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Oct 14, 2008 12:29 PM

Sally Schneider's "A New Way to Cook"--Flavor Catalysts?

Esteemed 'hounds of the Home Cooking variety--

I've decided I want to dive into this book, which I've owned for about six months, but from which I've never cooked. I've tagged a bunch of recipes from the book that have been recommended here on the home cooking board that I think I will start with (I'm having a hard time figuring out where to start with this book. It seems like the kind of book where one should start at the beginning, yet, the beginning just seems so uninspiring...)

But my real question is this: in her intro, she keeps talking about the importance of these "flavor catalysts" that you should prepare in advance and keep on hand for convenience, including flavor essenses, dry rubs & marinades; broths; flavored oils; and sauces, to which she then proceeds to devote 134 pages!

For those of you who have cooked from this book before, are there any of these "catalysts" that you use over and over and keep coming back to? Or that I will find frustrating to have to "work around" if I don't have have it on hand? I keep thinking of Dunlop's "salted chiles" that took 3 weeks to prepare that it seemed that nearly every recipe called for... Are there any "catalysts" I should start with?

And, of course, if you have any favorite dishes from the book you suggest I try, please let me know. I'll try to list the ones that are on my "recommended" list thus far.

Thank you muchly!


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  1. Here are the recipes I've tagged from the book based on a search of the home cooking board--sound good, don't they?

    Mushrooms with sake & lemon en papillote

    Baked penne with mushroom ragu and ricotta salata

    Corn soup with Chiles, Limes & Cilantro

    Fool proof turkey

    Crunchy potato gratin (this was from greedygirl--although, I'm not sure which recipe it is, exactly...)

    Meatloaf with wild mushrooms

    Turkey burgers with apples, onion and sage


    1. TDQ~

      I have NUMEROUS times told myself I was going to start cooking through this book, and I CANNOT, for the life of me, get into it.

      I am happy to do it with you. Maybe I need someone to prod me.

      I know that doesn't answer any of your questions...... ;-)

      18 Replies
      1. re: dockhl

        Oh, please do join me. I would love to have virtual company. I was thinking I might start with these two recipes:

        Baked penne with mushroom ragu and ricotta salata

        Corn soup with Chiles, Limes & Cilantro

        Also, I don't know if you follow the Cookbook of the Month threads, but MMRuth (the organizer) is currently accepting nominations for the NOVEMBER COTM through the end of the day today. Several people have nominated a New Way to Cook (there are several other wonderful sounding books that have been nominated for November, too.) If she does it the way she's done it in the past, MMRuth will choose the books with the most nominations for a final "run-off" vote. If you're so inclined, you may wish to check this thread out.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          I made the "baked penne with mushroom ragu and ricotta salata" and the "corn soup" last night.

          For the first baked penne with mushroom ragu dish, my grocery store was out of ricotta salata, so I just skipped it, deciding I probably don't need more cheese in my life at this particular moment. I thought the dish was good, but not transcendent. Perhaps the ricotta salata was essential to the dish (afterall, it is one of the eponymous ingredients) . Actually, though, I suspect the mushroom ragu is one of those "better after sitting in the fridge overnight" kinds of things--I plan to have another look at the book to see what other uses Schneider recommends for the mushroom ragu as I do have a couple of cups of it leftover.

          But, OMG! The corn soup was outstanding (I used frozen corn as corn is obviously out of season)--so sweet and creamy. I can't believe something this good came out of my kitchen (maybe I am finally learning to cook, afterall, after 10 intensive months of trying to teach myself. Or, maybe this is just a foolproof recipe...) I prepared everything but the "lime and cilantro cream", which I plan to make tonight, then serve with the reheated soup. I can't wait to see how this dish turns out once all of the elements are in place.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Cool ! I'll take a look this weekend when I have a minute and pick out some recipes, too. I'll probably stick to lower carb types.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Hi TDQ:

              I got sweet corn at the St. Paul farmer's market last week (good stuff, too) so I think it's the tail end of the season. You've inspired me to also pick up this book and start cooking. Sometimes I find SS a little too precious on The Splendid Table, but I do find her intruiging as well.

