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- Published on Amazon.com
Back in the 1970s, when many Americans were under the impression that wrapping a boneless chicken breast around a stick of butter and deep-drying it was "gourmet" cooking, Sheila Lukins started helping some bachelor friends with their dinner parties. Her foot was healthy, simple and, above all, tasty. That impromptu business morphed into The Other Woman Catering Company, and then, with a partner, into a gourmet store.
The Silver Palate opened on New York's Upper West Side --- then a culinary wasteland --- the same year that Dean & DeLuca opened downtown. And the foodworld suddenly changed.
In 1982, The Silver Palate published a cookbook. It presented 350 recipes, most of them pleasingly toothsome, all of them easy. It too rocked foodworld --- in 2007, having abandoned several grease-stained copies, I couldn't not buy the "Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition".
"Ten: All the Foods We Love and 10 Perfect Recipes for Each" should also be around a quarter century from now --- and I suspect I'll have gone through several copies by then. It's not just that the recipes are simple, sane and sensible. It's that this book is built on a great idea.
And it's a simple idea: We may like many different kinds of food, but we have our favorites. For the carnivores, that's steaks, chops, burgers, ribs and stews. For fish-lovers, that's shrimp, lobster, clams and seafood salads. For pretty much everyone, it's mashed potatoes, pasta, corn and tomatoes. Add desserts, cocktails, salads and a few others, and you have 32 favorites.
But here's the smart part: In each category, Lukins presents ten recipes. Some are classic. Others play with the possibilities. Chicken, for example, begins with the basic: herb-roasted chicken; it's nicely conventional, but then she adds a touch I've never tried --- a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the gravy. Then it's on to a roasted chicken that's been brined for 12 hours, Asian-scented orange chicken, orange-ginger-tomato glazed chicken, Vietnamese-style chicken, Tandoori-style roast chicken, Daniel Boulud's chicken grand-mere, a salted roast chicken, a South American chicken and herb-roasted drumsticks. A trip around the world of chicken, in ten recipes. I want to make them all.
In every category, I admire the creative details. A vanilla bean added to stewed tomatoes. Mac and cheese with equal amounts of cheddar and mozzarella. Stalks of lemongrass in the steamed clams. These ingredients could, in other books, turn recipes into tricks. Here, they just make food taste better.
"Ten" hasn't been in our kitchen long. But it's already muscled out some formidable competition. Soon, I suspect, it will be our go-to cookbook.