The Minimalist Cooks Dinner showcases Mark Bittman’s signature ease and imagination, and focuses on center-of-the-plate main dishes. And, in this new volume, he also provides recipes for classic, versatile side dishes as well as recommendations for wine and food pairings. With a majority of its main dish recipes taking less than thirty minutes to prepare, this is truly the book every busy cook has been waiting for. Every recipe in The Minimalist Cooks Dinner is big on flavor, drawing on the global pantry and international repertoire that sets Bittman apart.
This inventive collection offers a refreshing new take on standards, along with ideas that will inspire both novices and experienced home cooks to branch out, making it the perfect solution for weeknight after-work meals or elegant weekend dinner parties. From Steamed Chicken Breasts with Scallion-Ginger Sauce to Korean-Style Beef Wrapped in Lettuce Leaves to Roast Fish with Meat Sauce, Bittman banishes the ordinary with an exciting range of choices. Also covering hearty pasta dishes, steaks, pork, veal, lamb, chicken, and a wide assortment of seafood, The Minimalist Cooks Dinner is the answer when you’re looking for “satisfying dishes with a minimum of effort.”
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Pot Roast with Cranberries
Unlike their cousin, the blueberry -- which is sometimes used in savory cooking, although almost never successfully -- cranberries are not at all sweet, and so make a much more natural companion for meat. This is a gutsy, appealing, and unusual pot roast, and one you can make quickly or slowly, depending on your time, taste, and budget.
Time: 1 1/2 hours, or more
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
1 tablespoon butter or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
2- to 3-pound piece of chuck or brisket
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sherry vinegar or good wine vinegar
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1. Put the butter in a casserole or skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Put the sugar on a plate and dredge the meat in it until all the surfaces are coated. Reserve the remaining sugar. When the butter foam subsides, brown the meat on all sides --this will take about 15 minutes -- seasoning it with salt and pepper as it browns.
2. When the meat is nicely browned, add the vinegar and cook for a minute, stirring. Add the cranberries and remaining sugar and stir. Strip the zest from the orange (you can do it in broad strips, with a small knife or vegetable peeler) and add it to the skillet. Juice the orange and add the juice also, along with a pinch of cayenne. Turn the heat to low and cover; the mixture should bubble but not furiously.
3. Cook, turning the meat and stirring about every 30 minutes, for 2 hours or longer, or until the meat is tender. When the meat is done, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Turn off the heat and let the roast rest for a few minutes, then carve and serve, with the sauce.
Keys To Success
DUSTING THE MEAT with some of the sugar makes the browning process go much more rapidly, and leaves behind a caramelized residue that is deglazed by the vinegar when you add it. All of this lends complexity to the final dish.
MOST POT ROASTS depend for their flavor on the juices exuded by the meat itself; that's why tough, slow-cooking cuts like brisket or chuck are usually preferable. But since the meat's contribution here is minimized by the powerful cranberry-based combination, a faster-cooking cut like tenderloin works perfectly, reducing the cooking time to just over an hour.
With Minimal Effort
Faster Pot Roast with Cranberries: Substitute a 2-to-3-pound piece of tenderloin (filet mignon) for the chuck or brisket and reduce the cooking time to about 1 hour, or until the internal temperature is 125° to 130°F (medium-rare); you can cook it longer than that if you like.
Wine: Rioja, Merlot, or another soft red
RecipeTHE MINIMALIST'S CORN CHOWDER
Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
Anyone who's ever had a garden or raided a cornfield knows that when corn is young you can eat it cob and all, and that the cob has as much flavor as the kernels. That flavor remains even when the cob has become inedibly tough and you can take advantage of it by using it as the base of a corn chowder -- a corn stock, if you will. Into that stock can go some starch for bulk, a variety of seasoning from colonial to contemporary, and finally, the corn kernels. The entire process takes about a half hour, and the result is a thick satisfying chowder that is best made in late summer.
4 to 6 ears corn
1 tablespoon butter or neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped, optional
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
- Shuck the corn and use a paring knife to strip the kernels into a bowl. Put the cobs in a pot with 4 cups water; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put the butter or oil in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts or the oil is hot, add the onion and potatoes, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes; add the tomatoes if you're using them and cook, stirring, for another minute or two.
- After the corn cobs have cooked for at least 10 minutes, strain the liquid into the onion-potato mixture. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so the mixture simmers. When the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes, add the corn kernels and milk and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, garnish with the parsley, and serve.
Serving suggestion: Simple Green Salad or any green salad, or Tomato Salad with Basil
Keys to Success
- Strip the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife, and make sure to catch any liquid that seeps out during the process.
- To minimize cooking time chop the potatoes into 1/4-inch pieces. Leave them larger if you're not in a hurry.
- As long as your corn is young and tender, the kind you can just about eat raw, the kernels should be held out of the mix until the chowder is just about ready, so they don't overcook. But the new supersweet hybrids, which retain much of their flavor in the refrigerator for a few days, are not as tender, and their kernels should be cooked for a few minutes at least. Just keep tasting and stop cooking when the texture seems right.
With Minimal Effort
- Corn Chowder with Bacon and Cream: In step 2, substitute 1/2 cup chopped bacon for the butter or oil; cool over medium heat until it renders some of its fat, then add the onion. Proceed as above. In step 3, use heavy cream or half and half in place of milk.
- Curried Corn Chowder: In step 2, use oil and add 1 tablespoon curry powder, or to taste, and 2 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger to the onions as they cook. Proceed as above to step 3, use sour cream in place of milk; garnish with minced cilantro in place of parsley.
