Every man should have a few recipes – five or so will do it – that he knows by heart and can whip up if he needs to scrape together a simple dish in 30 minutes or less. Most of the time, cooking is really about eating, so maximizing efficiency makes sense. That said, your kitchen is not dissimilar to a workshop, and taking the time to tinker with your tools can be rewarding to both the mind and the palate. Cooking projects that involve simmering fish stock, pickling vegetables, or tiptoeing into molecular gastronomy can be intimidating, especially after you've seen those reality shows featuring furious chefs. But cooking doesn't have to be intimidating. That's what cookbooks are for.
Six new ones, out this fall, offer intricate recipes and trade secrets from some of the world's most acclaimed chefs. The authors, including Daniel Boulud (DANIEL), Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern), John Besh (August), Daniel Patterson (Coi), Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman (Hogs & Hominy), and David Kinch (Manresa), are an inspirational lot, and the dishes are daunting, which is a great reason to take them on. From perfecting the omelet with black truffles to simmering a classic bouillabaisse to constructing a refined chicken and rice, the following recipes serve as excellent guides. They teach amateur chefs who have been nibbling around the gourmet edges how to go big by going home-cooked.
Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman's Lil' Red Ed Pizza
The new title from chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, of Memphis's Hog & Hominy, highlights their trademark style of blending Southern ingredients and Italian techniques. The restaurant's most popular dishes – from the black-eyed pea tortellini to the butterscotch budino – are sprinkled throughout the book's 100-plus recipes, which include a ton of information for pasta makers. The Lil' Red Ed pizza is topped with country ham and pickled vegetables, adding a Tennessee spin to the traditional marinara pie.
Hog & Hominy's Lil' Red Ed Pizza
For the pickled peppers
• 1 lb (500 g) assorted sweet and hot peppers such as bell peppers, serrano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and Italian sweet peppers
• 2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) Pickling Brine
For the Kalamata Olive Salad
• 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz/75 g) pitted Kalamata olives
• 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) sherry vinegar
• 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
• Leaves from 1 sprig fresh oregano
• Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
• Pinch of red pepper flakes
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Pizza
• Pizza dough
• 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) tomato sauce
• 1 1/2 oz (45 g) speck or country ham (preferably Benton's), diced
• 2 oz (60 g) fontina cheese, torn into pieces
• Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
To make the pickled peppers, roast the peppers directly over a gas flame or on a hot grill, turning them occasionally with tongs, until blackened all over. Put the peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for a few minutes to steam and cool. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, scrape off the skin with a knife and remove the stem, seeds, and ribs. Cut the peppers into bite-size pieces and put them in a nonreactive bowl. Pour the pickling brine over the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight before using.
To make the Kalamata olive salad, in a bowl, combine the olives, vinegar, oil, oregano leaves, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To assemble the pizza, prepare a very hot fire for direct-heat cooking on a charcoal grill; you're aiming for at least 500° F (260° C). Put a pizza stone on the hottest part of the grill and let it heat for at least 10 minutes. Put the pizza dough on a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough and stretch it, using your hands and gravity, into a 10- to 12-inch-diameter (25 cm to 30 cm) round.
Transfer the dough round to a pizza peel lightly dusted with flour. Swirl the tomato sauce evenly over the dough round. Arrange the speck over the sauce, followed by about 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz or 45 g) of the pickled peppers (reserve the remaining peppers for another use), then top with the fontina.
Slide the pizza off the peel onto the pizza stone, close the grill cover, and cook until the toppings are bubbling and the crust is well browned, 6-10 minutes, using the pizza peel to rotate the pizza 3 times as it cooks. Using the pizza peel again, remove the pizza from the grill and slide it onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with the olive salad and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cut the pizza into wedges and serve right away.
From 'Collards & Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots' [Courtesy of Olive Press;$22]