekend I may take my time making long-simmering stocks, puff pastry, and slow-cooked stews. A couple of days later, I may be stuck in traffic, come home late, and be hungry and short of time, so I’ll concoct a few fast dishes with what is available in my pantry and fridge—often with as much success as a long-planned, time-consuming meal. These recipes are as much a part of my culinary past and as much a part of my cuisine as are the more complex, longer-to-make recipes from my other books.
In a restaurant, the food is ready in minutes because of thorough beforehand preparation. The work is always divided into two parts, the preparation (called the mise en place) and the mealtime finishing touches at the stove (called le service). The prep cook bones the chicken, fillets the fish, minces the shallots, slices the mushrooms, cleans the spinach, peels the tomatoes, and chops the herbs ahead, all to be ready for mealtime. Then, if a customer orders a fish dish, it takes the cook at the stove only seconds to combine the fish with presliced mushrooms, chopped shallots, peeled tomatoes, and wine, and a couple of minutes to cook the dish and finish it with a pat of butter and fresh herbs.
The supermarket is my modest, efficient prep cook, there specifically to make my life easier. At my disposal are prewashed baby greens and spinach, presliced mushrooms, skinless and boneless chicken breasts and thighs, fish fillets, shelled peas and beans, precooked beets, precleaned vegetables for soup, and much more. At the deli counter, many varieties of olives, marinated mushrooms, pimientos, and all kinds of grated, crumbled, or sliced cheeses stand ready to be used in salads or as garnishes. I find rolled sushi, raw stuffed roasts of veal, stuffed chickens, and marinated ribs. As I see the products, recipes pop into my head. I can make rotisserie chickens my own by cutting them up and placing them on a bed of Boston lettuce sprinkled with sautéed shallots, garlic, and herbs (see page 21).
Good equipment is important as well. I use a pressure cooker to make a fast delicious curry of lamb (page 118) and a spicy chili con carne (page 106). A food processor, a grater, sharp knives, nonstick pans, and rubber spatulas are as essential as are great olive oil, eggs, chicken stock, and breads, along with the freshest vegetables and salad greens and superb nuts, olives, and cheeses.
A few changes in your habits can save a lot of time. Peel vegetables directly into the sink or the garbage can. Line trays with aluminum foil to save time on washing and keep using the same pot when you cook, rinsing it quickly between uses and filling it with water when you are finished with it. Cook in attractive vessels, like a red cast-iron Dutch oven that you can bring directly from the stove to the table. If using a food processor more than once—let’s say to make bread crumbs and a puree of peas—start with the crumbs, so you don’t have to wash the bowl between uses.
This cuisine is the answer when guests invited for drinks are still lingering two hours later at dinnertime. Then is the time to survey the pantry and the refrigerator to see what you can cook with a minimum of effort. More than anything else, you may be surprised at how elegant and easy this type of entertaining can be. Your "fast food" will be different from mine, because along the way you’ll discover your own shortcuts and your own special style that you can apply to the dishes in this book to give them your personal stamp. Happy, easy, and elegant cooking!
Good seafood chowder can be prepared in minutes. In this recipe, I use shrimp, fish, and clam juice and finish the soup with a sprinkling of crabmeat. Oysters, scallops, and mussels are good alternate choices. The most important thing is to have a good base, of which leeks are an essential component. Mushrooms lend complexity, zucchini adds more texture, and potato flakes give a velvety smoothness and the proper thickness. The chowder can be made ahead up to the point where the fish and shellfish are added, which should be done at serving time. Bring the chowder barely back to a boil and serve immediately, with crabmeat sprinkled on as a special garnish.
4 SERVINGS (ABOUT 6 CUPS)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1½ cups trimmed, split, washed, and sliced leeks
1 tablespoon coarsely
2½ cups bottled clam juice
1½ cups water
1 cup coarsely chopped white mushrooms
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ cups diced (½-inch) zucchini
1 cup instant mashed potato flakes
¾ cup 1-inch pieces peeled uncooked shrimp
1 cup 1-inch pieces boneless fish fillet
2/3 cup half-and-half
About ½ cup crabmeat, for garnish (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. When hot, add the leek and garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the clam juice, water, mushrooms, and salt, bring to a boil, and boil for about 2 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and sprinkle the potato flakes on top, mixing them in with a whisk to prevent lumping. Bring to a boil and boil for about 1 minute. (The soup can be prepared several hours ahead to this point.)
