Quote from Intro:

"Anyone can cook, and most everyone should. It's a sorry sign that many people consider cooking 'from scratch' an unusual and even rare talent.
In fact, it is a simple and rewarding craft, one that anyone can learn and even succeed at from the get-go."
-Bittman, HTCE

Guide to HTCE

Note all recipes mentioned in this post are in italics, all page numbers are from the red HTCE.

This is a guide to get you started with "How to Cook Everything".  I hope you find it helpful.

First, an introduction.  I would say that this cookbook is an American, from-scratch guide to your kitchen.  Have you ever had something in a restaurant or something from a box and wanted to try to make it at home/from scratch?  Chances are Mark has a recipe that will fit the bill.  One of the best things about this cookbook are all the options and variations Mark gives you for each recipe.  Don't have an ingredient?  Nine times out of ten you can do without, or find a substitute.  It is one of the main reasons I love this cookbook.

Here is my checklist for getting the most out of this cookbook:

  • Read it  The size and title of this book can be overwhelming I'll admit, but I know Betsy and I attacked it like you would any other book.  Just open it up and start reading.  Read introductions, titles, scan recipes, etc.  The chapter on Kitchen Basics alone is a great read and the Vegetable and Fruit lexicon (starts p.251 and p.381) made me feel empowered to cook any produce I put my hands on.  Reading it will also give you the lay of the land as far as chapters go.  They all start with Mark's essential recipes and move on from there into subcategories of the chapter.
  • WRITE IN IT!!  Almost as important as reading the book I think you must write in this book!  I can see my Dad cringing as I type this, but I think writing in this cookbook is advisable and probably necessary.  You see, with all the variations that are included you have to free yourself to make notes on what you liked and what you didn't like.  I write in pencil because you never know when you are going to change your mind.  Other reasons to write in the book are:
    • Making a note of which recipes you have made is helpful since there aren't pictures of the recipes to jog your memory.  Eventually all the titles start sounding familiar.  
    • Changing or modifying certain recipes to the taste of your home is sometime necessary and I think would be encouraged by the author.  Two recipes that I have modified are Macaroni and Cheese and Pancakes.
    • Since watching Alton Brown's "Good Eats" I now weigh out all my flour.  I have written in pencil on page 836 all of the weights of the different types of flour.  Very handy!
    • This book does not contain nutritional facts, and since I have a diabetic in my household I have also used the front cover to make a chart of how many carbohydrates can be found in basic ingredients.  This helps me quickly calculate carbs per serving in any recipe.
    • Put a blank box by recipes you want to try while reading.  Then you can go back and check them off when you have tried them.
  • Post-its Post-it notes help me keep track of chapter breaks, recipes I'm currently using, and recipes I want to try.  I think they are your friend!
  • Start with the Essentials  You can start cooking anywhere in a chapter but some of my favorite recipes are considered by Mark to be "essential" (they are marked with a red star).
    • Fresh Tomato Salsa (p.23) - Philip loves this pico de gallo and asks for it anytime we have a mexican dish
    • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (p.80) I made several variations of these a few years ago, very tasty!
    • Real Popcorn (p.81) Beats popcorn from a bag any day and it is so much cheaper!
    • Potato Salad with Mustard Viaigrette  (p.189) Potato salad with no mayo that is delicious!
    • Roasted Vegetables (p.241) Sweet potatoes, asparagus, almost any vegetable can be roasted.
    • Stir-fried Vegetables (p.241) Quick and easy way to use up vegetables that are just laying around.  The variations are endless!
    • Fast Tomato Sauce (p.502) I always have the ingredients to make this on hand.
    • Spaghetti with Butter and Parmesan (p.506)
    • Baked Macaroni and Cheese (p.508) See the above link for the changes I have made to this recipe.
    • Stir-Fried Chicken with Cabbage (p.643)
    • Chicken MarkNuggets (p.646)
    • Meatloaf with Spinach (p.723)
    • French Toast (p.794) I use half the milk he calls for, but otherwise this is a good recipe with great variations.
    • Cornbread (p.831) This is an average recipe.  I now use this one instead.  I call it "the one".
  • Explore the Tables This book is filled with useful tables.  My favorite table is on page 201 and contains recipes for 18 vinaigrettes (these are in addition to the 20 variations listed after the basic vinaigrette recipe).  We love the Soy Vinaigrette with a little Pampered Chef Asian seasoning added (1-2 T.).  We have also made the avocado variation and it was tasty.
  • Recipes with few ingredients In addition to the recipes above these also have few ingredients and all are usually already on hand!
    • Deviled Eggs (p.84)
    • Caramalized Onions (p.325) These are made differently then the way I was taught, but they are awesome!
    • Baked Sweet Potatoes (p.358)
    • Rice with Cheese (p.460)
    • Polenta (p.485)
    • Denver Omelet (p.802)
    • Popovers (p.847)
  • From scratch alternatives I love that this book contains how to make almost anything from scratch.  In addition to the recipes mentioned above here are a few favorites.
  • Other Favorites Here is just a list of other recipes that my family loves!!  Try these soon if you can.
    • Cheese Straws (p.88) When I made these I did long logs, but you can cut them into squares
    • Crisp Panfried Potatoes (p.341)
    • Oven baked Ratatouille (p.373)
    • White beans, Tuscan style (p.427)
    • Barley and Beef Stew (p.484)
    • Chicken Cutlets Roasted with Tomatoes (p.672) serve with Polenta (p.485)!
    • Chicken Parmigiana (p.678)
    • Roast Chicken with Herb Butter (p.686)
    • Broiled Split Chicken (p.693)
    • Classic Pot Roast (p.742)
    • Roast Pork with Sage and Potatoes (p.754) Use the leftovers here in the Fried Rice with Shrimp and Pork (p.468)
    • Everyday Buttermilk Waffles (p.815)
    • Overnight Waffles (p.816)
    • Crepes, Sweet or Savory (p.817)
  • Don't miss the Appendices There is so much in the back of this cookbook that it is too good to skip.  Suggested menus, lists like the ones above if you are looking for essential, fast, make-ahead or vegetarian recipes.  And my favorite part, the index!  I have to admit that since getting the app that goes along with this book I use the book form of the index less and less.  I actually cook from the actual book less too, but this red giant is one of the only cookbooks that is allowed to live on my kitchen counter.
I hope you have found this introduction helpful.  I know for me just flipping through this cookbook again has made me want to try more of its recipes and even though the lists above seem long, they are really just the beginning!

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