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The Fearless Chef

Andy Husbands' first cookbook offers innovative recipes for food lovers who don't have professional culinary experience.

He wants people to know that preparing American food is all about experimentation and being fearless. He wants people to feel comfortable substituting ingredients and swapping flavors.

So it's no surprise Husbands' first cookbook is called, "The Fearless Chef." He wrote it along with Joe Yonan, Chris Schlesinger and James Beard.

The book will turn the kitchens of timid home cooks upside-down, because Husbands is introducing bold concepts along with bold flavors for home cooks who are used to following every recipe to the word.

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Husbands' philosophy on cooking is very much evident in this book: be adventurous and willing to try everything. He believes in breaking rules and finding shortcuts that make recipes work for you, all without having that special pan or some obscure ingredient.

Husbands is the executive chef/co-owner of four popular restaurants in Boston and Providence, R.I. - Tremont 647, Sister Sorel, Rouge, and Kestral.

He also gives his time and energy to Boston Operation Frontline - a program that fights hunger by using chefs to teach cooking and nutrition to low-income families.

All recipes he offered to viewers of The Saturday Early Show are from "The Fearless Chef," published by Adams Media; Copyright 2004.

RECIPES

Caramelized Onion and Green Apple Tart

This Tart is a perfect brunch dish: It's wonderful served hot, fantastic served cold. Substitute half of the goat cheese with your favorite blue for some extra punch, or sprinkle some sharp Cheddar on top for that classic apple-Cheddar combination.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
6 slices bacon, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium-size red onions, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch rings
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon peeled and minced garlic
2 green apples
Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)
8 ounces goat cheese
1 (9- to 10-inch) tart shell, pre-baked according to the directions on the box
½ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan, preferably nonstick, cook the bacon, stirring frequently until browned and crunchy, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Discard the bacon drippings and wipe out the pan.
3. Add the olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Add the onions, vinegar, sugar, and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. (Lower the heat toward the end of cooking to prevent scorching.) Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, so the mixture can cool to room temperature.
4. Peel, core, and slice the apples into thin wedges. Toss with the lemon juice and set aside.
5. Spread the goat cheese evenly in the tart shell, then top with the apple slices, overlapping them in concentric circles. When the onions are cool, spread them evenly on top of the apples. Sprinkle the bacon on top. Bake until warmed though, about 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Roasted Portobello Mushroom and Wilted Spinach

We wanted a substitute for the classic steak side of creamed spinach. Rather than cooking the spinach until tender and creaming it, this recipe merely wilts it and combines it with meaty roasted mushrooms. Alongside a porterhouse or T-bone (medium-rare, please), it's heavenly.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
3 large portobello mushrooms, wiped clean
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 sage leaves, julienned
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ pound flat-leaf spinach, washed, tough stems removed, and leaves roughly chopped
¼ cup coarse bread crumbs or croutons
¼ cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Method
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
2. Separate the mushroom caps from the stems, discarding the bottom half of each stem. Cut each cap into 6 wedges, and julienne the remaining stems. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to a shallow roasting pan, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with the sage leaves and garlic, and roast for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to turn over the mushrooms, and roast 7 minutes more.
3. Remove pan from oven, add the spinach, and toss to combine.
4. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl. Add the bread crumbs, olives, and vinegar; toss with the mushrooms to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Italian-Style Meat Loaf

If you think good Italian food is all pasta, come to Sage in Boston's North End, where I was so wowed by a version of this three-meat loaf that I asked chef Tony Susi to share the recipe. I couldn't resist tinkering, and added the pancetta as an Italian nod to the bacon strips that baste American diner meat loaf; the pancetta adds a unique flavor and an irresistible moistness.

Serves 4 to 6 as an entrée

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed
¼ bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley
10 fresh basil leaves
¼ cup balsamic vinegar, divided
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup bread crumbs
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¾ pound ground beef
¾ pound ground veal
½ pound ground pork
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¾ cup ketchup, divided
8 thin slices pancetta (about ¼ pound)

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until the onions are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool to room temperature.
3. Crumble the mushrooms into a food processor bowl, and pulse until chopped. (Work in batches, if necessary.) Add the parsley, basil, and 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar; process until minced. Add to the onion-garlic mixture, along with the eggs, bread crumbs, milk, oregano, and thyme, mix to combine thoroughly.
4. Add the beef, veal, pork, pepper, salt, and ¼ cup of the ketchup; mix well. Transfer to a baking sheet and form into a loaf.
5. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup ketchup and remaining 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; mix well. Spread evenly over the meat loaf. Arrange the pancetta slices in a layer on top, and bake to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, about 90 minutes. Allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Lemon-Lime Bars

We can never settle for a mere lemon where there are limes around, too. The combination is something more interesting than either fruit alone, especially when some ground ginger plays a part, too. Serve these as part of a dessert buffet or platter, alongside fresh fruit and some dark chocolate, or pack them into gift tins lined with bright paper at holiday time. Just be careful: Serve once, and you'll be expected to bake them regularly.

Makes 24 Bars

Ingredients:
2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about ½ large lemon)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 large lime)
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, sift together 2 cups of the flour, the confectioners' sugar, and salt. Add the butter, and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined but not creamy. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9" x 13" baking pan.
3. Bake until pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
4. While the crust is cooling beat the eggs in another large mixing bowl. Add the granulated sugar, lemon and lime zest, lemon and lime juice, ground ginger, and remaining ¼ cup flour; whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour over cooled crust.
5. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake until firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Allow to cool completely, and dust with confectioners' sugar. Cut into bars and serve.

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