At serving time, bring the soup back to a boil, add the shrimp, fish, and half-and-half and bring back just to a boil. The fish and shrimp will be cooked through. Divide among four plates or bowls and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons crabmeat, if using, onto the middle of each serving. Serve immediately.
Roasted Split Chicken with Mustard Crust
I often make this recipe at home when I am in a hurry, because splitting and flattening the chicken and cutting between the joints of the leg and the shoulder reduce the cooking time by half. I use kitchen shears to split the chicken open at the back and to cut the cooked bird into serving pieces and a knife to cut between the joints.
The mustard crust can be made ahead and even spread on the chicken a day ahead, if you like. I pour the cooked chicken juices into a fat separator with a spout and serve over Fluffy Mashed Potatoes, leaving the fat behind.
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Tabasco hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
½ teaspoon salt
1 chicken (about 3½ pounds)
Fluffy Mashed Potatoes (page 142; optional)
For the crust:
Mix all the ingredients except chicken and mashed potatoes in a small bowl.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut alongside the backbone of the chicken to split it open. Spread and press on the chicken with your hands to flatten it. Using a sharp paring knife, cut halfway through both sides of the joints connecting the thighs and drumsticks and cut through the joints of the shoulder under the wings as well. (This will help the heat penetrate these joints and accelerate the cooking process.)
Put the chicken skin side down on a cutting board and spread it with about half the mustard mixture. Place the chicken flat in a large skillet, mustard side down. Spread the remaining mustard on the skin side of the chicken. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, then place the skillet in the oven and cook the chicken for about 30 minutes. It should be well browned and dark on top.
Let the chicken rest in the skillet at room temperature for a few minutes, then cut it into 8 pieces with clean kitchen shears. Defat the cooking juices. If you like, mound some Fluffy Mashed Potatoes on each of four warm dinner plates and place 2 pieces of chicken on each plate. Pour some juice on the mashed potatoes and chicken and serve.
Peas, Mushrooms, and Endive
This stew features an unusual combination of vegetables. Petite peas are the small ones in the pods, which are sweeter and more tender than the starchy large peas. The slight bitterness of the endive and the earthy taste and firm texture of the mushrooms lend complexity to this dish.
2 teaspoons peanut or canola oil
1 cup coarsely chopped white mushrooms
1 large Belgian endive, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices (about 2 cups)
2 cups (about 8 ounces) frozen petite peas
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat the oil in a large skillet. When hot, add the mushrooms and endive. Cover and cook over medium to high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the moisture is gone and the mixture starts sizzling. Add the peas, salt, and pepper, uncover, and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, or until the peas soften and get hot and tender. Add the butter and cook for another minute while tossing the mixture. Serve.
Skillet Apple Charlotte
A classic apple charlotte is made in a deep metal charlotte mold that has been lined with buttered bread slices and filled with sautéed caramelized apples and sometimes nuts. The apple mixture is then covered with more bread and the charlotte is baked, unmolded, and served with apricot sauce. In this quick version, apple wedges are sautéed with honey and maple syrup, covered with buttered bread slices, baked and then turned out of the pan like a tart Tatin.
3 Granny Smith apples
(about 1½ pounds total)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey
4 slices white bread
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
About ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and cut each apple into 6 wedges. Put the wedges in a small (7- to 8-inch) nonstick skillet and add 2 tablespoons of the butter, the maple syrup, and the honey. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the apples are just tender. Uncover and cook over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the liquid is completely gone, then continue cooking for another 2 minutes or so to glaze and caramelize the apples.
Trim the crusts from the bread slices and arrange them, touching, in a square on a cutting board. Trim the corners to create a rough disk that will fit into the skillet and cover the apples. Butter the bread on one side with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and arrange the slices buttered side up on top of the apples.
Sprinkle on the sugar and place the pan in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned on top.
At serving time, if necessary, reheat the dessert on top of the stove to help loosen the apples and unmold the charlotte onto a serving platter. If the apricot preserves are firm, heat them for 30 seconds in a microwave oven to soften. Pour and spread them on top of the apples. Serve the dessert in wedges as is or with a couple of tablespoons of sour cream or Greek yogurt, if you like.