A Pro Chef’s Recipes for Fun, Fearless Home Cooking
On the one hand it’s kind of hard to imagine that a professional chef, much less one who obviously thrives in the high stress New York restaurant scene, could be intimidated by home cooking. And yet, I’d imagine that being faced with swapping a professional kitchen’s space, amenities, and resources for an apartment kitchen could do that to anyone.
This is the premise Amanda Freitag’s new cookbook begins with. Freitag admits that though she was comfortable in a restaurant environment, she rarely cooked at home. And so she went back to basics, the first chapter of The Chef Next Door.
Freitag’s basics, though, aren’t necessarily how to boil an egg kind of basics. Instead, they’re basic base recipes that will help in strengthening kitchen skills as well as providing starting points or inspiration for more advanced or creative dishes. Her “Basic Risotto,” for example, the very first recipe in the book, is a full risotto recipe intended to help home cooks build their confidence in the kitchen. And it’s a great recipe to begin with because, as any food reality tv viewer knows, it’s something that seems so difficult. In reality, as Freitag points out, it’s quite simple as long as you follow the steps and use the right ingredients.
The book is broken into nine chapters: the aforementioned Back to Basics; Sauces, Marinades, and Other Flavor Secrets; First Impressions; More Than a Salad; What’s for Dinner; Low and Slow; Sides; The Scary Stuff; and For Your Sweet Tooth.
Recipes are clear and concise and include a break out prep step as well as one of my absolute favorite pieces of the book, tips, short cuts, substitutions, and suggestions for serving. Recipes like the “Caramelized Onions,” include a further recipe for use. In this case those onions are the first step in a “French Onion Soup.” Freitag’s “Pop’s Beer-Braised Bold Beef Stew,” a dish I’ll be making frequently this winter I’m sure, talks about things like asking your butcher to cube the beef for you, using store-bought stock, and a suggestion for serving over the “Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes” from the Sides chapter. And that potato recipe? Well, Freitag says you can just as easily use Red Bliss, Idaho, or even sweet potatoes and that you can sub in Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.
The Chef Next Door is a great book for anyone who has experience cooking at home but maybe hasn’t tried their hand at dishes they’ve deemed to be somewhat intimidating – risotto, short ribs, roasting and stuffing whole fish, trimming a fresh artichoke… Freitag addresses all of those and more, making it all possible for you – the average home cook – to do at home just as easily as a restaurant chef would.
11/15 Becky LeJeune
THE CHEF NEXT DOOR by Amanda Freitag. William Morrow Cookbooks (September 29, 2015). ISBN 978-0062345837. 320p.