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Simple to Spectacular

How to Take One Basic Recipe to Four Levels of Sophistication

Written by Jean-Georges VongerichtenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark BittmanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mark Bittman

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cookbook (19) cooking (17) food (6) chef (5) cookery (4)
cookbook (19) cooking (17) food (6) chef (5) cookery (4)
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

What happens when a four-star chef and a culinary minimalist decide to join forces to create something different? They invent a new style that adapts to every occasion and every level of cooking expertise. Simple to Spectacular introduces a unique concept developed by one of the world's top chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and the New York Times's hugely popular column "The Minimalist." Ever since their award-winning collaboration on Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef, the acclaimed duo has been cooking up a repertoire of new dishes that can be prepared in any of five progressively sophisticated ways.

Simple to Spectacular features a total of 250 recipes in 50 groups. Each group begins with a simple, elegant recipe--a few ingredients combined for maximum effect--followed by fully detailed, increasingly elaborate variations. For example, a recipe for Grilled Shrimp with Thyme and Lemon leads to Grilled Shrimp and Zucchini on Rosemary Skewers, Grilled Shrimp with Apple Ketchup, Thai-style Grilled Shrimp on Lemongrass Skewers, and Grilled Shrimp Balls with Cucumber and Yogurt.
Every aspect of the meal is covered, from superb soups and salads to unforgettable side dishes, entrees, and desserts. In Simple to Spectacular, everything--from the basics to innovations by a four-star chef--is tailored for a quick Tuesday night dinner or an elegant weekend party.  And in the now-classic Vongerichten-Bittman style, all of the recipes can be made in the kitchen of any home cook. With 80 full-color photographs giving a mouthwatering view of the Simple-to-Spectacular transformations, readers and cooks will eagerly explore the possibilities.Jean-Georges Vongerichten (right) won the 1998 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef and Best New Restaurant. His Manhattan restaurants include Vong, Jo Jo, The Mercer Kitchen, and Jean Georges, which earned a rare four-star rating from the New York Times.  

In Simple to Spectacular, two titans of the food world have created a truly groundbreaking cookbook.  Here are 250 superb recipes arranged in a uniquely useful way: a basic recipe and four increasingly sophisticated variations, with each group (there are 50 groups in all) based on a given technique.  This ingenious organization enables cooks of all levels of expertise to understand how a recipe is created and to re-create the brilliantly simple recipes and dazzling variations from one of our best food writers and home cooks teamed with one of America's greatest chefs.

Excerpt

SOUPS

CHICKEN STOCK

STOCKS are said to be the fond--foundation--of great cuisine, but they are really more than that. Once made, they are among the best flavor enhancers, a wonderful addition to countless dishes. We rely primarily on the first two given here. The first of these is traditional chicken stock, a combination of chicken and vegetables that is simmered for just about an hour. Most people think stock takes forever, but it need not, and, as Jean-Georges says, "The best stock tastes of meat, not bones. Shorter cooking times, with lots of meat and not many bones, produces the best stock."

The other is jus rôti, a dark stock of intensely roasted chicken and vegetables, which, when reduced, makes a fine sauce. We use it throughout the book, and I recommend that you try making it at least once; you will understand why we like it so much.

From there, we offer an Asian-flavored stock, great as a basis for Asian-style soups and stews, as you might expect; a super-enriched jus rôti, which needs only a few noodles or vegetables to become a meal; and consommé, a nearly forgotten classic that looks like chicken broth and tastes like . . . heaven.

Keys to Success

We prefer chicken wings. They have the right balance of gelatin and meat and produce a full-bodied, rich stock quickly. They're also easy to handle. But you can use any chicken parts you like, as long as you include meat and bones, not just bones.

All of these recipes can be multiplied as desired, since those given here make relatively small amounts.

Store stock in the refrigerator; if you bring it to a boil every three days it will keep nearly indefinitely. Or freeze for up to several months.

