Cookbook review: In My Kitchen by Ted Allen
Ted Allen's second cookbook, In My Kitchen, is packed with 100 recipes that are perfect for people who love to cook.
This is a cookbook for people who want to spend time in the kitchen making discoveries about food, and who don't mind doing what it takes to serve up delicious dishes. It's for people who "love to cook." You don't have to be an expert chef, like the sort Ted Allen hosts on the Food Network's show, Chopped, to appreciate this cookbook: this book is for anyone with an interest in cooking.
In My Kitchen is Ted's second cookbook, and this one is for you if you enjoy gathering with your friends and making a meal into an event. If you're the type who can't wait until the weather warms up so you can host a patio party, kick back with friends and enjoy the twinkle lights over great food, or if you're happy to host the crew for cassoulet when no one wants to head out into the dismal weather, this book will give you inspiration. In the introduction, Ted shares his hope that the book "helps to redefine cooking as a joy rather than a burden, an opportunity to express creativity, generosity and love."
Ted's notes are included alongside the recipes, and come through like words of wisdom from a friend in the kitchen. The notes give tips, tricks, and explanations about the ingredients and preparation. These come in helpful, say, if you're interested in making a certain dish vegan, you're not sure how to cook duck, or you're interested in finding the best flour to use for pizza dough. There are also several full pages that cover Ted's take on cooking techniques, appliances and even the joy (and practicality) of freezing food.
Time on your side
Some of these recipes, like North Carolina Pulled Pork, take time to make and can be a real investment of your Saturday (the payoff comes Saturday night). Others, like Better-Than-Beef Turkey Burgers with Actually Crispy Onion Fries, take less time — perfect when you're hungry for a solid dish on a Tuesday night in.
From breakfast through desserts, the cookbook includes recipes you want to make, savor and share with others. Try the following recipe for an authentic Italian treat.
Ultimate spaghetti and meatbrawls with serious Sunday gravy
For the meatbrawls
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (made from stale bread)
- 1/3 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade or low-sodium store-bought)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for forming meatballs
For the gravy
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 (28-ounce) can chopped San Marzano tomatoes
- 3 quarts chicken stock (preferably homemade, or low-sodium store-bought)
- 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with cotton string
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
- Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together the beef, pork, onion, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, stock, eggs, cayenne and salt until evenly combined. Be careful not to overwork the mixture; you don't want to compact the meat too much or the meatballs will be tough. Put a little oil on your hands and form loosely into golf ball size meatballs. You should have about 25.
- Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Gently add the meatballs and brown thoroughly on all sides; this will take about 15 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a plate, and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them in the gravy.
- Make the gravy: In the same pan you used to cook the meatballs, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the celery, onions and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Push the veggies to one side and add the tomato paste, toasting it on the bottom of the pan for 1 minute.
- Stir into the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently, partially covered, until thick and significantly reduced, about an hour.
- Carefully add the meatballs, a few at a time, and simmer, stirring very gently now and then — don't break-a-ya bawls! — until cooked through, 40 minutes.
- Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Add most of the basil and stir, reserving a little to sprinkle over the top for serving.
Buy a copy of In My Kitchen.
About the Author
Not only is Ted Allen the host of Chopped, he also writes for such publications as Bon Appetit, Epicurious, Food Network Magazine, and Esquire. Before joining Esquire, Ted was a senior editor and restaurant critic at Chicago magazine. He holds an M.A. in journalism from New York University, with an advanced certificate in the school's Science and Environmental Reporting Program, and a B.A. in psychology from Purdue University. He lives in Brooklyn with his longtime partner, Barry Rice.