Your mother may have taught you how to separate an egg and how to dice a mango, but I am willing to bet your mother never taught you to spatchcock a chicken.
No, that is not a typographical error.
And no, your mother, like mine, was not being negligent in neglecting to teach you how to cut out the backbone of a chicken and press it flat in order to produce a crispy, delicious chicken in a record time amount of cooking time.
Chances are that spatchcocking was just one cooking technique that your mother, and mine, never learned from their own mothers.
But with the introduction of her eighth cookbook, Kosher By Design Cooking Coach, kitchen diva Susie Fishbein is about to change all that, with a stunning new volume designed to turn readers into culinary stars, by teaching techniques as basic as dicing salad ingredients and as unfamiliar as spatchcocking a chicken.
While Cooking Coach continues the now ten year old Kosher By Design brand with a mouth watering selection of 120 recipes that look so good that I am practically drooling as I write this article (Chocolate Peanut Butter Molten Cakes anyone?), what sets this cookbook apart from so many others is that it contains page after page of kitchen techniques, giving readers the opportunity to learn all the tricks of the trade. In fact, Fishbein herself has had no professional culinary training and she is hoping that this new book will give readers an understanding of cooking techniques and ingredients so that they can spread their own culinary wings and really fly on their own.
“If you can read, you can cook. Anyone can do this,” explained Fishbein. “My real job as a teacher is to free people from cookbooks, both mine and others, and inspire them with new ideas. By learning the proper cooking techniques, it frees you to use them how you want, with the foods and ingredients that you like.”
The idea for KBD Cooking Coach came to Fishbein while she was teaching new recipes in her cooking classes – what her students really wanted was to learn the basics.
“People loved the recipes that I demoed but it was the tips and techniques that went along with those recipes that they were really interested in,” recalled Fishbein. “I started thinking that maybe a ten year milestone was the right time to share this knowledge with the public.”
Dicing, mincing, making a chiffonade – Fishbein gives clear step by step illustrated instructions, as well as an overview of kitchen knives. No need to spend large sums on an endless array of knives when, according to Fishbein, just three well chosen knives – a chef’s knife, a serrated knife and a paring knife – will suffice. The book includes an illustrated guide to three different techniques for knife sharpening. Fishbein also offers practical guidance on buying pots, pans, baking equipment and kitchen appliances including food processors, blenders, mixers and immersion blenders.
Each chapter is preceded by a “Game Plan,” an informative prelude detailing fundamental cooking techniques, advice and other tidbits, designed to help the reader better understand their ingredients and hopefully hone their own cooking instincts. The chapter on meat contains not only a full guide to the different cuts of meat and the best cooking techniques for each cut, but also explains how to tell when meat is done, how to properly slice it and how to create grill marks on steaks and hamburgers. The fish section teaches readers how to tell if a fish is fresh, the advantages of fresh versus frozen and how to pin bone and skin a fish. The side dish chapter gives a quick primer on storing fresh produce as well as an introduction to chili peppers.
All of the above adds up to not only better kitchen skills, but some serious savings of both time and money on several different levels. Learn how to dice an onion properly (Fishbein admits to wearing goggles while performing this task in order to prevent tearing up) and you may be surprised how much easier and faster the job will go. Learn how to sweat vegetables for a soup and you will maximize their flavor, getting the most bang for your buck. Learn how to zest a lemon with a microplane and you will never overpay for dried (and less flavorful) lemon zest ever again. Learn the best place to store nuts (in the freezer) and your days of dealing with rancid (and extremely unappetizing, trust me on that one) nuts will finally be over.
Not only does Fishbein dazzle with her trademark recipes, but she takes things a step further with a thirteen page “Playbook”, designed to save both time and money, by transforming any extras into an entirely new dish.
“The Playbook tells you how to reincarnate leftovers into something your family will never recognize,” said Fishbein, who admits that her own family is not fond of having meals reappear in encore performances. “Sometimes it is extra ingredients that you bought for a particular recipe, other times it is entire recipes. The idea is to resurrect them into something great so that your family doesn’t know that they are eating leftovers.”
It is no accident that the Playbook appears at the very front of KBD Cooking Coach. Fishbein isn’t only looking to find new ways to dress up leftovers. Cooking extras in advance is another one of Fishbein’s great time savers.
“Not only is there no extra effort involved in preparing a double batch, but there is no extra cleanup either,” counseled Fishbein, who encourages using larger pots when doubling recipes so that the foods cook properly. “Make the most of your time and your ingredients so that nothing goes to waste.”
Suggestions in the Playbook include turning extra Vegetable Stuffed Cabbage into cabbage soup, Curried Sunflower Chicken into chicken croquettes and Israeli Eggplant Pepper Salad into a chunky pasta sauce.
While Fishbein, who has sold 450,000 copies of her books worldwide, has gained a reputation for recipes that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate, she is quick to point out that especially in today’s difficult economic climate, she does keep prices of ingredients in mind when devising recipes.
“I try to balance some more economical dishes with recipes whose ingredients can be more costly,” explained Fishbein. “After all, it would be mean to have a book full of recipes featuring ingredients that aren’t affordable to most people.”
But ultimately KBD Cooking Coach is about educating readers so that they are so comfortable with their own kitchen skills and their own knowledge of ingredients that they can improvise, using seasonal foods, family favorites or whatever else strikes their fancy.
“For so many years, kosher cooking wasn’t up to the highest culinary standards,” said Fishbein. “But with food playing a central role in so many different areas of Judaism, we do so much more cooking than the average cook and it stands to reason that we want to have really, really good food.”
Fishbein, who acknowledges that she takes just a single day off after a new cookbook release before she begins work on her next volume, is already contemplating the next installment of the Kosher By Design series.
There is no doubt that her loyal fan base is already counting the days until Kosher By Design, Volume 9, hits store shelves.
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