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- Charred Broccoli with Japanese-Style Toasted Sesame Sauce (Rule No. 9: Beat Bitterness by Charring)
- Lentils with Swiss Chard and Pomegranate Molasses (Rule No. 18: Don't Let Neutral Ingredients Stand Alone)
- Bucatini Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Sage (Rule No. 23: Get Bigger Flavor from Supermarket Tomatoes)
- Soft-Cooked Eggs with Coconut, Tomatoes, and Spinach (Rule No. 39: Steam, Don't Boil, Your Eggs)
- Pan-Seared Salmon with Red Chili-Walnut Sauce (Rule No. 44: Stick with Single-Sided Searing)
- Curry-Coconut Pot Roast (Rule No. 67: Use Less Liquid for More Flavor)
- Tenderize tough greens quickly
- Create creamy textures without using dairy
- Incorporate yogurt into baked goods
- Trade time-consuming marinades for quick, bright finishing sauces, and more
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Rules are a mixed blessing. They are useful in building a foundation of knowledge, whether in music or cooking. But they also create boundaries that can dampen improvisation.
The New Rules is our attempt to do both, to create a communal starting point for a new way to cook (well, new to the classic American table) while also inspiring home cooks to abandon rigid culinary notions drawn from America’s European roots and ersatz adaptations of Chinese, Italian and Mexican cuisines.
A few examples. Water for stock. Putting the sweet back into savory. Blooming spices. Bitter and charred as flavors. Herbs as greens. Ginger as a vegetable. Don’t stir polenta. Season early. And late. Cook pasta in its sauce, not water.
This is not a license to discard culinary history. It’s an opportunity to learn from others and rethink what we do at the stove. These rules may be new to us but they are conventional wisdom for millions of home cooks around the world.
New Rules. Old Rules. It all comes down to the same thing. Fresh, bold dishes made with an enthusiasm for the joy of cooking.
CHANGE THE WAY YOU COOK
Banish One-Note Flavors and Textures
Simplistic flavors and textures lack interest. A balance of contrasting flavors and textures allows each to shine without dominating.
Tenderize Tough Greens with Salt
Raw greens can be off-puttingly tough; massaging the leaves with kosher salt tenderizes them.
For Sweeter Root Vegetables, Grab Your Grater
When root vegetables are cut, their cells are ruptured, releasing sugars and volatile hydrocarbons, the source of their sweetness and aromas. Grating ruptures the most cells, producing sweeter vegetables.
For Dressing That Sticks, Salt Your Vegetables
Slick and watery vegetables can be hard to flavor; dressings and seasonings slide right off. Salting them first draws out moisture, leaving behind firmer, drier vegetables to which seasonings can stick.
Treat Herbs as Greens, Not Garnish
For full-flavored but still simple salads, add herbs by the cupful rather than as a delicate sprinkle.
Stagger Your Cooking
Dumping everything in the pot at once creates a uniformity of texture and can overcook more tender ingredients. Stagger them based on how long they should cook.
Bloom Seasonings in Fat for Bigger Flavor
Heating spices and seasonings in fat intensifies their flavors, drawing them into the liquid and allowing them to better permeate the dish.
Jumpstart Your Potatoes
For potatoes that are tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, we start them in the microwave.
Beat Bitterness by Charring
Roasting cabbage and other sulfurous vegetables at high heat reduces their bitterness and gives them a subtle sweetness.
Braise Low and Slow to Tenderize Tough Greens
Sturdy greens like kale can be leathery and tough if not cooked long enough. But a gentle simmer gives them time to become tender, sweet and to meld with other ingredients.
Sear and Steam for Perfectly Crisp-Tender Vegetables
For perfectly crisp and tender vegetables, we combine cooking techniques. Start by searing them in a hot pan to develop browning and flavor. Then add water and a tight-fitting lid to steam them until tender.
For Bolder Sauces, Lose the Liquid
Reducing the amount of liquid used in sauces allows the flavors to concentrate and better coat the other ingredients.
