Cookbook Review

About the Author
    Cooking New American is published by The Taunton Press, which also publishes Fine Cooking magazine.
About the Cookbook
    Cooking New American is a treat that mirrors the kind of creativity and nod to tradition that Fine Cooking magazine puts forth in its pages. Blending tried and true favorites with unique dishes, it offers something for every cook and works to do it with less time and effort. That in itself makes it a good option for most home chefs, who might enjoy less and less time in the kitchen these days.

    Ten chapters split the book into types of dishes. In addition, there is a brief introduction, as well as the biographies of contributing chefs and authors, an extensive index and credits. The recipe chapters run as follows:

    1. Small Bites (like Curried Pecans & Sesame Parmesan Twists)
    2. Salads (like Panzanella & Grilled Potato Salad)
    3. Soups (like Yellow Tomato Gazpacho & Spicy Pasta e Fagioli)
    4. Pasta (like Shells with Gorgonzola & Wild Mushroom Risotto)
    5. Chicken (like Tandoori-Style Chicken & Crisp Panko Chicken Cutlets)
    6. Beef, Pork & Lamb (like Garlicky Beef over Lettuce Greens & Chinese-Style Spareribs)
    7. Fish & Shellfish (like Spice-Rubbed Fish Fillets & Caramel-Braised Cod)
    8. Beans & Grains (like Lemon Rice Salad & Green Rice)
    9. Vegetables (like Crispy Broccoli & Creamy Spinach)
    10. Desserts (like Strawberry Shortcakes & Triple Chocolate Cheesecake)

    Each chapter is carefully arranged according to a special preparation technique (e.g. simmer or sauté), which gives a home chef insight into what kind of equipment will be necessary and the like. To familiarize you with the type of recipes that can be expected in Cooking New American, here is a sampling of its offerings:

Baked Potato & Leek Soup with Cheddar & Bacon

The whole potato, skin and all, goes into this thick soup, so wash the potatoes well.
  • 2 medium russet potatoes (about 1/2 pound each)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks (white and light green parts), sliced and rinsed well
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar (about 1/4 pound)
  • 2 Tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens or chives

Heat the oven to 375ºF. Scrub the potatoes, pat dry, and pierce several times with a fork. Set them directly on the oven rack and bake until very tender, about 1 hour. Let cool completely on a cooling rack.

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and 2 cups water. Simmer until the leeks are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

Cut one of cooled potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh out in one piece from each half. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. Coarsely chop the potato skin and the entire remaining potato and add to the pot with the leeks. Purée the contents of the pot in batches in a blender until very smooth. Return the soup to a clean pot and reheat over medium low. Whisk together the milk and sour cream and then whisk this into the soup, along with 1/2 cup of the Cheddar. Stir in the diced potato. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the remaining Cheddar, the bacon bits, and the scallions or chives.

  • Yields: About 6 cups; serves 4

Seared Chicken Breast with Quick Pan Sauce

This technique and the accompanying sauces also would work well with turkey cutlets, boneless pork chops, or sliced pork loin.
  • 4 trimmed boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloin removed and cooked separately or saved for another use
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • Ingredients for pan sauce (see the recipes below)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

Season the chicken breasts on both sides with ample salt and pepper. Put a handful of flour in a pie pan or other sided plate and position it near the stove. Combine the sauce ingredients of your choice in a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup or small bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge one of the chicken breasts in the flour, coating both sides well but shaking off any excess. Increase the heat of the pan to medium high.

Before adding the chicken, test the heat of the pan by flicking in a little of the dredging flour. If the flour sizzles enthusiastically and immediately turns golden, the pan is ready. Add the first floured chicken breast. Then quickly flour the remaining breasts and add them to the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes without moving the breasts. Then, starting with the first one in the pan, turn them over and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes on the other side.

Transfer the chicken to a plate or plates and keep it warm. Add the pan sauce ingredients to the hot pan and boil, stirring and scraping up the browned bits in the bottom of the pan, over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and whisk until smooth and glossy. (Tilt the pan to bring the small amount of liquid to one side while you whisk in the butter.) Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings

Quick Pan Sauces

These sauces are designed for 4 chicken breasts, yielding about 1 to 11/2 tablespoons of sauce per breast. If you decide you want a bit more sauce, increase the total liquid ingredients to 2/3 cup and whisk in a little more butter.

Add the flavorings to the hot pan.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

Scrape up those yummy stuck-on bits and reduce the liquid by half.

Red Wine and Mustard
  • 1/4 cup low-salt chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Curried Chutney
  • 6 Tablespoons low-salt chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared chutney
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
Port with Dried Cherries
  • 1/2 cup port wine
  • 2 Tablespoons dried cherries or cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 6 Tablespoons low-salt chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers
Vermouth with Prunes
  • 6 Tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped prunes
  • 1/4 cup low-salt chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 4 canned tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Fragrant Beef Short Ribs with Ginger, Star Anise & Leeks

The soy sauce seasons the ribs well (no need to salt them before searing) and produces an intense sauce that's delicious with mashed potatoes.
  • 1 1/3 cups drained canned whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup fino sherry, dry white wine, or dry vermouth
  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 6 to 61/2 pounds beef short ribs on the bone (each 3 to 4 inches long)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil; more as needed
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (about 1 inch), peeled and cut into 8 slices
  • 6 large scallions (white and green parts), cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 medium leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 2-inch-long julienne strips (2 to 21/2 cups), rinsed, and dried well
  • Kosher salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Put the tomatoes, 2/3 cup water, the soy sauce, sherry, and brown sugar in a bowl and stir. Add the star anise.

