Become a pro in the kitchen by mastering these 10 essential recipes, which are featured in The Great Cook, a new cookbook from Chef James Briscione and the editors of Cooking Light.
April 07, 2015
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Whether you’re just learning to cook, or have your go-to dinner rotation set in stone, these 10 recipes build the basic foundation that every great cook needs. From homemade pasta, to fudgy brownies, we’ve set you up for success.
First up, we have Chicken Stock. A good stock is the base to many great dishes, included soups, sauces, braises, even rice pilaf and risotto. Keep a heavy-duty zip-top bag in the freezer and anytime you have chicken, reserve the wings, necks, and backs. When you’ve saved up enough, make a pot of stock. Clear, clean-tasting stock comes from a gentle simmer, so keep an eye on the heat.
There’s a lot of love in a bowl of French onion soup. There’s the rich, homemade beef stock and the properly caramelized onions, both of which form the base of the soup. Properly caramelizing onions can take up to an hour. But you don’t need to clear your entire afternoon to make a pot of soup. After the first five minutes or so you only need to check in periodically.
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A properly seared scallop is a thing of beauty, one of those perfect foods that demands to be celebrated. Make sure to dry your scallops before seasoning them, then pat the surface with paper towels again just before putting them in the pan. Don’t be tempted to move the scallops—this will only slow down their cooking.
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Classic Pasta Dough
If the idea of making fresh pasta dough intimidates you, quit making excuses. It’s really no more difficult than measuring flour and letting the machine do the work of mixing it with a few eggs. It’s a job that can get a touch messy, though—but the end result makes it all worthwhile. To make cleanup easier, tape a piece of parchment paper to the countertop and knead on the paper if you’d like. Make your own noodles or ravioli tonight!
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Working with yeast dough can be one of the most satisfying journeys in the kitchen. The alchemy of transforming the flour and water into perfectly light, buttery rolls or chewy, pillow-soft breadsticks goes beyond cooking. It’s an art that's mastered with practice, but worth every minute. Extra rolls can be shaped, then frozen for up to eight weeks.
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Lower in fat and high in flavor, flank steak is also incredibly versatile. It readily takes on flavors of Asia, Spain, or Latin America, but it’s beefy enough to stand on its own as well.
Cooking flank steak is best done with high heat like a grill or broiler. It’s thin cut, so intense heat gets you great browning on the outside without over-cooking.
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Tomato Stack Salad
There’s really nothing more exciting than the first day heirloom tomatoes arrive at your local market. Perfectly imperfect, with all sorts of funky shapes and colors. Look for larger heirloom tomato varieties (Brandywine, Mr. Stripey, Cherokee Purple) to make the slices needed for this stack salad. Firm flesh that yields slightly to gentle pressure is the best test of ripeness.
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Lemony Kale Salad
Kale is one of the most nutritious and versatile vegetables you’ll ever find. Some varieties of kale have fairly tender, edible stems. But if stems are large and tough, remove them with a knife or kitchen shears. Or try this chef’s tip: Loosely grasp the base of the stem between your fingers and pull the leaf through the fingers with your opposite hand.
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Mastering the stir-fry technique is your secret weapon for flavor-packed healthful meals that are ready in minutes. The key to successful stir-frying is organization, in other words, getting your mise en place together before you begin cooking.
A handful of common Asian condiments come together to make a sauce that gives this dish a slightly smoky taste that is reminiscent of a good Chinese restaurant stir-fry.
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Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies
These gooey, chocolate-studded light brownies are out-of-this-world good! Simply combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another. Add all of the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined.
The best test of doneness is to insert a wooden pick into the center of the pan. When moist crumbs cling to the pick when you pull it out, the brownies are perfectly baked.