Stop Stirring Your Polenta
For the creamiest, easiest polenta, all you need is an oven, a couple vigorous stirs and no endless whisking.
Seize the Starch for Better Beans and Grains
Use the natural starches in beans, lentils and grains to improve the texture of the finished dish.
Move Rice from the Side to the Center
Rethink chicken soup by making starchy rice the star while relegating chicken to the role of flavorful garnish.
Hold the Herbs Until the End
Delicate herbs make the most impact when they’re kept fresh. This often means adding them last, as heat can dull their flavor.
Put a Chill on Rice for Frying
Chill cooked rice, then toss it with oil before using it for stir-frying. Freshly cooked rice will other- wise turn soft or gluey in the pan.
Don’t Let Neutral Ingredients Stand Alone
Pair neutral ingredients—such as lentils or grains—with brighter, sharper flavors for balance and impact.
Season Your Water
Adding hearty seasonings to the cooking liquid for grains and beans infuses them with bolder flavor.
Warm Beans for Bolder Seasoning
Improve the flavor of canned beans by heating them before seasoning. The heat makes the beans swell; as they cool and contract they better absorb other flavors.
Create Creaminess Without Cream
A creamy sauce doesn’t have to be made with cream. Grating corn kernels releases their milky pulp and starches to create the base of a rich sauce.
Put Pasta Water to Work
Don’t throw pasta water down the drain. The starchy water is a great way to create sauces that coat and cling to the cooked noodles.
Get Bigger Flavor from Supermarket Tomatoes
Use a slow simmer to transform supermarket tomatoes from bland to bold.
Boil Your Noodles Without Water
Cooking noodles in a seasoned liquid, rather than boiling them separately in water and finishing them with a sauce, is an easy way to build flavor.
Caramelize Pasta for Deeper, Richer Flavor
Toasting dry pasta caramelizes some of the starches, producing nutty flavors similar to caramelized sugar.
Parcook Pasta for Better Flavor
Boiling pasta until just shy of al dente, then finishing it directly in the sauce (fortified with some of the starchy cooking water), allows the pasta to better absorb other flavors.
Stop Pureeing Your Pesto
Processing the ingredients in a particular order—and only until grainy, not pureed—produces a dramatically better pesto with layers of texture and flavor.
Punch Up Pasta and Noodles with Savory Flavors
Savory flavors are key to combatting the bland nature of noodles and pasta. It’s why tomatoes, olives, anchovies, garlic and cheese are essential to Italian recipes, and mushrooms, fish sauce and soy sauce show up so often in Asian noodles.
Super-Starch Your Pasta
Create silkier, thicker sauces by cooking pasta and noodles in less water than typically called for, concentrating the starches that leach out of the noodles and into the cooking water.
Use Cornstarch to Smooth Out Lumpy Sauces
Some cheese-based sauces are notoriously difficult to make without clumping. Adding cornstarch to the mixture stabilizes the cheese as it melts, creating a silky-smooth sauce.
Add Air to Your Carbonara
Classic carbonara can be heavy and dense. Whisking the egg- and-cheese sauce as it cooks slowly over gentle heat lightens it by pumping air into it.
Beat Back Soggy Noodle Salads
Use Asian somen noodles for pasta salads that won’t turn starchy and mealy when cooled.
Some Pasta Needs Nuts
Pasta can suffer from a singular, soft texture. So we borrow a trick from Sicily, where cooks add textural contrast—plus sweet and savory notes—with nuts, such as crushed pistachios and almonds.
Add Yogurt to Make Dough Flavorful and Flexible
Adding tangy yogurt to dough is an easy way to boost flavor. It also makes the dough more tender and easier to work with.
Add Moisture Without Adding Liquid
Adding mashed potatoes to dough yields a lighter, more tender crumb. Using sweet potatoes multiplies the impact, adding color and flavor as well as tenderness.
Change the Flour to Change the Chew
Different flours—such as starchy, sweet rice flour—can change the texture of breads for the better.
