All cookbooks are intended to inspire the reader to cook, right? Yes, but this one presents itself as “A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking,” and it really does encourage everyday cooking no matter how busy you might be. The new book from John Besh, My Family Table, lays out exactly how to make home-cooked meals happen for every occasion including all those dinners for the middle of a hectic week. I received a review copy of this book and couldn’t put it down once I started reading. This isn’t a typical chef-cooking-at-home kind of book. Besh shows how meals from breakfast to dinner, every day of the week, can be easily prepared at home without relying on packaged, manufactured food. The first chapter sets the tone by showing how basic recipes for risotto, vegetable soup, pasta, fruit crumble, and curry can be made in any season with whatever fresh ingredients you might have at the time. With a well-stocked pantry, and he describes what might be included in one, a few vegetables, and possibly some leftover meat if you’d like, these dishes can be on the table quickly. From there, the book takes you through meals for Sunday Supper when you might have more time and can prepare some things in advance for the coming week. Then, there’s one pot cooking in Dinner from a Cast Iron Pot, followed by School Nights, and Breakfast with my Boys in which you learn how Besh’s busy family plans and prepares their meals. There are also some chapters for specific types of cooking and special occasions like How to Cook a Fish, Fried Chicken, Barbecue Wisdom, Jazz Brunch, Goose for the Holidays, and Drew Makes a Cake. Throughout, it’s encouraging, never intimidating, and emphasizes the value of shared meals at home.
The first recipe I tried from the book was the potato chip-crusted fish with sambal mayonnaise, and I’d like to suggest that you try crusting anything at all with crushed potato chips mixed with some flour. It’s a delicious coating for fish, and I imagine it would be stellar on chicken or tofu too. The mayonnaise was pureed with piquillo peppers, sambal chile paste, and lemon, and again, this would be a fine sauce with many, many things. Next, I flipped back to that first chapter in the book in which the recipes were guidelines for using what you like and what you have on hand. In the book the “curried anything” recipe is shown with chicken, eggplant, and summer squash, and that’s the version of the recipe included below. In the headnote, Besh explained how easy it is to alter a curry by using seafood, beef, or all vegetables. He noted a good meatless variation would be a curry of cauliflower and sugar snap peas, and that’s how I made it. With the basic technique and building blocks of flavor, you can make it any way you wish throughout the year.
Speaking of cauliflower, I look forward to trying the mac and cheese recipe made with leftover roasted cauliflower. There’s also a chicken and noodle pan fry made with an easy peanut sauce, and a Southern soup au pistou with ratatouille in it. And, with ideas like a self-serve smoothie bar, pickled shrimp, and crab-stuffed avocados, I want to throw a brunch party. Whether you need some ideas for meal planning for the week or dishes for weekend parties, this book will get you cooking and sharing more meals at home.
re-printed from My Family Table with publisher's permission
Recipes for curries vary almost more than any other dish, which is great because you can hardly go wrong. Curries make delicious use of last night’s roast pork, chicken, beef, or seafood, and they are a wonderful way to serve just vegetables as a main course. Use 2 cups of cooked meat, as in our family staple here, Eggplant and Chicken Curry; it’s Brendan’s favorite. Or make a curry of cauliflower florets and sugar snap peas as a meatless variation. Either way, make it as spicy as you wish, tasting as you go, adding small amounts of curry powder and chili paste until the heat is just right for you.
Curry powder is a combination of spices whose potency varies with the manufacturer, some have more cumin and coriander, others more ginger and chili powder. Since this isn’t a book about the nuances of South Asian cooking, I’ll not insist you make your own, but I do hope you’ll sample a few curry powders to find your favorite. As for rice, use what you have, but I love basmati and jasmine rice. You can even use brown rice.
2 tablespoons butter
1 eggplant, unpeeled, diced
2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1 summer squash, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 13-ounce can coconut milk
11/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon sambal chili paste
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked rice
1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over high heat, add the eggplant, and sauté until soft. Add the ginger, green onions, and garlic. Sprinkle the curry powder into the pan and toast for a moment. Add the squash and potatoes, stirring to coat them with the spices.
2. Continue to stir for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk, broth, and chili paste. Bring to a gentle boil, add the chicken, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve over rice.
—From My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing
Note: For the version shown here, I left out the eggplant, summer squash, and chicken and used florets from one head of cauliflower and two cups of sugar snap peas.