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                HA! This is why I love Chowhound! You can start something without even really meaning to because of our common, innate love for and curiosity about great chow.

                The more the merrier, jeanmt & Rubee.

                So far, it doesn't look like NWTC is in danger of winning Nov. COTM! Lots of great choices this month. :)


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  So, just a follow-up here...I made the "lime and cilantro cream" for the corn soup last night and it was was just lovely. I think this recipe is going to become a staple.

                  The baked polenta with wild mushroom ragu didn't seem any more inspired after sitting to meld and reheating. Not bad, just not amazing. I'm still going to check out the other suggested uses for the mushroom ragu to see if those are more interesting.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Wow, corn soup that good must be tried. Can you paraphrase the recipe?

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      Serves 4

                      20 oz frozen corn kernels, thawed (or 6 cobs of fresh corn)
                      2 tsp EVOO
                      4 cloves garlic, minced
                      2 jalapeno or serrano chiles peppers, seeded and minced
                      1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
                      1 tsp salt
                      1/2 tsp sugar
                      2 cups chicken broth
                      2 cups milk
                      1 1/2 oz lean ham

                      FOR THE CILANTRO CREAM
                      1/4 cups reduced fat Sour Cream
                      1/4 cups buttermilk
                      1/4 cups cilantro, chopped
                      1 tsp scallions (or chives), minced
                      1/4 TBSP sugar

                      3 tbsp unsweetened lime juice
                      black pepper, to taste
                      1 lime, sliced into 8 wedges

                      In a large pot, add the EVOO and onions. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat about ten minutes. Pour in the corn, stir, and cook, covered, an additional four minutes. Add the garlic, chile, and cumin and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in salt, sugar , broth, milk. Tuck the pieces of ham strategically throughout the mixture. Bring to a boil. Then cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 25 minutes.

                      To prepare the cilantro cream: pour into a small bowl sour cream, buttermilk, cilantro, scallions, salt and sugar. Whisk together, cover and refrigerate.

                      When soup is done simmering, remove the ham and discard.

                      In a blender or food processor, puree half of the soup. Return the pureed soup to the pot with the rest of the soup. Heat the soup, stirring, over medium heat until just boiling. Add pepper to taste and lime juice.

                      To serve, spoon 2 TBSP of cilantro cream into the center of each serving of soup. Pass the wedges of lime separately.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Thank you so much TDQ. Quick question ... how much does the ham matter in this? I don't eat pork. Other than that it sounds heavenly (especially the cilantro lime cream).

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          I don't think it matters much, actually. I think it just adds a little depth, but I think it would be fine without it, too. She specifically says "smokey" ham, so maybe just add a tiny pinch of chipotle powder or something like that to give it a hint of smokiness?


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            LulusMom, if you want smokiness without heat, try smoked paprika...or a dash of liquid smoke.

                            i love that corn soup recipe, but i haven't made it in ages! in fact, i haven't cracked open that particular book in many, many months. thanks for the reminder, TDQ, i might have to dive into it this weekend.

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Ooh, that does sound good. I make another corn soup with chipotles (the actual chopped up ones, not the powder, which would be a little simpler) and love it.

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Actually, we're still getting fresh corn here in Indiana, although this might be the last week. Had some for dinner tonight.

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          It's interesting, I had a similar experience--the dishes seem to be either average or amazing, and there doesn't seem to be any way to tell. Made the wild mushroom broth, and it was incredible. The Mushroom ragu (made last night), however, is fine. Not great, not memorable, just fine. It'll do for an easy dinner (most of it went in the freezer to be defrosted later). Perhaps the right answer is to ry to separate the amazing choices from the just average ones? I'd love to know which ones not to bother with. The corn soup sounds like a winner on the board. . .

                          1. re: pastaguy

                            I'm sure we'll have a good sense of the winners and losers after we go over this book with a fine-toothed comb when it's COTM in February. Too bad she didn't do a better job of weeding out the losers to make the book a little less thick!

