The Pen and Ink Cookbook

I told Mark Bittman this week that I really love his food triage, the graphic, entertaining ‘food flow chart’ as I call it, that he has frequently published in the New York Times. Mark said that at the Times they actually call it “the matrix” and are looking for a way to transform it into a book. Soup, lobster, apples

IMG_6153This was the snapshot of a 15-second conversation at Powell’s Books in Portland as Mark autographed the title page of his newest book (of 14, I think), called “How to Cook Everything fast.”

The book has 700+ recipes, no photos, is 1054 pages and is intended as a primer to increase the efficiency (and the pleasure) of the home cook’s time in the kitchen.

Mark used an analogy of the principle of a pen and ink drawing… that one shrinks the world so he or she can understand it by laying down a line of permanent ink that cannot be altered but must tell a story. Small contours in a drawing suggest texture. Information is implied, not overtly stated. Room for the mind to wander.

The pen and ink analogy parallels the simplistic and efficient quality of “Fast.” It’s a way of finding out what your relationship with food is.

Poached Chicken and Asparagus with Lemon Aioli is an example of how cooking time is easily reduced by shared cooking.

Poached Chicken and Asparagus with Lemon Aioli [from How to Cook Everything, fast] [My comments in brackets]

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 large bunch asparagus

1 garlic clove

1 lemon

1/2 C mayonnaise

salt, pepper

Put the chicken, 2 C water and 3 sprigs thyme in a large pot over high heat.

When the liquid boils, lower the heat so it bubbles steadily but not vigorously and turn the chicken. Cover and cook until the chicken is opaque and just cooked through, 12 to 15 min. Trim the asparagus.

About 7 min after you covered the chicken, add the asparagus and re-cover the pot: By the time the chicken is cooked through, the asparagus will be tender bur still have a little crunch, 5 to 8 min. [Another option here is to poach the chicken per instructions for 8-9 minutes, then add the trimmed asparagus in a steamer on top of chicken in the pan for 5-6 minutes depending upon the size.] If one finishes before the other remove it first.

Peel and mince 1 garlic clove; add it to a small bowl. Halve the lemon; squeeze the juice into the bowl. Add 1/2 C mayonnaise and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the bowl; stir to combine. [Alternatively, it’s easy to make homemade mayonnaise: combine 1 egg yolk and 2 tsp Dijon mustard in a mini food processor or blender. With the machine running, add 1 C vegetable or canola oil in a slow, steady stream to form an emulsion. Season with chopped fresh thyme, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp lemon juice.

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