Milk Street: The New Rules | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Milk Street: The New Rules

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Dear Home Cook,

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).

Our polenta recipe, based on a trip to Milan, cooks in the oven, requires only minimal stirring, and produces the creamiest polenta you have ever tasted.

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Rule No. 19: Season Your Water

Adding hearty seasonings to your cooking water for grains and beans infuses them with bolder flavor.

Learn to Make Authentic Pastas That Are Quick, Bold and Easy

Trips to Sicily and Sardinia taught us so much about bringing big flavors to simple skillet pastas, including Pasta with Pistachios, Tomatoes and Mint and Spaghetti with Olive Oil, Garlic and Chilies. Plus, learn how the Italians in Genoa make real pesto: Start with the nuts and garlic, don’t use too much oil, and finish the sauce with some of the pasta cooking water.

The secret to authentic pesto is the order in which the ingredients are combined and a light hand with the olive oil.

Rule No. 21: Create Creaminess Without Cream

In Mumbai, ground cashews are used to provide creaminess without cream. And at Al Forno restaurant in Providence, RI, grated corn kernels make a creamy no-cream sauce for pasta.

Grated corn kernels provide a creamy base for this singular summer recipe.

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Rule No. 23: Get Bigger Flavor From Supermarket Tomatoes

A slow simmer can intensify the flavor of supermarket tomatoes, especially when cooked with a generous amount of both olive oil and water. The latter slows down the cooking, producing a rich-tasting, intense tomato sauce.

Rule No. 26: Finish Pasta in the Sauce

Boil pasta until just shy of al dente and then finish it directly in the sauce with a bit of the starchy cooking water, allowing the pasta to absorb the flavors of the sauce.

Welcome to the World of Quick and Easy Flatbreads

Think of flatbreads as go-to pizzas with dozens of unbaked toppings, such as flavored butters (honey-thyme, harissa, za’atar, etc.), spicy garlic-herb oils, simple relishes, or combinations such as prosciutto and arugula. Made with yogurt, our flatbread dough is easy to work with and can be quickly pulled together in a food processor.

Our simple food processor yogurt flatbread recipe can be used in a thousand different ways, even as pizza.

Rule No. 44: Single-Sided Searing Is Best for Seafood

When preparing fish or shellfish, sear on just one side, then finish cooking off the burner, using residual heat for perfect results.

Rule No. 51: Build Better Skewers With Strips, Not Chunks

Thin strips of meat cook more evenly than large chunks and provide more surface area for applying flavorful rubs and sauces.

These Turkish shish kebabs are based on a Turkish red pepper paste that you can make with sweet paprika, cayenne, jarred roasted red peppers and tomato paste.

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Rule No. 55: Season the Crumbs, Not Just the Crust

Seasoning breadcrumb coatings, not just the meat itself, is an easy way to build flavor.

Put Vegetables in the Center of the Plate!

Every cuisine around the world knows how to take vegetables seriously, making them so tasty that they answer the question, “What’s for dinner?” Whether it’s roasted cabbage, stir-fried cauliflower, Indian-spiced potato curry, Moroccan carrot salad, charred broccoli with toasted sesame sauce or Sicilian caponata, The New Rules will introduce you to the new rules of vegetable cookery.

Transform simple weeknight broccoli with a simple toasted sesame sauce made with soy sauce, cayenne, sugar, mirin and sesame seeds.

Rule No. 58: Use a Low, Slow Simmer to Keep Meat Moist

A gentle simmer cooks meat at a lower temperature, which keeps it from overcooking from the outside in.

This super-silky poached chicken is cooked in a rich, fragrant chicken broth that also is used to cook the rice.

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Rule No. 67: Use Less Liquid for More Flavor

Braising meats with minimal liquid concentrates juices and produces a richly flavored sauce.

Rule No. 70: Treat Meat as a Flavoring

Most of the world treats meat as a flavoring, not the main ingredient, which produces healthier, more interesting pairings with grains, rice, vegetables and beans.

Rule No. 74: Tenderize Beef With Baking Soda

Balkan and Chinese cooks use baking soda or other alkalis to force muscle proteins apart, making the beef more tender.

Only a handful of cookbooks have truly changed the way we cook, from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” to “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” to “Plenty.” We hope that The New Rules will also offer that change, a way forward to make you the best cook you know by answering the question, “What is cooking?” in a fresh, exciting way.

There is a whole new world of home cooking out there—it is simpler, faster, bolder and fresher than anything you have cooked before.

And that’s why I say that you are just one cookbook away from changing the way you cook. It is a very big promise but one that I intend to keep.


Christopher Kimball
Founder, Milk Street

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