                            Will you be joining us for COTM pastaguy?


                    2. TDQ:
                      If NWTC is not COTM for November, I'll probably bounce between the two books. (the winner and NWTC) I have been intimidated by this book since I bought it... right along side of the Zuni book. Additionally, I find the type very light....even though I wear reading glasses. But, I do want to try some of her recipes!

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Gio

                        Oh, that would be so fun, either way. I don't know why, but I just can't seem to get into Batali month. It's stil early, though, so I suppose there's still time. But, I am really missing the cameraderie of COTM so it will be fun to return to whatever is COTM in November and perhaps a side thing with NWTC. YAY!

                        EDIT: P.S. if NWTC doesn't make COTM for Nov, which so far it looks like it won't, it might be a good choice for January. "Lighter" cooking might appeal to folks after the inevitable excesses of the holidays and people starting our their NY resolutions, etc.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          I'll join you too. Now I'm actually hoping it doesn't win this month so I can cook from it on here, but also get back into faves from past COTM books for entertaining. Returning to NWTC for the post-holiday season in January is a good idea.

                          So glad you liked the corn soup!

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            I've hardly cooked from NWTC since I got it as well, although the potato gratin is great (I'll let you know what it's really called when I get a chance to look at my copy). I've also done the "emulsion" for stuffed pasta a few times, which is basically a flavoured oil to use rather than butter.

                            I also think it would be a great choice for January, although I've also got my eye on Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite, which I've also had for a while.

                          2. re: Gio

                            Gio... what do you find intimidating about it? If it's a lot like Zuni, then I totally get where you're coming from! We've been trying to eat healthier lately (or at least *thinking* about eating healthier!) and I find that I'm not a very good cook when I'm trying to cook healthy options. The corn soup sounds amazing... I am a sucker for any recipe with the words corn and soup in it!

                            1. re: Katie Nell

                              Katie - originally I was thinking that this book was much too wordy for a simple cookbook. But today, when something happened twixt computer and the rest of the world, I sat down and actually began to read page after page and signaled out many recipes I want to try and I realized that this is going to be OK. In fact, tonight although I had planned to make 2 Mario Batali dishes viv a vis the COTM, I made the Schneider pasta with garlic & sage recipe and combined it with her directions for roasted eggplant. It was fabulous.

                              I guess I just have to slow down, read the recipe and her head notes before I go off on my own tangent. So much to do... so little time left. Thanks for listening!

                              1. re: Gio

                                That pasta with garlic and sage is outstanding, isn't it?

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Yes, GG, it was wonderful. I've made aglio olio many times in the past, but adding the "frizzled" sage leaves, right from the garden, bumped the dish to another level.

                                  Now your comments about GR have me interested. I always felt he was a good cook because of the way he demonstrates to those chefs he helps on Hell's Kitchen, and the show "The F Word". His dishes seem to be simple and not fussy but made with great care for the ingredients, I'd love to know what you think of his books and which one you'd recommend.

                                2. re: Gio

                                  Well, that's good to know. I know things aren't going to slow down for us until after the holidays, but I usually can get into any cookbook on a rainy day!

                            2. This is actually one of my favourite books! But I see that not everybody agrees, and while it's true that I don't cook that often from it, I do get inspired by it because of her suggestions for improvising. This is a book that offers a lot of leeway and ideas to inspire your cooking, not necessarily recipes you must stick to strictly.

                              I prepared the miso glaze a few years ago for a fish dish, but I kept forgetting to use what was left. What I do use a lot is dry stuff like the salt rub for the duck "confit" recipe (which would be one of my picks of recipes to try). The rub is delicious for not just duck but guinea hen confit, or just to rub a chicken a few hours before roasting it. So the salt rub recipe gets a big thumbs up from me.

                              I've also taken to using more miso, smoked paprika and lapsang soochong tea, etc. because of her book.

                              Other recipe I like: the rustic tart recipes have really come out well using her flaky butter pastry and improvised fruit fillings.