Pat the short ribs dry with paper towels and season them with pepper. In an ovenproof pot that's large enough to hold all the ribs in no more than two layers, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Put as many ribs in the pot as will fit without crowding and brown them on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter. Brown the rest of the ribs, adding more oil if needed, and transfer to the platter.

Pour off the fat from the pan, reduce the heat to low, and add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, stirring and pressing them against the pot, for 1 to 2 minutes to bring out their flavor. Return the ribs to the pot and pour the tomato and soy sauce mixture over them. Bring to a simmer and cover. Transfer the pot to the oven and braise the ribs, lifting and turning them about every half hour, until the meat is very tender and starts to fall off the bone when pulled with a fork, 21/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer the ribs to a serving platter (or if you're working ahead, transfer them to a baking dish; refrigerate, covered, when cool). Pick out and discard the ginger and star anise from the pot and pour the remaining sauce into a large, clear measuring cup. When the fat rises to the surface, after about 5 minutes, spoon it off and discard. (Or, if you're working ahead, cool the sauce in the pot, refrigerate it, and skim the solid fat off the top. When it's time to reheat the ribs, return them to the pot and heat gently in the oven.)

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat the sauce, season generously with pepper and more salt, if you like, and pour it over the ribs. Scatter the leeks over the top and serve.

  • Yields: 6 servings

Smashed Red-Skinned Potatoes with Boursin & Scallions

Smashing low-starch potatoes into a rustic side dish is the way to go to avoid gumminess. Besides, there is always someone who loves lumps.
  • 1 3/4 to 2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 11/2- to 2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
  • 4 ounces boursin (with garlic and herbs), cut into pieces and at room temperature
  • 3 scallions (white parts with some green), chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add a generous 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer, cover the pot partially, and cook until the potatoes are quite tender when tested with a metal skewer, 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain the potatoes -- reserving some of the cooking water -- and dump them back in the pot. Dry the potatoes over medium heat, shaking the pan and stirring, until most of the moisture has steamed off. Reduce the heat to very low.

Use the side of a big metal spoon to cut through the skins and flesh of the potatoes, reducing the chunks to a very coarse mash. Stir in the butter and then the boursin. You might need to loosen the mash with a few tablespoons cooking water or as much as 1/2 cup. Don't beat vigorously or the potatoes may turn gummy. Stir in the scallions, add salt and pepper, and serve right away.

  • Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Cranberry Streusel Cake

Add the topping 40 minutes into baking rather than at the beginning, when it would sink too far into the cake, or at the end, when it wouldn't sink in at all. For the cake:
  • 9 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour; more for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, well softened at room temperature; more for the pan
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
For the streusel:
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh cranberries, chopped

Make the cake -- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch-square baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt until blended. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium low and add the eggs one at a time, mixing until just incorporated. Using a wide rubber spatula, alternately fold the flour mixture and the yogurt into the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the chopped cranberries with the last addition of flour. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for 40 minutes.

Make the streusel -- While the cake is baking, combine the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the butter and mix, using a fork, until the ingredients are well blended and form small crumbs. Stir in the walnuts and cranberries.

After the cake has baked for 40 minutes, sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the cake. Continue baking until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, another 10 to 15 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack until warm or room temperature. Cut into squares and serve.

  • Yields: 9 servings

Ginger-Mascarpone Icebox Cake

Delicious on its own, this cake is also lovely paired with some bright-flavored fruit, such as blueberries or slices of mango or peach.
  • 12 ounces gingersnap crumbs, about 2 1/4 cups (about 40 cookies)
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2/3 cup sugar; more for the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup minced candied (crystallized) ginger
  • 1 pound mascarpone
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray or grease it lightly. Dust with a little sugar and knock out any excess. Rub the gingersnap crumbs and butter together with your fingertips to combine. Sprinkle half over the bottom of the pan and pat down evenly; reserve the rest.

With an electric mixer, whip together the cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and candied ginger until smooth. Add the mascarpone and cream and whip until the mixture is thorough combined and just holds peaks. Carefully spoon half of the mascarpone cream over the crust, spreading it evenly to the edges of the pan.

Sprinkle half of the remaining crumbs over the mascarpone cream in the pan. Top with remaining mascarpone cream and finish with the remaining crumbs. Gently tap the pan on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

  • Yields: 12 servings
    If you're a fan of traditional American cooking but would like to spend less time in the kitchen, Cooking New American by Fine Cooking magazine is for you. It's a great way to help get home-cooked meals on the table in less time with more pizzazz!
Where to Buy
    If you are interested in purchasing Cooking New American, you can buy it online right now for over 30% off the list price by clicking here. The publisher's list price for the cookbook is $29.95.