Fresh and simple, from Wolfgang Puck


February 09, 2005|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN FOOD EDITOR

Wolfgang Puck, one of the most recognizable chefs in America, has taken readers inside the kitchens of his Spago and Chinois restaurants in previous cookbooks. In his sixth book, Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy (Rutledge Hill Press, 2004, $35), he takes readers inside his home kitchen.

The result is a collection of 150 recipes that rely on fresh, yet readily available, ingredients that can be assembled fairly quickly.

California-style pizza and panini, which made the Austrian-born chef famous in Beverly Hills, are here, but so are breakfast dishes, side dishes and meats. His celebrated pastry chef, Sherry Yard, helped out on the featured desserts, which include a baked Alaska, dessert pancakes and old-fashioned Linzer cookies.

Each recipe is accompanied by "Wolfgang's Easy Tips," which provide alternative ingredients or advice on preparing the dishes. Many of the instructions are long, but Puck explains that he is merely trying to give complete information to novice cooks.

That said, the directions aren't always as precise as they should be. For example, the Eggs en Cocotte recipe I tried, while delicious, didn't explain whether aluminum foil should cover the individual ramekins or the entire baking dish in which the ramekins are placed. In the end, it didn't really matter. What does matter is that the recipes do deliver the promised fresh and simple dishes. Photographs illustrate many of the recipes, and some of the more elaborate dishes are accompanied by step-by-step photos to guide you along the way.

Eggs en Cocotte With Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Cream

Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled

4 eggs

kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish or drained prepared white horseradish

fresh chervil or parsley leaves for garnish

Coat the insides of four 1/2 -cup ramekins or baking dishes with the melted butter. Line the bottom and sides of each ramekin with the smoked salmon. Reserve 1 piece for garnish, and cut that piece into thin julienne. Top the salmon lining the ramekins with 1 tablespoon of cream in each ramekin. At this point, if you're working in advance, cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 375. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Line a baking dish - large enough to hold the ramekins without touching - with a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper. This will prevent the boiling water you'll pour into the dish from bubbling over into the ramekins during baking.

One at a time, break an egg into a bowl and transfer to a lined ramekin, taking care not to damage the yolk. Sprinkle each egg with salt and pepper to taste. Place the ramekins in the baking dish and cover with a sheet of buttered aluminum foil. Put the baking dish on the middle rack of the oven. With the oven rack pulled out, carefully pour the boiling water into the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully slide the rack into the oven and bake the eggs until their whites are set and the yolks are cooked through but still soft, 15 minutes to 20 minutes.

While the eggs are cooking, put the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream in a mixing bowl, and using a handheld mixer or whisk, whip until it forms soft peaks when the beaters are lifted out. Stir in salt, white pepper and horseradish to taste. Transfer the horseradish cream to a sauceboat or small serving bowl.

Carefully slide out the oven rack, transfer each ramekin to a serving plate and garnish each serving with chervil or parsley leaves. Pass the horseradish cream at the table for guests to spoon into their ramekins.

Per serving: 319 calories; 15 grams protein; 28 grams fat; 15 grams saturated fat; 3 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 294 milligrams cholesterol; 939 milligrams sodium

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