Taking a shortcut to flavorful meals


Book's recipes use fewer ingredients and prepared foods to save effort, time

April 09, 2003|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Cooking With Three Ingredients: Flavorful Food Easy as 1, 2, 3 by Andrew Schloss (Quill, 2003, $17.95) inspires a mix of elation, shame and validation in those of us who have a love/hate relationship with the kitchen.

The title of the book, reissued in paperback, speaks to the cooking conundrum faced by so many: Why does preparing a delicious meal have to be complicated? And, just because you say you like to cook, does it mean you also like to tangle with complicated procedures for achieving perfect textures and taste fusions?

Then again, how can you admit that you like to cook if you don't want to start from scratch?

Scrub the shame. The 250 recipes in this book reduce cooking to its basics, but still require a deft culinary touch that will give angst-ridden amateurs a certain sense of accomplishment. As the name implies, all of the dishes are made with three ingredients, excluding salt and pepper.

By using prepared foods such as salsa, lemon preserves and ranch dressing as ingredients, many of the recipes attempt to achieve the same results as more involved dishes. I prepared Peking Chicken, which called for a whole chicken, honey and hoisin sauce. It didn't equal true Peking Duck ecstasy, but we got the idea. Basting the chicken with honey/hoisin sauce as it roasted created a distant cousin to the famed Chinese dish, but a perfectly acceptable centerpiece for a Sunday evening meal.

Included in Cooking With Three Ingredients are recipes for appetizers, soups, seafood and meat, as well as marinades, salads, main courses on the grill and desserts.

You have to love a recipe for garlic, clam and bean sauce or thin mint ice cream cake, both of which rely on convenience foods as ingredients. They kind of take you back to the wonder years of the 1950s, when the ability to use prepared foods to create a masterpiece was considered the hallmark of a fine domestic chef.

Take it from the author, who in his introduction boasts of making "a great beef borscht from short ribs, sauerkraut and V-8" and "a stuffed and glazed holiday turkey with just a bird, a package of corn-bread stuffing mix and a couple cans of cranberry sauce." There's more than one way to define a clever cook.

Peking Chicken

Makes 4 servings

one 4-pound chicken, rinsed and dried, with giblets removed

1/2 cup honey

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Carefully loosen the skin of the chicken by running your fingers under the skin of the breast and legs, separating it gently from the meat underneath without tearing it. Rub the breast and leg meat underneath the skin with salt and pepper and season the inside cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, breast-side-down, on a rack set above a rimmed sheet pan or baking dish and roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the honey with the hoisin sauce. After the chicken has been in the oven for 20 minutes, brush a thin film of this mixture over the bottom of the chicken and roast for 10 minutes longer. Turn the chicken breast-side up. Brush with the honey mixture. Roast for another 30 minutes, basting with more honey mixture every 5 minutes, until it has all been used. Carve and serve.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.