*April 2010 COTM, Bittman: Sauces, Condiments, Herbs and Spices
April's Cookbook of the Month is How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.
Please use this thread for reports on the following chapters:
1998 ed.: Sauces, Salsas, and Spice Mixtures
2008 ed.: Sauces, Condiments, Herbs, and Spices
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Cranberry Relish with Orange and Ginger (On-Line Recipe)
I made this sauce to take to my daughter's Thanksgiving dinner last year. Everyone loved it and wanted the recipe...
Remove the entire zest of a navel orange and set aside. Remove and discard the pith. Separate the orange into sections. Combine the orange flesh, zest, 1 pound of cranberries, and 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor. Process until the mixture is chunky. Stir in grated fresh ginger and more sugar if necessary... I added about 4 tablespoons of Jim Beam a la Jacques Pepin.
It can be served right away, but Mr. Bittman says, "it's best if it sits for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry." I made it the day before and kept in the fridge, covered, till the next day.
In the first edition, this section came near the end of the book. In the 2nd edition, it's Chapter 2, right after Kitchen Basics, and nearly twice as long.
As Bittman says, "In the last ten years, nothing in cooking has changed as much as the way we season and accompany our food... Sauces and seasonings have become easy, international, and omnipresent; they're much more important in everyday cooking than they used to be... The result is that you can take the blandest recipes you can find - seamed chicken or fish, plain rice or pasta, even a slice of toast - and find 50 different accompaniments for each, creating a powerfully flavored dish every time."
So there's a group of seven "drizzle sauces," 12 yoghurt-based sauces, 6 vinaigrettes, a bunch of salsas, dipping sauces, flavored oils, and many more. A table of everyday herbs and another of specialty herbs, tables of everyday and specialty spices, a bunch of spice blends, a table of chiles and peppers... The table of oils is kept for the chapter on salads.
These set up Bittman's approach in other chapters: he begins with a basic dish, then provides variations and additions. The chapter on grains, for example, starts with a method for cooking most grains, including rice, then suggests adding sauces from Chapter 2 such as Five-Minute Drizzle Sauce or Simple Miso Dipping Sauce. Plus many options other than these, of course. And from-scratch recipes such as jambalaya later in the chapter.
This isn't just a logical way of conveying information - it offers a perspective on cooking, with seasoning and flavoring at the center, that's easy to learn, widely applicable, and encourages making seasoning variations of one's own.