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.
Michael Anthony's Mushroom Lasagna
In honor of the restaurant's 20th anniversary, Gramercy Tavern's James Beard-recognized chef Michael Anthony divulges the secrets of his beloved New American menu in the New York establishment's first cookbook. Inspired by the restaurant's menu, the 125 recipes are organized seasonally, with an emphasis on local ingredients. Beyond the secret to a stellar duck confit, the title profiles everyone from the artists responsible for the restaurant's interior to the Tavern's dedicated sous chefs. Anthony's recipe for mushroom lasagna with garlic chips highlights his bold approach and actually tastes even better the next day as leftovers.
(Serves 8 to 10)
• 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 cups whole milk
• 1 1/2 cups mushroom broth (recipe follows) or chicken broth
• Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
• Salt and pepper
• 6 tbsp olive oil
• 1 1/2 onions, thinly sliced
• 2 leeks (white parts), thinly sliced
• 5 garlic cloves, minced
• 4 sprigs thyme
• Salt and pepper
• 2 cups thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves
• 3 lbs white mushrooms, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
• 3 tbsp sherry vinegar
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 3/4 recipe (about 18 ounces) fresh pasta dough
• All-purpose flour for rolling
• Butter for the pan
• 2 cups ricotta cheese
• 1 1/3 cups coarsely grated Parmigiano cheese
• Garlic chips (recipe follows; optional)
Make the Béchamel Sauce
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes; don't let the mixture brown. Slowly add the milk and broth, whisking until smooth. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the sauce resembles thick cream, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the surface of the béchamel with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
Make the Filling
In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp of the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the leeks, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the chard and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and transfer the mixture to a food processor. Pulse several times until finely chopped, then transfer to a large bowl. In another large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add one-quarter of the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they are well browned and all the liquid they release has evaporated, about 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper about halfway through.
Transfer the mushrooms to a food processor, and repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms in three batches. (The number of batches will vary depending on the size of your pan; the important thing is not to crowd the mushrooms.)
Pulse the mushrooms several times (they should still have some texture), then transfer to the bowl with the onion mixture. Add the béchamel sauce, mascarpone, and sherry and balsamic vinegars and stir until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the pasta dough into quarters. Keeping the remaining dough covered, run one piece through a pasta machine, flouring the dough as needed, until you have a sheet roughly 1/16 inch thick and 4 1/2 x 23 inches long. (At home, the Deluxe Atlas Pasta Queen is a great tool.) Trim the sheet into two pieces roughly 4 by 11 inches. (Don't worry if some of the pieces aren't perfect; just save the 2 best pieces for the top layer. Lay the sheets on a drying rack or floured baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Salt the boiling water, add the noodles and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and shock in a bowl of ice water. Carefully remove the noodles from the bowl, letting the excess water drip off, and lay in a single layer on plastic wrap.
Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Lay 2 noodles in the bottom of the pan. Top with one-quarter of the mushroom filling, one-quarter of the ricotta, and one-quarter of the grated cheese. Repeat 3 times with the remaining noodles, filling, ricotta, and grated cheese (there isn't a layer of noodles on the top). Bake the lasagna until the center is very hot and the top is browned, 35 to 45 minutes. Let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving so it's easier to cut. Scatter some garlic chips on top, if you like.
Fried garlic chips give crunch when scattered over the Mushroom Lasagna and are fun to toss on a salad or just to snack on.
• 10 large garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise paper-thin (use a mandoline)
• 1 cup peanut or grapeseed oil
Fill a small saucepan halfway with cold water, add the garlic, and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately remove from the heat and drain the garlic. Lay the garlic on a baking sheet and pat dry with paper towels.
In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic slices in two batches and fry, stirring the oil with a wooden spoon so the slices don't stick together, until they are crisp but have taken on very little color, just a few seconds. With a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic chips to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool. Lightly salt them. The oil can be strained and reused for frying. Makes about 1/2 cup.
Reprinted from 'The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook.' Copyright (c) 2013 by Michael Anthony. Photographs copyright (c) 2013 by Maura McBroy. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC." [On sale October 29, 2013; $50.00]