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"If you want to cook well you can't do it without the basics. If you want to experiment, you need these basics even more." From chicken stock to foie gras foam, it's all explained in The Basics: The Techniques of Continental Cooking. Due out in the U.S on 15 June 2007, it's available for pre-order from Amazon.

The following three winners were chosen from hundreds who submitted their favorite basic recipe for our "Basics Contest." Each winner will receive an autographed copy of the book. Leading off, Nasi Lemak is a basic recipe from Malaysia where it's a breakfast staple.

Nasi Lemak (Fragrant Coconut Milk Rice), Gary H.

2 cups rice (preferably Basmati), rinsed and drained
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup water
3 Pandan (Screwpine) leaves, knotted
1/2 fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 fresh lemongrass stalk
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon salt

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Rinse the rice thoroughly and drain. In a pot over medium heat, stir together the rice, coconut milk and water. Add the Pandan leaves, ginger, lemongrass, shallots, fenugreek seeds and salt into the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until all of the water has been absorbed. Loosen the rice with a wooden ladle. Cover using a tight-fitting lid and steam the rice on very low heat for about 10 minutes or until rice is completely cooked. Gently fluff the rice.

See the next two winning recipes after the jump

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The Ultimate Poached Egg, Sergio V.

1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar

Fill a medium-sized skillet with 3 inches of water and put on high heat. As the water starts to boil lower heat and add vinegar. Crack egg into a cup and place cup into the water, tilting it slightly until egg comes out. Turn the heat off immediately and cover the skillet with the lid. Wait one to three minutes depending on how you like the yolk. Take the egg out with a strainer and enjoy over a salad or with your favorite sauce.

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Classic Risotto, John C.

1 litre vegetable/chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots or 2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/2 head of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400 g risotto rice
100 ml dry white vermouth or dry white wine
70 g butter
100 g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Sea salt and black pepper

Heat the stock. In a separate pan heat the olive oil, add the shallot or onion, celery and a pinch of salt. Sweat the vegetables for about three minutes. Add the garlic and rice when the vegetables have softened. Turn up the heat. While stirring continuously, begin to fry the rice. You don't want any color at any point so keep careful control of temperature and keep the rice moving.

After two or three minutes it will begin to look translucent as it absorbs all the flavors of your base (it may crackle at this point, that's fine). Add the vermouth or wine, continuing to stir as it hits the pan.

Once the vermouth or wine seems to have cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a medium-high simmer. To avoid uneven cooking of rice be careful not to boil too high. Continue adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, add butter and parmesan, saving a little of the latter to go on top if you like. Stir gently. Eat it as soon as possible while it retains moist texture. Enhance by adding different seasonal ingredients.

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