One-hour chicken stock
1/2 big onion
4 cloves
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 leek, trimmed, well washed and chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
3 sprigs thyme

Our basic stock, quick and easy enough to make while you're doing something else. It's so flavorful that you may find yourself regretting using canned stock when this runs out.

1. Stud the onion with the cloves and combine all the ingredients with 6 cups water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that the mixture bubbles steadily but not rapidly. Cook, skimming any foam that accumulates, for about 1 hour.

2. Cool slightly, then strain. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page 2 for storage suggestions.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: 1 1/4 HOURS, LARGELY UNATTENDED

Dark chicken stock (jus rôti)
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
3 sprigs thyme

This takes a little time and a little care; the chicken must be fully browned before you add the vegetables, or their liquid will stop the browning process. If you like, you can strain the stock and reduce it, over high heat, to a cup or two of shiny glaze, enough to make a flavorful sauce for meat, chicken, fish, or vegetables. Store the sauce as you would the stock.

1. Place an oven rack in the lowest possible position (if you can roast on the floor of the oven, so much the better) and preheat the oven to its maximum (550°F is ideal).

2. Combine the chicken and olive oil in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring and scraping occasionally, until the meat is nicely browned. Add the vegetables and seasonings and stir once or twice, scraping the bottom of the pan, then return to the oven for about 20 minutes more, stirring once or twice.

3. Place the pan on top of the stove (careful--it is very hot) and add 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring and scraping occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page zzz for storage suggestions.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS, LARGELY UNATTENDED

Asian jus roti
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
6 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
4 ounces ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 head garlic, cut in half
1 tablespoon Szechwan peppercorns

This is dark chicken stock with Asian seasonings. It makes a lovely broth--garnished with some chopped scallions--or a base for noodle soup with lightly cooked vegetables.

1. Place an oven rack in the lowest possible position (if you can roast on the floor of the oven, so much the better) and preheat the oven to its maximum (550°F is ideal).

2. Combine the chicken wings and peanut oil in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally, until the meat is nicely browned. Add the vegetables and seasonings and stir once or twice, scraping, then return to the oven for about 20 minutes more, stirring once or twice.

3. Place the pan on top of the stove (careful--it is very hot) and add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring and scraping occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page zzz for storage suggestions.


MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: ABOUT 1 1/2 HOURS, LARGELY UNATTENDED

Ultra-rich dark stock (fond riche)
2 tablespoons olive oil
One 8-ounce piece prosciutto or other dry-cured ham, cut into chunks
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
3 sprigs thyme
1 recipe One-Hour Chicken Stock (page 3)

Simple chicken stock turned into jus rôti, with the addition of ham; a powerful combination. After cooking, this can be reduced to a glaze, of just about 2 cups, and can then serve as a wonderful sauce especially for simply steamed vegetables. But it is so flavorful that it can just be used without reduction as a light sauce, or as part of other sauces. Really delicious.

1. Place an rack in the lowest possible position (if you can roast on the floor of the oven, so much the better) and preheat the oven to its maximum (550°F is ideal).

2. Combine the olive oil, prosciutto, and chicken in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally, until the meat is nicely browned. Add the vegetables and seasonings and stir once or twice, scraping, then return to the oven for about 20 minutes more, stirring once or twice.

3. Place the pan on top of the stove (careful--it is very hot) and add the stock. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring and scraping occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page zzz for storage suggestions.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: ABOUT 1 1/2 HOURS, LARGELY UNATTENDED

Consommé
1 recipe One-Hour Chicken Stock (page 3)
10 to 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken meat, preferably from the leg
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 leek, trimmed, well washed, and chopped
1 tomato, cut into quarters
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 egg whites
1 cup ice cubes

You might think consommé, a crystal-clear broth, is for sick people, but you'll change your mind after you try it. It's deceptively addictive, a rich, clear soup that makes you wonder where all its intense flavor comes from. There is some time and patience involved here, mostly after adding the egg whites, which act as a magnet to clarify the broth.

1. Place the stock in a large saucepan, turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles steadily but not too rapidly.

