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Jonathan Waxman: A Great American Cook

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Photo by John Kernick
Chef Jonathan Waxman has influenced American cuisine on both coasts.  After working with Alice Waters in the kitchen of Chez Panisse and serving as Executive Chef at Michael's in Los Angeles, he moved to New York where he helped begin the New York ingredient-driven cuisine revolution.  Now Chef Waxman has written his first cookbook, 'A Great American Cook', in which he presents great recipes, interesting stories and lots of culinary knowledge. 

People are often skeptical of cookbooks written by chefs and with good reason. We've all seen plenty of chef cookbooks where the pictures are great but the recipes are simply unrealistic for the home cook - coffee table cookbooks.   This is not the case in 'A Great American Cook'.  The recipes are from Jonathan Waxman's home kitchen not his restaurants.  They are recipes that he says are 'homey and rustic'.  As a result, while some of the recipes in 'A Great American Cook' are elaborate many can readily be made by the home cook such as the "Fettuccine with Cremini Mushrooms and Onion Marmalade" recipe below.

The recipes, however, are only a part of what this cookbook offers.  In his foreword Bobby Flay says that Jonathan Waxman was his mentor.  Once you finish reading 'A Great American Cook' you too may feel Jonathan Waxman is a mentor.  From his introduction where he tells us to 'practice, practice, practice' and not 'feel intimidated' to his helpful descriptions and detailed recipes, the voice of Jonathan Waxman rings out with comforting advice to help all of us create and enjoy his food.   And what great food it is.

 

Fettuccine with Cremini Mushrooms and Onion Marmalade

From: A Great American Cook, Recipes from the Home Kitchen of One of Our Most Influential Chefs, by Jonathan Waxman, Houghton Mifflin, 2007

8 first-course servings or 4 main-course servings

Cremini mushrooms are simply young portobello mushrooms. There is a goofy notion out there that one should not wash mushrooms. In truth, what happens in the forest? Doesn't it rain? Here I ask you to thoroughly submerge these mushrooms to remove any grit and sand. This will ensure that there are no surprises in the pasta sauce.

The marmalade is a savory one, with no sugar. It uses red wine as a flavoring agent. When cooking the marmalade, don't reduce it too much, or it won't stick to the noodles.

Onion marmalade

  • 2 red onions
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Pinot Noir
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley)


Slice the onions crosswise into thin slices. Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until very soft and caramelized.

Add the wine, reduce the heat to low, and cook the onions, stirring often, for another 20 minutes, or until the wine has reduced to a slightly sticky glaze. Add the herbs and stir well. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

Fettuccine

  • 2 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fino (dry) sherry
  • 1 1/2 pounds dried fettuccine


Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Submerge the mushrooms in a bowl of cold water and let stand for a few minutes, then lift out the mushrooms, drain on paper towels, and pat dry. Trim and halve the mushrooms. Mince the garlic. Melt the butter in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly colored. Toss in the mushrooms, add salt and pepper to taste, and cook gently for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have exuded a little liquid.  Add the sherry, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. When the mushrooms are flavorful but still firm, turn off the heat.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the instructions on the package until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Meanwhile, reheat the marmalade. Add the pasta and the reserved cooking water to the marmalade and toss well. Divide the pasta among serving plates. Top with the mushroom mixture and a good sprinkling of black pepper.

Serve at once.

About A Great American Cook

ImageTo Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Thomas Keller, Bobby Flay, Deborah Madison, and other movers and shakers of the food world, Jonathan Waxman is a culinary giant who has helped invent contemporary American cooking. His exuberant style ushered in a new spirit of excitement in food. The forceful flavors of his dishes are unabashedly rustic and engagingly straightforward. In "A Great American Cook", Waxman presents his greatest recipes to the home cook for the first time. They include: Red Pepper Pancakes with Corn Sauce and Smoked Salmon, a classic appetizer he created when he ran the kitchen of Chez Panisse; Crispy Chicken and Goat Cheese Burritos, one of his most-ordered items; his signature Grilled Chicken with JW Fries, the dish that made him famous; Pizza with Bacon, Scallions, Parmesan, and Tomatoes, his favorite family supper; and "Restaurant-Style" Vegetables, the colorful accompaniment to any main dish. Waxman's motto: Let your ingredients do the talking. Lighten up! Enjoy yourself!

Get "A Great American Cook: Recipes from the Home Kitchen of One of Our Most Influential Chefs" at Amazon.com

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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