Go Low for the Perfect Poached Egg
For the easiest poached eggs, use a low-sided skillet, not a tall saucepan. And once the eggs are in, turn off the burner. The residual heat will gently and perfectly poach the eggs.
Add Crunch to Your Eggs
Eggs don’t have to be soft. Crisp- edged whites can offer a pleasant contrast to tender yolks and vegetables.
Steam, Don’t Boil, Your Eggs
Safeguard soft- or hard-cooked eggs against rubbery whites and overdone yolks by steaming instead of boiling. Steam transfers less energy to the eggs, cooking them more gently.
End the Cooking Early
Omelets are easily overcooked. To prevent this, we pull the pan off the heat when the curds are still slightly wet. The eggs finish cooking using just the residual heat in the pan.
Start on the Stovetop, Finish in the Oven
To ensure thicker flat omelets are perfectly done edge to edge, we start the cooking on the stovetop, then slide the pan into the oven, where the eggs finish cooking gently and evenly.
For Lighter Eggs, Borrow a Baking Ingredient
Baking powder can help lighten baked frittatas. Just as it does in traditional baking, the baking powder reacts with the heat of the oven to form carbon dioxide gas—or bubbles—that adds air to the frittata’s structure.
Cook Gentle, Season Strong
A gentle, even heat is best for keeping the delicate flesh of fish tender. Steaming is ideal because the heat surrounds the fish, cooking it from all sides without movement.
Stick with Single-Sided Searing
Fish and shellfish can quickly overcook. This makes it a challenge to develop a crisp, flavorful crust. So we sear seafood on just one side, then finish cooking off the burner with just residual heat.
Tame Garlic with an Acid Touch
Briefly soaking garlic in an acid, such as lime juice, tames its bite and mellows its pungency without sacrificing flavor.
For Tender Fish Stews, Think Big
Small chunks of fish are easy to overcook, turning them dry and tasteless. So when making fish stew, we use thick fillets and leave them whole so we can better control their rate of cooking.
Use Marinades to Help Brown Shrimp
Shrimp tend to overcook on the inside before the outside has time to develop flavorful browning and caramelization, especially when grilling. To help with this, we briefly marinate shrimp in ingredients that speed browning, such as sugar and fat.
Keep Seafood Tender by Saving Acids for the End
Acids can toughen the texture of raw seafood. So when we want to add tangy flavor, we add them after cooking as a sauce.
Flat Birds Cook Faster, Crisp Better
Spatchcocking puts the breasts and thighs on an even plane so they cook at the same time. Flattening the bird also exposes all of the skin to heat, resulting in crisper skin.
Roast on Baking Sheets, Not Roasting Pans
Roasting on a low-rimmed baking sheet rather than in a deep pan allows for better air circulation around the food, accelerating cooking and boosting browning.
Build Better Skewers with Strips, Not Chunks
Think thin strips rather than thick chunks when making meat skewers. They cook faster and provide plenty of surface area for applying flavorful rubs and sauces.
Shred Your Chicken for Bolder Flavor
Shredding cooked chicken not only makes the meat more tender, it also can result in better flavor. Shredded chicken has more surface area to better absorb seasonings and sauces.
Hit Repeat for Better, Bigger Flavor
Repeating flavors is a signal- boosting tactic that creates bold layers of flavor. We often use the same spice mixture twice—first to coat chicken before cooking, then again to dust the finished dish.
Spice Under the Skin
When seasoning chicken with spices, we often apply them under the skin where they can directly flavor the meat and stay in place better.
Season Crumbs for Better Crust
Breading often is bland. But seasoning the breadcrumb coating itself—rather than just the meat—is an easy opportunity to build flavor into a dish.
Tangy Sides Lighten and Brighten Heavy Mains
Fried and other oily foods often taste heavy. But serving them with sides spiked with acidic ingredients like slaws and quick-pickles balances the richness.