2. Meanwhile, chop the chicken, onion, carrot, celery, leek, and tomatoes into 1?4-inch pieces; or put them in a food processor and grind all together, but not too fine. Season the mixture well; season the simmering stock too.

3. Stir the egg whites and ice cubes into the chicken mixture and add it all at once to the simmering stock. Whisk once or twice and bring back to a boil. Adjust the heat so that the liquid bubbles steadily but not too rapidly; the solids will form a "raft" on top of the liquid. Create a "chimney," a hole in one side of the raft, simply by spooning some of the solids out of the way. Let cook for about 10 minutes, gradually enlarging the chimney by scooping the solids from the edge of the raft onto the middle.

4. Ladle the liquid (it's okay if you take some of the raft with it) through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. If you like, you can remove some of the fat by laying paper towels flat on top of the consommé and quickly removing them. Refrigerate (you can skim off the fat after the stock cools completely) and use within 3 days; or see page zzz for storage suggestions. Serve hot, garnished with diced tomatoes, thin noodles, and/or pieces of meat, or completely naked.

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS TIME: ABOUT 30 MINUTES
Jean-Georges Vongerichten|Mark Bittman

About Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Jean-Georges Vongerichten - Simple to Spectacular

JEAN-GEORGES VONGERICHTEN became a culinary star when he first began cooking at Lafayette in New York City. He went on to establish the charming bistro JoJo in New York; introduced “fusion” cooking at Vong (three stars from the New York Times), which now has an outpost in Chicago; created the four-star Jean-Georges and hugely successful Spice Market and 66 in New York; opened Rama (Spice Market meets Vong) in London; and opened several acclaimed restaurants in cities from Shanghai to Las Vegas. He lives in New York City, when he is not traveling to oversee his existing restaurants or open a new one.

About Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman - Simple to Spectacular

Photo © Charles Harris

When Mark Bittman writes and talks about food, America listens. In his weekly New York Times food column, his monthly New York Times travel features, his bestselling cookbooks, and his award-winning public television series, Bittman grabs our attention–and keeps it.

Bittman’s bible of cooking, How to Cook Everything, has sold over a million copies. Dubbed “the new, hip Joy of Cooking” by the Washington Post and winner of both the Julia Child and the James Beard Awards (plus several others), it's a must-have book for every American Kitchen, the favorite of millions of American cooks. In 2005 Broadway Books published his eagerly awaited follow-up: The Best Recipes in the World.

His weekly cooking column, The Minimalist, is followed by more than two million readers, including home cooks and professionals, and has profoundly influenced American cooking since its inception. (Three award-winning cookbooks have resulted from his column: The Minimalist Cooks at Home; The Minimalist Cooks Dinner; and The Minimalist Entertains. These three will be published in an omnibus paperback edition in the spring of 2007, entitled Mark Bittman’s Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times.)

And when Bittman branches out, his fans follow: his recent New York Times piece on the best of Tuscan food was the paper’s travel section’s best-read article ever, reaching nearly three million readers.

In the late ’90s, Bittman formed a best-selling collaboration with the internationally celebrated chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Their classic book, Jean-George: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef, won a James Beard award and is widely considered to be among the most accessible chef’s cookbooks ever published. That was followed in 2000 with Simple to Spectacular, the groundbreaking cookbook that shows readers how to master a basic recipe then take it in almost limitless directions.

Bittman’s PBS series, Bittman Takes on America’s Chefs, was awarded the Best National TV Cooking Series of 2005 by the James Beard Foundation. In April ’07 his second series, The Best Recipes in the World, will premiere. In the fall of ’07 Wiley will publish the groundbreaking How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and Bittman is currently completing the revision of How to Cook Everything, to be published in fall 2008, the tenth anniversary of the original.

A regular on NBC’s The Today Show and NPR’s All Things Considered, Bittman has been profiled in newspapers and magazines including Food & Wine, Real Simple, People, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News and more.

Mark Bittman is working on his first novel, and is a licensed pilot who continues to humbly cook dinner for friends and family several times a week.

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