I grew up learning how to cook classic American food, from fried chicken to hermits, from spaghetti and meatballs to apple pie. And I learned the rules. How to cream butter and sugar. How to sauté meat for a stew. How to layer a casserole. How to cook pasta.
But the world of home cooking, and its rules, have changed. We no longer dump sauce on pasta; we finish them together. We no longer sauté meat for a stew; we let the oven do the work. We don’t just use ground spices; we know how and when to use whole spices. We don’t mince garlic and cook it in hot oil; we cook smashed cloves in olive oil and then remove them before serving. And we know that marinades rarely add much flavor, so we use them to sauce meat after it's cooked.
By traveling the world, the editors of Milk Street have discovered what millions of home cooks from Taipei to Oaxaca, from Beirut to Sicily have known for generations: methods and flavor combinations that transform home cooking from bland to bold, from boring to sit-up-and-take-notice exciting. Here are a few of my favorite new rules.
Rule No. 5: Treat Herbs as Greens, Not Garnish
Salads are not just made from lettuce anymore. Make a salad out of parsley, or a combination of parsley and arugula—or cilantro and scallions.
Rule No. 13: Stop Stirring Your Polenta
Just south of Milan, we found an old grain mill and a family that cooks polenta low and slow in the classic manner—with lots of water and hardly any stirring. The result? The easiest, creamiest polenta you have ever tasted (and the oven does all the work).
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