Cook Like A Great Chef, At Home

For most home cooks, preparing a fine meal can be a daunting experience. But award-winning cookbook author and chef Charlie Palmer's cookbooks make fine cooking accessible to all home chefs.

His latest, "Charlie Palmer's Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen," happens to be the first-ever waterproof cookbook.

Palmer is not only a talented chef, but an impressive businessman. He has a string of nine restaurants in four states, and it reflects his focus on modern American cuisine.

Palmer visited The Early Show Thursday as part of its weeklong "Culinary Inspirations" series.

He writes in the introduction of the new book that his kitchen life is built on "rambunctious, intense flavors, unexpected combinations, and substantial portions," a style he calls "progressive American cooking." The book reveals his mix of French training with his very American upbringing.

Palmer's food philosophy embraces three things: the importance of seasonal and quality ingredients, enhancing and never masking the flavor of an ingredient, and the arrangement of a finished dish. He says people "eat" with their eyes long before they actually eat the food.

The book provides easy tips, including great wine pairings for every meal. It takes into account how home cooks really cook, and the challenges they face in the kitchen. The book covers basic cooking technique terms as well as basic tools you use should own in your kitchen.

It's the first-ever waterproof cookbook, made of a specially-coated paper that is sauce-proof, waterproof and splatter-proof. Just think of all the times you're cooking and you drop oil or sauce on your pages. No need to worry about that with this book!

On The Early Show Thursday, Palmer prepared beer-braised short ribs. It's simple, but delicious. All his food is delicious and unfussy.

RECIPES

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
+ Mango Salsa
+ Fennel and Celery Root Slaw
+ Potato Salad
Gretchen from the Sierra Highlands
a plummy and jammy Rhone-style red

Since not all holiday gatherings happen indoors, here's a free-wheeling menu with components that can all be prepared in advance so you don't spend most of your time running in and out of the kitchen. The potato salad and slaw can handle a night in the refrigerator. When it comes to the pulled pork, take your choice: Make it the same day and keep it warm, or prepare it days earlier to reheat when you need it.

Appetizer Suggestions: Gazpacho

Dessert Suggestions: Napoleon

Pork + Mango Salsa

FOR THE PORK

1 pork butt (about 8 lb)
10 cloves garlic, halved
1 onion, diced
2 T vegetable oil
1 T ground cumin
2 t Turkish red pepper flakes
1/2 c honey
2 c fresh orange juice
2 c coffee (or 4 shots of espresso)
1 1/2 c ketchup
1 c (packed) brown sugar
1 c red wine vinegar
2 T tomato paste
1 T dry mustard

FOR THE SALSA

2 mangos, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
3 T fresh lime juice
1 t minced fresh jalapeno
1 c chopped fresh cilantro

PORK

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Pierce the pork all over with the tip of a paring knife, then insert pieces of garlic into the slits. Put the pork on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and roast for 2 hours longer.

Take out the pork but leave the oven on. Let the pork stand until cool enough to handle, which will take a good half-hour. Now simply pull the pork apart (it should shred easily) and set aside until the sauce is ready. Don't toss the roasted garlic — put it in with the shredded meat.

While the pork is roasting and cooling, make a sauce.

In a stockpot, sweat the onions in the oil over medium heat along with the cumin and red pepper flakes; cook for a few minutes, just until the onions begin to wilt. Stir in the honey and cook for 5 to 7 minutes longer, stirring occasionally; the honey will start to caramelize, darkening in color. Add the orange juice and bring to a bare simmer. Add the coffee, ketchup, sugar, vinegar, tomato paste and mustard, whisking to blend. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes to let all the flavors come together.

Mix the pork into the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven to slowly stew for 45 minutes. Check and stir occasionally; if the sauce starts to cook dry, add a little more coffee or a few spoonfuls of water.

SALSA

Mix the mangos with the onion, lime juice and jalapeno, and season with salt and pepper. Wait to add the cilantro until just before serving, otherwise the acids will wilt it and darken it.

+ Fennel and Celery Root Slaw

2 heads fennel, trimmed of fronds and halved
2 medium celery roots, peeled
1 carrot, peeled and grated

2 c white wine vinegar
1 1/2 granulated salt
1 T salt
1 1/2 c mayonnaise

Thinly slice the fennel with the aid of a mandoline and put in a shallow bowl.

Finely julienne the celery root (also with a mandoline) and add it to the bowl. Add the carrots.

Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt and pour over the vegetables; stir to combine. Place plastic wrap directly over the vegetables and press it down to keep them submerged in the marinade. Let stand at room temperature for 6 hours, or refrigerate overnight.

Drain the vegetables, then wrap them in a big kitchen towel and squeeze all excess moisture out of them.

Place the vegetables on a cutting board, through them several times, then place in a bowl.

Mix in the mayonnaise, season with salt and white pepper, and refrigerate


+ Potato Salad

6 large Idaho potatoes
1/4 c red wine vinegar
6 strips bacon, chopped
1 white onion, diced
1 T Dijon mustard
1 c mayonnaise
1/2 milk
5 large hard cooked eggs, sliced Large buns of choice

Place the potatoes in a pot, add cold water to cover and bring to a simmer. Cook the potatoes for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are just fork-tender.

Drain the potatoes and let cool until easy to handle. Peel the potatoes, then cut them into large chunks, dropping them into a bowl as you go. Sprinkle the vinegar over the warm potatoes so they absorb it and take up its flavor. Set aside to cool.

Line a plate with paper towels. Render the bacon in a sauté pan until crisp, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to the prepared plate. Add the onion to the pan and sweat in the rendered bacon fat over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and ender but not mushy. Add the bacon and onions to the potatoes.

Whisk together the mustard, mayo, and milk, and mix into the potatoes. Season the salad and fold in the sliced hard-cooked eggs at the very end to avoid beating them up too much.

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  • Brian Dakss

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