This is not the place to muse about the dance of time, but taking a step back and appreciating the energy that has gone into How to Cook Everything and its related projects over the last twenty years provides me with a gratifying moment. Allow me to savor it and review this history for a minute, and then I’ll tell you why I’m so excited about this new edition.
The original HTCE was initially intended to be a little more glamorous than it turned out, but when we – I, my editor Jen Griffin, my friend and book consultant Jack Bishop – looked at the manuscript, we realized that what I’d done was put together a classic basic cookbook, something that hadn’t been tackled in 20 years or so. There was nothing exotic or especially challenging about it: It was simply “how to cook.”
A not-intimidating, accessible, no-nonsense, take-good-ingredients-and-don’t-mess-them-up cookbook was exactly what was needed at the beginning of an era that featured more publicity for celebrity chefs than for real cooks, and a ridiculous emphasis on competitive cooking.
And it’s needed just as much now, when more people than ever rely more than ever on take-out (to-go is the new go-to, as a subway ad says) and on mostly junky food from mostly corporate sources that do the opposite of taking good ingredients and not messing them up.
If you want to cook, if you want to start with real food and make it delicious, quickly, HTCE remains the book for you. It would be immodest to say it’s the only book you need, but for sure you could cook from it for a lifetime and not get bored. (You’d also be a really good cook within a few months after beginning.) The new edition – assembled with a my long-time collaborator Kerri Conan – features a slew of new recipes (all the rest have been tinkered with and improved), 175 (or so) photographs, new graphics and organization, and better, dare I say, explanatory text. It is the HTCE for the next generation, and I’m as proud of it as I was of the original.
Ok, enough talking about the book; here are some actual recipes from it. A lot of you have asked for full menus that you can whip up on a weeknight, so that’s what’s below. Here’s what we’ve got: For a snack, crispy and habit-forming Nori Chips. Main dish: easy Chicken Teriyaki plus Spicy Greens with Double Garlic and rice to go with it. Dessert is a Raspberry Fool spiked with yogurt, which could not be simpler or more delicious. (This time of year, if there are still any juicy plums around, consider using those instead of the raspberries if you like.) Of course, there’s no need to cook this entire menu in one go, but if you’re up for it, here would be my strategy for putting it all together.
We produce reported pieces, profiles, interviews, and rants about what’s broken in the food world (there’s a lot) and how to change things for the better. People sometimes tell me to just keep politics out of it. Respectfully: No. Food is political. We can’t and won’t ignore that.