Clarkson Potter -- 2000
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Anyone titling a recipe "Classic, Unmucked-About-With Roast Chicken" is going to get our attention. Our Brooklyn kitchen measures 5-feet by 7-feet, so we're enormous fans of simple, hearty fare. So is Nigel Slater, an English toque who only uses a handful of seasonal ingredients in his recipes and would not take kindly to the notion that "back to basics" is some brand-new trend (this book printed in 2000). Slater's juicy roast chicken is our standby, his caramelized onion-taleggio tart has amazed many a dinner guest and his general approach to cooking -- welcoming, hilarious, opinionated -- is right up our alley.
- Not a book for those who like their measurements precise; Slater's a fan of "a handful" and "a bunch."
- There's a knockout pantry guide: "A bag of pasta, a lump of Parmesan and a bottle of olive oil ... the best friends you will ever have."
- Look for the "what goes with what" primer, which includes "marriages made in heaven" like figs and Roquefort.
- Pour yourself a drink before cooking (his words, not ours).
- Look for the "and more" at the end of each recipe (i.e.: A Potato Supper "with sausage" or "with cheese").
Quality of pictures: These are snapshots for real, hungry cooks, with droolworthy pics of the greasy inside of a skillet, an Impressionistic stained apron and a closeup of freshly plucked sage you can nearly smell.
We tested: Roast Chicken, A Tart for a Party
Slater's roast chicken couldn't be easier: Take an organic bird, stuff it with butter, lemon and half a head of garlic, push herbs under the skin and roast. I like to parboil my potatoes and shake them around in an empty pot in order to crust their outside and then prop my bird up on 'em. This chicken always comes out golden and gorgeous.
The only hassle with this taleggio and thyme tart is caramelizing the onions to sprinkle atop that beautiful puff-pastry crust. Sip an Italian red while they're melting away, stir occasionally and don't forget to brush the edge of the crust with butter before you pop it into the oven, because the end product will leave guests breathless.