Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Off the Shelf: Nigel Slater Appetite

Appetite by Nigel Slater is one of my favorite inspirational cookbooks. I love reading cookbooks by people who are not only passionate about cooking but also eating. And, another thing I like about Nigel is his flexibility. Many of his recipes give guidelines, not precise ingredients, and he also adds lots of suggestions on ways to tweek the recipe he gives.

The first fourth of this book contains all kinds of helpful information such as: the new cook's survival guide, learning to trust your own taste, how to make something taste better, measurements and why you don't always need them, kitchen kit, basic kitchen skills, ingredients -- how to buy, store, and use them, herbs, vegetables and fruit, fish, meat, and dairy, as well as seasonal cooking.

Nigel then launches into the recipes which include all kinds of things: a simple loaf of bread, a great tomato sauce, variations of soup, easy pasta dinners, different ways with rice, thirty-minute fish supper, classic roast chicken, a thin, crisp, fruit tart, a warm and crumbly fruit tart, and a rib-sticking pudding for a cold day.

We have used Nigel's Creamy, Unctuous Potato Dish over and over at family dinners and holidays. Yes, it is rich, but it pairs so nicely with holiday meats, and it is so easy to prepare, that it is fine with me to enjoy this treat once or twice a year.  (Note potatoes to the top left in picture below.)

(Appetite, by Nigel Slater)

potatoes -- waxy-fleshed if possible, about 2 pounds
garlic -- 2 large, juicy cloves
butter -- just enough to butter the baking dish thickly
heavy cream -- enough to cover the potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups)

You will need a moderate to low oven, so set the heat at 325F. Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly. This, by the way, is one of those dishes where you really must peel: strings of brown, "healthy" skin are totally at odds with the gratin's hedonistic overtones. The slices should be no thicker than 1/8 inch. If the garlic is really juicy, cut the cloves in half and rub them around an earthenware or enameled cast-iron dish, pressing down hard to release the juices. Otherwise it might be better to slice it thinly and tuck the slices between the potatoes.

Smear the dish generously with butter. Please don't be stingy -- you are only cheating yourself. Lay the potato slices in the dish, orderly or positively hugger-mugger, it matters not, seasoning with salt and black pepper as you go along. Pour the cream over the potatoes -- it should just come to the top of the slices. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, until the potatoes are virtually melting into the cream.

Enough for 6 as a side dish.

I recently made Nigel's custard recipe and then threw it into our ice-cream maker to create this incredible frozen custard. Topped with raspberry coulis, it was a delicious, well-rounded dessert.

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