I used to think that cooking from recipes was extremely un-cool. The way I saw it, recipes were for amateurs—those who needed hand-holding and couldn’t think for themselves in the kitchen. I spent the formative years of my food-and cooking-obsessed life (my early twenties) determined to become the opposite of that. I yearned to be a “profesh.” Recipes were for home cooks, and I was well on my way to becoming a chef (a label that now makes me cringe with regard to my own title). To rely on a recipe was to acknowledge how much I didn’tknow, and honestly when you’ve still got years and years of expertise to gain and the finish line is barely visible, there’s nothing more un-fun than that. Fast-forward ten years—I now work as a recipe developer, and my primary responsibility is to teach regular people (read: decidedly UN-profesh chefs) to become great home cooks. Of course, recipes are absolutely core to that education. Recipes now course through my veins. I go to sleep thinking about them, dream about them, occasionally have night terrors about them, and almost always wake up still thinking about them. If that sounds really intense, it is. But mostly in a good way.
And, guess what?! Thirty-three-year-old Molly freakin’ loves recipes. Not only do I love to develop and write recipes, I love to cook from recipes—especially those that aren’t my own—because recipes are actually the coolest.
The sheer existence of a recipe suggests that the dish you’re about to cook has been highly and repeatedly considered, tested, and tasted before it was even a twinkle in your pantry, which guarantees you’re that much closer to securing yourself a delicious meal. Recipes are the culmination of exactly that free-balling journey I once prided myself on: a fridge full of seemingly random ingredients, which, after much consideration and many rounds of testing, come together to create something even greater than they once were.
Like most cookbooks, this one is full of recipes. But these are recipes that actually teach. They are packed with useful information that will answer your burning, never-stupid, always-valid questions (this is a safe space) and will help to shed some light on the mystery of the kitchen. I’ve tried to anticipate what those questions will be and provide answers to them within the recipes. I’ve spent a lot of time observing the way my non-food-industry friends and fam navigate their kitchens, and through my observations I have noticed that time management, ingredient prep, and order of operations can really trip up the home cook. That’s a lot of GD stuff to manage at one time! Take my husband, for example, whom I would not call a novice at this point—he’s been far too exposed to the kitchen by now. Even after everything I’ve taught him and all of the recipe development and testing he’s witnessed in our home kitchen, he will still, on occasion, start assembling a salad, dress it completely, and only then realize that his chicken still needs thirty minutes in the oven and his salad has no chance of surviving. (To his credit, he makes a mean salad, despite its occasional sog factor.)
Following a recipe takes an enormous amount of concentration and foresight, and frankly I think most recipes ask too much of the home cook. The recipes in this book were created with YOU, the home cook, in mind. I’ve done the heavy lifting for you and planned out all of the prep work in advance, meaning you can jump right into a recipe and rest assured that the time management aspect of things has already been considered. I’ll be right there with you to tell you when to start chopping your onions and at what point you should get the rice going in order to make the most efficient use of your very valuable time. You’ll also notice that ingredient quantities are listed in the ingredient lists and reiterated in the procedure text. This way, you can use the ingredient lists as a shopping guide, without having to go back and reference them every time an ingredient is called upon. To that end, I’ve organized the ingredients by where they’re most likely to be found in a grocery store or in your home kitchen, to help streamline both your shopping trips and your movement around your kitchen as you gather ingredients and prepare to cook. A great cook is an efficient cook, and these recipes will teach you to be just that.
As you cook your way through this book, you’ll encounter all of the techniques, both big and small, that I consider fundamental to modern home cooking. Each recipe chapter will cover an essential cooking category and teach you the core techniques you’ll need to know. In the chicken chapter, for example, you’ll find recipes for a foolproof roast chicken, a braise-y chicken stew, some shatteringly crisp chicken thighs, perfectly poached chicken breasts, and so on. If you cook your way through that entire chapter, you’ll have learned the quintessential techniques for cooking chicken at home.
Once you’ve got the basic techniques down, another thing every cook must learn is how to build flavor and make food that tastes not just good but GREAT. So, we’re going to cover that, too. The way I see it, Technique × Flavor = Cooking
. You’ll find all the tools you need to start thinking about flavor in How to Make Food Taste Great (page 32), because, after all, that’s why you’re here in the first place.
And one more thing . . . COOKING IS REALLY FUN. I SWEAR.
I’m in the business of having lots of fun and eating only the most delicious foods, and I would never have committed to a lifetime of cooking if it didn’t deliver on those two promises. You simply need to set yourself up for success in the kitchen in order to truly enjoy it. What I really hope is that you’ll commit to cooking through all of the recipes in this book, front to back, and by the end of it realize you just took a culinary-school crash course but didn’t notice you were in school because you were having such a ridiculously great time while enrolled. I guarantee you’ll come out the other end a confident, capable, creative, calm, collected, cool-as-f*** cook. So throw on that cross-back apron (or go get one immediately), bust out the kosher salt, and let’s
Cook This Book!
Copyright © 2021 by Molly Baz. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.