- If you use the tomatoes, you can also leave out the milk (think of it as "Manhattan corn chowder").
Time: 30 minutes (longer if grilling)
Makes: 4 servings
Once in Martinique I ate at a restaurant with a menu so simple almost all of the food -- chicken, tuna, quail, pork, and veal kidneys -- was grilled. Not only that, it was all served with the same thin powerful sauce, made of lime, scallion, chile, and garlic, with loads of allspice. It was the allspice that made the sauce unusual, but there was more to it than that: The garlic and scallions looked uncooked but had lost their harshness and become easily digestible. Furthermore, the base of the sauce was not oil but water. With the help of a friend who was born on Martinique, I was able to duplicate the sauce at home. It's called "sauce au chien," which means, "dog sauce" (a fact I chose not to research too aggressively). And it's great with almost anything grilled.
1 tablespoon slivered or minced garlic
6 scallions, trimmed and minced
1 jalapeno, habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced, or Asian chili paste or crushed red pepper flakes to taste (start with about 1/2 teaspoon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, or to taste
1 tablespoon peanut, or grapeseed, corn, or other light oil
8 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
Juice of 1 lime
- Start a charcoal or wood fire, or preheat a gas grill to the maximum, or preheat the broiler. Set the rack about 6 inches from the heat source. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Combine the garlic, scallions, chile, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, allspice, and oil in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir and let sit.
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and grill or broil it, turning two or three times until it is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more chile, salt, pepper, or allspice if needed. Stir in the lime juice. Serve the chicken hot or at room temperature, passing the sauce at table.
Serving suggestion: Coconut Rice and Beans and perhaps some sliced cucumbers (with sauce au chien drizzled over them)
Keys to Success
- The taming of the strong spices is achieved by pouring boiling water over the solid ingredients; the lime juice must be added at the last moment in order for it to retain its freshness.
- Scotch bonnet pepper, with its fierce heat and distinctive flavor, makes this sauce more authentic. But a small amount of Asian chili paste is fine, as is any other source of heat.
- If you have the patience to mince or grind allspice berries, the sauce will taste brighter; preground allspice will do the trick, as long as it is reasonably fresh.
- Serve the sauce with grilled fish or shellfish (especially shrimp), grilled ribs, or in fact, grilled pork of any kind, or any grilled poultry.
- Add some chopped capers to the finished sauce to vary the flavor.
Time: 3 to 4 hours, largely unattended
Makes: 4 servings
Pot roast is a true no-brainer -- since it is always cooked well-done, timing is pretty flexible, and since it is cooked in a covered pot with liquid, neither the source nor the level of heat matters much. You can cook it on top of the stove or in the oven, at a very low heat, at a moderate heat, or even high heat. You can even cook it in advance and reheat it, or cut the meat up before cooking and call if beef stew.
The best part is that flavoring pot roast is no more than a matter of taste; you can hardly go wrong. And when you combine Asian seasonings with the classic European technique, the results are unusually wonderful.
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
3-to-4 pound brisket or boneless chuck
1/3 cup dark soy sauce or 1/2 cup light soy sauce
5 nickel-sized slices of ginger (don't bother to peel)
4 pieces star anise
2-to-3 cups peeled and cubed white turnips or rutabaga
1/2 cup trimmed and minced scallions
- Pour the oil into a large skillet, turn the heat to high, and heat for 1 minute. Add the roast (you can cover the pot loosely to reduce spattering) and sear for about 5 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. While the meat is browning, combine the soy sauce, ginger, anise, and 2 cups of water in a casserole just big enough to hold the meat snugly. Bring this mixture to a boil then adjust the heat so that it simmers.
- When the meat is browned, add it to the simmering liquid and cover the pot. Cook over medium-low heat, turning the meat once or twice an hour and adding more water, if necessary, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is just about tender (poke it with a thin-bladed knife; when the meat is done, the knife will meet little resistance). Fish out and discard the star anise and add the turnips stirring to make sure it is coated with liquid (again, add more water if necessary). Replace the cover and cook until the turnips are very tender, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the meat and carve it, then return it to the pot (or place it on a platter with the sauce and the turnips). Garnish with the scallions and serve.
Serving suggestion: Easy Rice or, for the European version, buttered noodles, or Crisp Pan-Fried Noodle Cake and Steamed Broccoli.
Keys to Success
- Tender cuts of beef, like sirloin and even tenderloin, will markedly reduce the cooking time, but will not produce the same rich, silky sauce created by the tougher cuts. Thus inexpensive cuts like chuck or brisket are best -- and you can use either one. Chuck becomes tender a little faster, but it is fattier; brisket becomes a little more dry, but the sauce takes care of that, and it slices beautifully.
- You can skip browning the meat to save time (and mess) if necessary. Yes, browning creates complexity, but there is so much flavor in this dish you won't miss it. Make sure the liquid in the pot doesn't evaporate. This is the best reason to keep the heat fairly low, as high heat will quickly boil out the liquid. Add liquid if necessary. When you're making a pot roast, the vegetables you add at the beginning contribute to the development of the sauce, but those at the end draw on the sauce for flavors, often making them the best part.
- European Pot Roast with Carrots: Use olive oil for searing. Omit the soy, water, ginger, and anise mixture, using instead a mixture of 2 cups red wine, 20 peeled pearl onions (the frozen ones aren't bad), 5 lightly smashed garlic cloves, and 1 cup trimmed and chopped mushrooms. Add more wine (or water) if necessary to the simmering meat as it cooks. Substitute carrots for the turnips in step 3 and garnish with chopped parsley in place of the scallions.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Bittman.