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The Cookstr Weekly: The Laws of Cooking

October 30, 2015

Why do some dishes almost always inspire rapturous pleasure, while others are pretty much guaranteed to be disappointing? The answer may lie in flavor theory, a set of laws that govern what makes food combinations tasty. That’s why I’m so excited to share these recipes from Justin Warner’s The Laws of Cooking…and How to Break Them, a new cookbook out this week from our sister company, Flatiron Books. Justin considers classic and beloved combinations like peanut butter and jelly; or coffee, cream, and sugar, to inspire intriguing and inventive recipes you’ll love to try at home.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota

Editorial Director
Dry-aged meat is one of the best favors you could ever do for yourself. It can be a little hard to find, but a lot of specialty butchers now offer it for sale, frozen, online. Eat this before you die. Dry aging beef is costly business, because the beef has to be kept very cold and dry for days upon days. It also has to be done with the best cuts of meat, because the marbling (fat/meat ratio) has to be high. It tastes better than money. The process removes moisture from the meat, which amps up the beefy favor. Think about the amount of water in a cup of coffee versus an espresso, and you’ll understand what I’m saying.”

Who knew that the humble new potato could be turned into shell casing for a bullet of flavor? In this powder keg, the surly nature of the cheddar cheese roughhouses the creamy new potatoes, not to mention some butter and sour cream. These little bombs of sharp versus subtle are a perfect snack or party treat. Bacon shrapnel provides some flavor backbone but minimal textural resistance, so I like to top mine with more cheese, some potato chips, and fresh chives.
Skate used to get a bad rap, but in recent years all sorts of chefs are doing all sorts of fancy things with it. But I think skate benefits from the simple Southern technique of “chicken frying,” as in chicken-fried steak. Some people also call it “country-frying.” Regardless, it means dredging pounded cutlets of your protein of choice in milk and then four, panfrying them, and slathering them with peppered-up gravy. Skate is pretty forgiving both in butchering and preparation, but its mild flavor needs a gentle hand, or better, the soft caress of herbs. Marjoram is like the Skipper to oregano’s Barbie–just a little more sophisticated, with some piney favors; tarragon brings a punch of anise.

In Peru, raw fish is often consumed with chile flakes, herbs, and citrus juice, a cousin to ceviche known as tiradito. I wanted to combine the flavors of tiradito with the sweetness and tender texture of a sunomono (octopus with citrusy soy sauce and cucumbers) salad. Here, the bitterness of the arugula is evened out by the voluptuous richness of the avocado oil.”
Ricotta, the cottage cheese of Italy, is generally not my jam. I even prefer cottage cheese’s vinegary bite to ricotta’s fat creaminess. But my problem is more an issue of how ricotta is used than of how it tastes. Ricotta is usually used as a paint rather than a canvas in cooking–and since it tends to be bland, it cannot add much color to a dish. However, ricotta readily adopts whatever flavors you throw at it, and that’s where it shines. Here, a quick addition of liquid smoke turns a homemade cannoli into a heady, addictive, and mysteriously savory/sweet sort of treat.

5 Rules for Crock-Pot Success

Like a good no-knead bread recipe or a basic fermentation technique, slow cookers are a chef’s secret tool, allowing time and nature to do the hard work. Beginning with quality ingredients, you’ll produce a meal with flavor and texture that implies you’ve slaved away – when in truth, the hands-on time for these recipes is minimal. 

I’m here to tell you to forget corn chips when making nachos. Use much healthier crisp, oven-roasted potato wedges and top with all the usual nacho suspects – chiles, beans, cheese, olives, green onions, diced tomato. This is a great dish to serve at your next big televised game day. Add salsa, guacamole and perhaps even a dollop of sour cream, just to round things off.” – Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh
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