Taste & Technique - Naomi Pomeroy

Naomi Pomeroy's debut cookbook, Taste & Technique, has been well worth the long wait. I have been waiting for this award-winning chef to release a cookbook since her Top Chef Masters' appearance in 2011.

Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking is, in my estimation, the equivalent of an at-home culinary course in nearly 400 pages. Those pages contain 140 recipes, beautiful photographs and the chef's vast culinary knowledge that began at the age of seven when her mother taught her how to make a soufflé. The book is simply brilliant.

Details on every aspect of cooking: from ingredients, equipment, teaching the building block fundamentals of techniques and understanding balance of flavors are set out to ensure our success in recreating these dishes and honing our skills. Pomeroy taught herself to cook by working her way through the classics and knows that the best recipes make us better cooks. I firmly believe that anyone who wants to learn to cook, loves to cook or wants to perfect their skills should work their way through this title. In that regard, I have started a group to cook our way through this book - come join us. Update: Our first meal was the recipes shared below and it was an incredibly wonderful dinner. Everything was perfect. My only issue was that the sprouts were done about four minutes on each side - just be aware to check after four minutes before allowing to go the full time. 

Special thanks to the author and her publisher, Ten Speed Press, for sharing three recipes that can be dinner tonight. Be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy of this title. 

Porcini Braised Chicken Thighs
SERVES 6 TO 8

This is a rustic one-pot meal to serve directly out of the Dutch oven in which it is cooked. Porcini mushrooms have an earthy, savory quality that combines with the stock, wine, and concentrated meat flavor from the thighs to create a lovely richness. The contrast of crisp skin against tender braised meat and soft vegetables is fantastic as well.

I recommend using this recipe to learn how to braise. If you don't have a Dutch oven, it's possible to sear the chicken in a large sauté pan, transfer it to a roasting pan to finish cooking in the oven, and serve it in a pretty casserole dish.

This simple meal is all about balance, and people are always impressed by how delicious it is. I don't always save the vegetables from a braise because they often wind up limp and soggy, but these are very much worth eating.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ cups sliced, peeled carrot, on the bias in 3-inch pieces
3 cups roughly chopped yellow onion, in 1½-inch pieces
1½ cups roughly chopped celery, in 2-inch pieces
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
10 cloves garlic
3 thyme sprigs
2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves
12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, at room temperature
2 to 3 tablespoons salt
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 cups homemade stock or other high-quality stock
1 cup dry white wine

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, and celery and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables get some color. Add the porcini, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves and mix to combine. Turn off the heat but leave the Dutch oven on the burner.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Season each chicken thigh with 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 teaspoon salt (depending on its size; a large thigh will weigh about 10 ounces and a small one about 6 ounces) and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat a black steel pan over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until the surface is rippling but not smoking. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, add 4 chicken thighs, skin side down, and lower the heat slightly, to medium-high. Weight down the thighs with a heavy plate to create an even sear across the entire surface and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until evenly golden but not too dark in any spots. Check after the first 1 to 2 minutes to ensure no black spots are forming and lower the heat as needed. Place the thighs, skin side up, in a single layer in the Dutch oven and repeat two more times with the remaining oil and chicken thighs, rinsing the pan and wiping it completely dry after each batch.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock and wine to a simmer. Pour the stock mixture into the Dutch oven; the edges of the chicken should be submerged but the skin should be exposed. It's important not to cover the chicken skin completely or it won't get crisp.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid (or with aluminum foil if using a roasting pan), place in the oven, and cook for 11⁄4 hours, or until the chicken is completely tender. Turn up the oven temperature to 400°F, remove the cover, and continue to cook until the chicken skin is crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard the thyme sprigs as best you can, and serve directly from the pot.

Potato Dumplings
SERVES 6 TO 8

I wanted to include a dumpling recipe in this book because dumplings are a versatile, easy comfort-food dish to make year-round. I did a lot of research, testing dozens of traditional dumpling recipes, but none of them were quite right. Eventually I settled on this simple potato version, which is a creative and somewhat unexpected way to serve potatoes.

This is similar to what you'd find in a dish like chicken and dumplings, but less floury and more potato-forward. These dumplings would also be wonderful with a light tomato sauce and some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or with a little brown butter and fried sage alongside roast pork.

This is a sensitive recipe, so it's important to use a kitchen scale to measure out 24 ounces (11⁄2 pounds) of riced potatoes. If you use too much potato, the mixture might not bind properly and the dumplings may fall apart; if you use too little potato, the dumplings will be too heavy with flour and egg. It's wise to buy a few extra potatoes just in case.

You will need a potato ricer, as a potato masher will not yield a fluffy enough result. The dumplings are at their best and lightest when the potatoes are riced a day ahead of time and allowed to dry out on a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight. But if you're making this recipe the same day you want to serve it, you can freeze the riced potatoes for 25 minutes to achieve a similar effect.

