Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone (Ballantine Books, 2016)
It's the middle of the night. As often happens, I can't sleep so I put on my favorite lullabye---HSN. That's right, shopping in the comfort of my own bed at 3:00 am, is a soporific, except, that is, when the host is showing something that catches my attention as it did the night internationally renowned chef, Curtis Stone, was peddling his new cookware and recipe book.
I was intrigued by several of the non-stick pots and pans that Chef Stone was using to demonstrate his culinary expertise. The eggs slid easily out of a large, round frying pan, and the chef grilled chicken and pork chops on the stove top in another large pan, which he claimed could be used also for baking brownies. To clean the pans all one had to do was take a paper towel and wipe the cookware clean. And, better yet, both of these items were on a huge sale with easy pay. Who could possibly resist?
“Well,” I said to myself, “if I am purchasing these beautiful pieces of cookware, perhaps I should buy Stone's new cookbook Good Food, Good Life,” which also was being offered at a great sale price.
You know how many times you bring home an exotic cookbook with the best of intentions to try something new for your family, but somehow, it never happens, and before you know it, the new book is gathering dust on a shelf? Fortunately, I did not allow this to happen with Good Food, Good Life. As soon as my new cookware and book arrived, I set out to try several of the 130 recipes in this wonderful book.
The categories of recipes offered in the Good Food, Good Life are Light Meals, Dinners, Sides, Sweets, In the Morning, Snacks, and Drinks. In the Introduction Stone explains, “I wrote Good Food, Good Life because I believe in just that: through tasty, well-cooked food prepared with fresh, quality, and seasonal produce you can have an incredible life. Good food and a fulfilled life become easier to obtain when you've got some inspiration and encouragement to spur you on; my hope is that you reap a good dose of both fro a bunch of the recipes, tips, and experiences shared in this book.” (p. xii)
Leafing through the book, trying to decide where to start, my attention was caught by the inviting photographs of Chef Stone at work. This is a large book so that the typeset is easy to read, which is important as one is putting a meal together and the pictures are engaging as well as encouraging.
The first recipe that I tried was Chef Stone's “go to” recipe for “Simple Roast Chicken and Potatoes.” What was so amazing about this recipe is that it called for only seven ingredients for a delectable meal: a whole chicken, grapeseed oil, kosher salt and pepper, small Yukon gold potatoes, flour, and reduced sodium chicken broth. The entire preparation time for the meal was ten minutes, and the chicken roasted in 55 minutes in the new Curtis Stone pan. When I served the moist chicken and perfectly prepared potatoes an hour after I began the meal prep, I felt like a gourmet chef.
The second meal that I attempted, Porcini-Braised Beef with Horseradish Mascarpone, was slightly more complicated and time consuming to prepare. It took twenty minutes to use the eleven ingredients and four hours to simmer slowly. When I put the beef and mashed potatoes on the table, my daughter, who is quite an incredible chef, commented, “Mom, this is the best meal that you ever made,” and the rest of the family concurred. I was thrilled to put such a scrumptious, yet simple to prepare, dinner on the table. The horseradish mascarpone sauce added a slight zing to the meat and potatoes without being overwhelming.
If you are shy about serving fish, Stone's Maple-Glazed Planked Salmon might be a great place to start. Using only six ingredients and twenty minutes of prep time, the salmon is slightly sweet, but baked to perfection on a plank placed over a grill. Again, an easy recipe for a successful outcome.
In the category of snacks, Chef Stone offers interesting and tempting choices, such as popcorn with bacon and parmesan, lemongrass chicken wings, peanut butter, jam, and banana burrito to go, chocolate-hazelnut milkshake, and “awesome brownies.”
I would say that if you are tired of the same old meals, (my repertoire consists of five staples that I go to once every other week), but you do not want to spend a fortune buying spices that you will use once, or waste hours of precious time in the kitchen dicing and slicing, invest in Curtis Stone's Good Food, Good Life. You won't regret it and your family will love you for it.