Cook First, Flavor Last
Marinades rarely deliver much flavor. They don’t penetrate deeply enough and the heat of cooking can dull their flavors. So we instead turn them into sauces we apply at the end.
Use a Low, Slow Simmer to Keep Meat Moist
Cooking meat in liquid that’s kept at a gentle simmer makes for moister meat. The liquid itself doesn’t add moisture, but the milder heat cooks the meat more gently, keeping it tender and moist.
Stop Tossing Your Stems
Don’t trash your cilantro stems; they are full of flavor. We frequently puree them into sauces, salsas and moles, and use them to flavor rice dishes and soups.
Put a Lid on It for Richer Low-Liquid Cooking
Cooking chicken in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid cooks the meat mainly in its own juices, keeping flavors rich and concentrated.
Cut Meat Cold for Thin, Tender Slices
Tough cuts of meat can be made more tender by thinly slicing them, shortening the otherwise chewy muscle fibers. Sometimes we freeze the meat to make the slicing easier.
Use Steam Power for More Tender Meat
Adding water to the pan doesn’t directly add moisture to the meat, but it does create a moist environment that transfers heat to the meat more efficiently than dry air, cooking it fast and keeping it tender.
Don’t Marinate Without Also Saucing
Marinades are slow to penetrate meat, so they add limited flavor. To get around this, use them twice—first to season the meat before cooking, then later as a sauce for the finished dish.
Give Meats an Acidic Finish
Adding acidic ingredients at the end of cooking lightens and brightens otherwise rich and heavy meats.
Sear on the Stovetop, Cook in the Oven
Searing a spice-crusted pork tenderloin on the stovetop not only browns the meat, it also toasts the seasonings, heightening their flavors. But it’s easy to overcook, so we finish it in the gentler and more even heat of the oven.
Lose the Lid to Concentrate Flavors
We often start long-cooked stews covered so the ingredients’ natural moisture is trapped in the pot and cooking begins gently and slowly. But we like to remove the cover toward the end to allow the liquid to reduce and the flavors it contains to concentrate.
Use Less Liquid for More Flavor
Braising meats with minimal liquid in a covered pot allows the meat to cook gently in its own juices. The method concentrates juices that can later make richly flavored sauces.
Finish the Dish the Way You Start
Finishing a dish with a repeat hit of seasoning used during cooking creates layers of interest and helps reinforce flavor.
Sauce Meat as It Rests
As meat rests, the muscle fibers relax, allowing flavors to be better absorbed.
Treat Meat as a Flavoring
Meat doesn’t have to be the main event. Much of the world treats it more as a garnish, adding deep savory flavor without weighing down the dish.
Treat Fresh Ginger as a Vegetable
Don’t consign ginger to a mere flavoring. Up the volume and treat it like a vegetable. And don’t worry about the spiciness. Ginger’s bite mellows with cooking.
Stop Searing Your Meat
Skip the searing. It’s easier to build flavor into a stew by adding handfuls of herbs and plenty of robust spices. You’ll save the time and hassle.
Chill Your Meatballs
Chilling meatballs firms them up so they hold their shape better and won’t fall apart as they cook.
Tenderize Beef with Baking Soda
Lowering the acidity of beef makes it more tender. Balkan and Chinese cooks do this by adding an alkali, such as baking soda. This forces the muscle proteins apart, which makes them easier to bite through and better able to retain moisture.
Salt Your Drinks, Not Your Glassware
Unlike salting the rim of a glass—which overwhelms the flavors inside—a tiny amount of salt added to the drink itself enhances and brightens the other ingredients.
MILK STREET METHOD
THE MILK STREET WAY
Give Your Meals a Foundation, a Counterpoint and an Embellishment
At Milk Street, every recipe needs to offer a diversity of tastes, textures and sensations. While balance and harmony are important, so is contrast between those elements, which changes how we experience a dish. Think about a classic chicken soup of soft carrots and noodles with broth vs. a bowl filled with broth and chicken, dolloped with bright, hot and tangy condiments and topped with crunchy raw radish and cabbage and handfuls of fresh herbs. We’re partial to the bold, fresh and bright flavors of the latter.