2 pounds russet potatoes
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons potato starch
1⁄4 cup plus 21⁄2 teaspoons salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄16 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 quarts water
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced chives

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork, set them on a baking sheet, and bake for about 1 hour, until they can be very easily pierced with a skewer or sharp knife. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool briefly until they can be handled but are still quite warm to the touch, then use a kitchen towel to peel the skin from the flesh. Rice the potatoes and weigh out 24 ounces. Save any leftover potato for another use.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the riced potatoes across the pan. Place the pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight to dry out the riced potatoes, or in the freezer to cool for 25 minutes if making the dumplings the same day.

In a small cup or mixing bowl, lightly beat together the eggs and egg yolks until blended. In a another mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, 21⁄2 teaspoons of the salt, the pepper, and the nutmeg.

Place the chilled potatoes in a mixing bowl 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Lightly dust the flour mixture across the surface of the potatoes all at once and, using a fork, gently mix to combine (do not overmix). When the mixture looks uniform, add the eggs.

Use the fork to mix until everything once again looks uniform. Then, using both hands, form the mixture into a ball. Very lightly knead it a few times until it forms a homogenous dough.

In a large saucepan, combine the water and the remaining 1⁄4 cup salt and bring to a boil. Taste the seasoning water and remember how salty it is. As you cook the dumplings, some water will evaporate, leaving the cooking water saltier, so it's important to add fresh water as needed to bring it back to this level of seasoning. Break off a small piece of the dough and roll it between your fingers to make a dumpling about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Don't smash or compact it too much; keep the pressure light and even throughout.

Add the dumpling to the boiling water. When it floats, set your timer for 6 minutes. Allow the dumpling to simmer (not boil) until the timer sounds, then remove it with a slotted spoon or a spider (see page 374) and taste it. The dumpling should be fluffy and well seasoned and not soggy or sticky. It will firm up as it rests. If the dumpling seems too loose and is falling apart, mix another 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour into the potato mixture.

If the tester dumpling turns out well, shape about 12 more dumplings the size of Ping- Pong balls and add them all at once to the water. When the dumplings float, set the timer for 6 minutes, and then leave them to cook, turning them occasionally as they expand. Make sure the water isn't at a hard boil or the dumplings may break apart.

Transfer the dumplings to a Dutch oven. Replenish the boiling water with additional fresh water and adjust the salt as needed. Using the remaining dough, shape and cook a second batch of dumplings. You should have about 25 dumplings total.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Add the butter, parsley, and chives to the dumplings and mix gently to distribute evenly. Cover and heat in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until warmed through. Serve immediately.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Mustard Seeds  SERVES 6 TO 8

2 1⁄2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 13⁄4 teaspoons salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons pickled mustard seeds (page 350)

I always liked cooking Brussels sprouts at my old communal dining space, Family Supper, because I love to get people excited about things they think they don't like. A certain generation of people (mine included) grew up with a poor impression of sprouts based on the way they were (over)cooked, but something magical happens when you blast brassicas with hot, direct heat. They caramelize, with a blistery, crackly outside, a tender interior, and a deeply satisfying flavor. The addition of pickled mustard seeds brings just the right amount of acid and sweetness to round out the dish.

Place an empty baking sheet on an oven rack as close to the heat source as possible and preheat the broiler.

Cut the base off of each Brussels sprout, and then cut each sprout in half lengthwise, discarding any floppy outer leaves.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the sprouts with the oil. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper and toss well to combine (this is a good place to practice the aerial salting method described on page 375).

Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the broiler (use a double layer of kitchen towels or oven mitts) and lay the sprouts in a single layer across the pan. Return the pan to the oven and set a timer for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, stir the sprouts and rotate the pan 180 degrees to ensure the sprouts caramelize evenly. Set the timer for another 6 minutes. The sprouts should have a nice char on some areas and be vibrant green.

At the 12-minute mark, add the mustard seeds to the baking sheet and stir well. Broil for an additional 2 minutes. The sprouts should now be ready. When you taste one, it should be tender but not completely soft. I like to test one big sprout and one little sprout to get an average. (The sugars in the pickled mustard seeds will have caramelized a bit and can burn your mouth if you're not careful.) Remove the finished sprouts from the hot baking sheet and serve immediately.

Pickled Mustard Seeds
MAKES  ABOUT  1  CUP

This recipe makes a fairly large batch, but the seeds will last a long time in the refrigerator. Use them for any kind of relish (feel free to substitute them for dried mustard seeds in Savory Tomato Confiture on page 11), throw a few spoonfuls into roasted vegetables, or add them to Hollandaise (page 32).

3⁄4 cup sugar
21⁄2 teaspoons salt
1⁄2 cup water
3⁄4 cup white wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1⁄4 cup brown mustard seeds
1 clove garlic

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 35 minutes, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of syrup (but is not as thick as honey). Let cool, transfer to a nonreactive airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Reprinted with permission from Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking by Naomi Pomeroy with Jamie Feldmar, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography credit: Chris Court © 2016

3 Comments

  • rchesser  on  9/18/2016 at 9:49 AM

    Thank you for another great cookbook review! After reading your reviews, I always want to run out and get the books.

  • annmartina  on  9/19/2016 at 1:48 PM

    No recipe for the pickled mustard seeds?

  • Jenny  on  9/19/2016 at 1:50 PM

    Ann Martina: I had to get permission to use a fourth recipe - now that I have - the post has been updated.

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