                              I'll have to pull out the book and give it a bit more thought.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: TheSnowpea

                                Thanks, Snowpea--that's a great help. My impression is that most everyone who has cooked this book has loved it, but that people are having a hard time getting into it...


                                1. re: TheSnowpea

                                  I feel like TDQ. We all think it looks like a great resource but have had a hard time getting into it. You have cooked a bit from it so you can be the Guru ! we need guidance.............



                                  1. re: dockhl

                                    Well, which way do you want to go? LOL The reason I like the book is that I NEVER really follow a recipe entirely (unless I'm baking), so these guides to improvising provide me instead with ideas on how I might riff on a dish.

                                    The other reason I like it is that it's lighter fare, so she is careful about using fats, oils and nuts, while retaining flavour. I'm not sure it's necessary to dwell on making lots of catalysts. Pick a rub, a sauce, a glaze that seems attractive and give it a try. As I said earlier, I'm a fan of the salt rubs, one of which she lists in her Revisionist Confit of Duck Legs (p. 313). That confit seasonning has made more than one supper guest swoon, whether I was doing the Revisionist or using it on a plain whole chicken.

                                    As stated earlier in the thread, I like the free form rustic tarts (p. 481) built from the flaky butter pastry (p. 490).

                                    My only difficulty is that since I've purchased that book, I've mostly gone vegetarian (adventures in cold smoked duck and resultant mock cassoulets notwithstanding!), so I've cut myself out from a lot of content in my cookbook collection! The other difficulty I'm currently facing is that I have been on Weight Watchers for over 6 months (shed about 25 lbs -- the last 5 lbs are being esp. difficult cuz I'm tired of being hungry LOL) so I've not been cooking as assiduously as I used to!

                                    However, now that this thread has revived my interest, I'm hoping it gets picked for November, because I realised that I have not really used this book to its fullest. That's the problem with cookbooks, sometimes you end up using it for just a few recipes you liked and you stop exploring it. This book still has a lot of pages to explore.

                                    So I'm not sure I qualify as guru. More like reborn enthusiast. Take the book to bed, turn on your light, get comfy with the pillows (it's heavy enough you might want to prop it up on your lap with an extra pillow) and start leafing through it. It's a delightful read.

                                    1. re: TheSnowpea

                                      Funnily enough, I am a person who thinks she needs a recipe, but, unfortunately, never quite seems to follow one exactly. Maybe I need this book more than I think, But, here's the hilarious thing, Snowpea, I'm on WW, too (core), which is exactly why I decided I needed to start cooking with this book. I've been doing the Cookbook of the Month books and having reasonably good luck adapting the recipes to fit with my plan. However, I decided that maybe I should explore a cookbook that teaches you how to cook "light" but with flavor. The last five pounds is hard, isn't it? I'm on my last 10. I don't know if you're doing core or flex, but I have to say, I've never been hungry on core, and it forces me to cook a lot.

                                      Anyway, so far, I've been able to make recipes out of NWTC that have been core. Thanks again for the tips!


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Ha! That is hilarious!

                                        I'm on Flex. I tried Core for 3 days and felt so insecure, I ran back to my scale and measuring cups! Maybe it's time to go to Core for a while because I am incredibly tired of counting every portion and I even lost ground in the last two weeks. Maintaining a size 6 is WORK!

                                        So, maybe we should challenge each other to do core NWTC recipes in the next months and see if we can reach goal (or creep closer to it).

                                2. I've made the ragu recipe with chicken legs and thighs several times. (I think the original is for rabbit?, but she suggests chicken dark meat as an alternative.) It's a great recipe, very tasty, and for us, makes many meals with various carbohydrates different nights, getting better night after night.

                                  Her mole is also quite nice, and remarkably flavorful for as little fat as is in it. I do use a mixture of different chiles for more complex flavor, but otherwise, it's her recipe. Well worth a look.

                                  Those are the two that come to mind right away. I'll try to jog my memory for more...