Getting the balance of a dish right is easier to do when you think about recipes in three parts. The dominant taste, texture and sensation of a recipe make up its foundation. Any taste, texture or sensation that contrasts the foundation makes up the recipe’s counterpoint. And finishing items—the flourishes and additions that punctuate the dish—are the embellishment, sometimes a garnish, sometimes not.
For example, in classic Italian-American spaghetti marinara, the foundation is the wheaty, chewy and warming pasta. The acidic, bright and smooth/slippery marinara serves as the counterpoint. A final sprinkle of grated Parmesan and chopped basil are the embellishments, adding salty, savory and fresh flavors that accent both the foundation and its counterpoint.
In traditional American and Western European cooking, the foundation takes center stage, with counterpoints typically playing an often subtle role in the dish. At Milk Street, we do things differently. Our counterpoints and embellishments play as vital a role in a recipe as the foundation.
Take classic bean salad, typically a mix of canned beans coated in a slightly sweet dressing, a dish that is one-note soft. Now imagine Georgian-style salad (here) where instead of three beans and a sprinkling of herbs we take a one-bean (kidney), three-herb approach, adding fresh dill, parsley and cilantro by the fistful. The beans (foundation) are dressed with a tangy shallot-vinegar dressing and herbs (counterpoint), all finished with toasted walnuts (embellishment). We don’t give up the ease of canned beans, but we do heat them in the microwave before dressing; it boosts their ability to absorb flavor. The classic salad is mostly textureless and can easily veer into bland and mealy territory. The second bursts with layers of sweet, earthy, crunchy, spicy flavor and will always be our preference.
This approach can be applied to any dish. When we make a red-sauced pasta, as in our bucatini with cherry tomato sauce and fresh sage (here), the pasta is the foundation and the sauce of slow-simmered cherry tomatoes is the counterpoint. They’re good on their own. But they get even better with the embellishment of fresh sage, shaved pecorino cheese and peppery olive oil.
A FEW NOTES ON OUR METHOD
Though we prefer dishes that feature multiple flavors and sensations, we don’t always want them to be extreme. Bitterness can be subtle, as in the olive oil in a salad dressing. Crunchy can cover a wide spectrum, from gently crisp raw scallions to brittle tortilla chips. And preparation makes a difference. Roasted and charred sweet potatoes are crisped and bitter on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. Steamed, the whole vegetable is soft and sweet only. Both are fine, in the correct context. Not every dish will contain every element, but the majority should be present.
AND A NOTE ON INGREDIENTS
At Milk Street, we don’t call for unusual equipment or hard-to-find ingredients. But we do travel the world searching for recipes and ideas, and some ingredients we find become indispensable additions to our pantry—one-stroke solutions that add big, bold flavor that isn’t easily replicated. We highlight these finds—Aleppo pepper, fish sauce, pomegranate molasses and more—in special sections throughout the book with information on where to find, how to use and how to store.
RECIPES & RULES
Change the Way You Cook Rule No. 1: Banish One-Note Flavors and Textures
Bitter Greens and Orange Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese
Avocado and Arugula Salad with Smoked Almonds
Change the Way You Cook Rule No. 2: Tenderize Tough Greens with Salt
Chopped Kale Salad with Cilantro and Walnuts
ONE OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEARBuzzFeed, Chowhound, The Kitchn
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- "This clever collection of savory dishes illustrates 75 rules, such as using copious amounts of herbs to amp up flavor or incorporating mashed potatoes into dough for a tender crumb... offers dishes that feel modern and international... [a] generous and accessible volume... loaded with information on ingredients... and countless useful tips. Plenty of I-never-thought-of-that-moments fill this enticing and instructive book.—Publishers Weekly
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- On Sale
- Oct 15, 2019
- Page Count
- 336 pages