Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fearless in the Kitchen

I first "met" Christine Cushing on TV.... well, SHE was on TV and I was mesmerized by her style and her delicious, simple-to-make dishes. Naturally I had to rush out and buy a copy of fearless in the kitchen. That was back in 2002 and, admittedly, with lots of new books arriving for me to savor, it's been sitting on the shelf for a while. That was until, flipping through the many TV stations I have access to, I came across her latest show on Viva. She "transforms terrible cooks into savvy, fearless chefs" and it's called... naturally... Fearless in the Kitchen, And just as naturally I headed over to my computer only to discover that I've never written about this gem of a cookbook! So... without further ado...

Many cookbooks start out with a chapter on kitchen tools, tips & techniques, Christine does something unique. She gives us a quiz to help us uncover patterns in the way we cook and what our cooking personality is. There are 10 questions with A,B,C choices for each one and then a score: Between 10 & 40, you're reluctant and her advice "try to use the five senses more in the kitchen; take baby steps... "; Between 41 & 60, you're a little hesitant but you do break the rules now and then and her advice: "experiment a little more; Between 61 & 74, you're almost fearless and her advice - "create your own recipes without using a cookbook as a guide - experiment, experiment, experiment!"; Between 75 & 100 you are fearless and her advice - share that with your friends!

There is a great intro "breaking free from the recipe" which helps the intimidated cook find her/his fearlessness. I love her guide to substitutions... here's some examples
"Salty -
  • soy sauce, fish sauce, seaweed 
  • capers, anchovies....
  • feta, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • prosciutto, pancetta
Sour/Acidic
  • lemons, limes, vinegar...
  • pickles, capers, sumac
  • buttermilk, yoghurt, creme fraiche
  • elderberries, ...fhrubarb, currants"
...the list goes on to describe sweet, bitter, spicy, creamy and earthy.  Then on to her favorite fearless ingredients, like apple butter, barley malt, chipotle chili, chorizo (the last two being my personal favorites to have on hand at all times)

I love the way her book is organized... not so much by dish or course or even by season (the book was written before that notion became the standard), but moves from basics - which she calls "Stripped Down" and includes recipes for her homemade chicken stock & soup, buttermilk biscuits, bistro frites, "any lettuce dressing", spiced salts, spicy meat sauce, perfect omelette and crepes.

On to "On the Fly"  my favorite chapter, I think.  Just check out the Saffron Baked Shrimp dish to see what I'm talking about.

The chapter called "Essentials" includes another favorite of mine - Latin Frittata which I tweaked and called Spanish or Portuguese or Latin Frittata.  I think it highlights what "essential" is all about.

I could go on and on, but bottom line:  I love this book for the passion it provokes.   Great for the most fearful or the most fearless.  

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