Cookbook Spotlight: Kitchen Sense (a guest post by S)

Posted on July 13, 2006 by Aun

I’ll admit that this book wasn’t exactly a title on my Amazon pre-order list. I hadn’t heard of Kitchen Sense or its author Mitchell Davis until the lovely Cathy of A Blithe Palate emailed us an invitation to participate in this Cookbook Spotlight event which she is co-hosting with Sara and Alicat of Weekend Cookbook Challenge. I’ll also be the first to admit that general, how-to-cook-everything cookbooks no longer rate highly on my must-buy list. Don’t get me wrong, I have bought my fair share of them, but these days, I tend to wonder if we need to add yet another tome explaining the basics of cooking to our burgeoning collection. I mean, how many recipes for poaching eggs do we really need?

Having said that, I will acknowledge that Kitchen Sense is a nice addition to the general cookbook genre. I like Davis’ detailed instructions and reasonably lengthy essays on various aspects of culinary commonsense. His recipes cover everything from shu mais (pork and shrimp dumplings) and baba ghanoush (a smoky eggplant dip) to spätzle (short lengths of egg noodles) and a version of Pierre Herme’s salty chocolate sablés. However, for me, it’s his recipes for classic American comfort foods which have earned Kitchen Sense a spot on our bookshelf.

You see, although CH is Singaporean, he grew up in the US and has a penchant for American favorites I have not, as yet, grown to love (probably because I haven’t tasted the real deal). For the longest time, he has been bugging me to make meatloaf which, based on my own limited experience of it in Singapore, seems like a real waste of good meat. (I know, I know, it’s because I haven’t tasted a real meatloaf.) I have read countless meatloaf recipes. None have inspired me to pull out my loaf tin. Mind you, I have attempted one recipe (oh, the things wives do to make their husbands happy). The results of which did not make me feel at all like a domestic goddess. Davis’ meatloaf recipe, on the other hand, has an entire page devoted to discussing the merits of various methods of grinding your own meat. He describes meatloaf as “everyday pâté” (okay, that makes a little more sense to me) and makes a point to discourage the use of lean beef in this particular dish (surely, he must be a man who knows a thing or two in the kitchen). His suggestion that the top of the loaf be covered with bacon strips finally won me over. A cookbook author who doesn’t balk at using a little fat to keep his meat dishes moist and juicy has my vote. I’ve flagged his promising meatloaf recipe and gone on to fill the 516-page book with a flutter of little Post-its. CH’s requests include honey-buttermilk cornbread, chicken-fried steak, creamsicle pie, Maxine’s peanut butter cookies and butterscotch shortbread. I’m also dying to try my hand at preparing Boston baked beans, Earl Grey’s devil’s food cake and lavender cookies.

For a quick lunch today, I made the buttermilk fried chicken with cream gravy pictured above which CH suggested I pair with a fresh corn and tomato relish (yes, he seems to think of himself as the executive chef of our household). The chicken was salted and soaked in buttermilk (I steeped it overnight) before it was dusted with seasoned flour and fried. It was a really simple, yet effective recipe. Our chicken pieces had crisp crusts and remarkably tender flesh. The relish consisted of a sautéed base of onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeno chili and corn kernels dressed with red wine vinegar and sugar. This was cooled before diced tomato, sliced scallions and chopped cilantro were stirred in. I loved the tart and sweet flavors in this dish, which cut through the richness of the fried chicken. I can’t wait to work my way through more recipes in this book.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Zara's Mama July 13, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    If those pieces of chickens are the ones you made.. they look yummy and crispy!

    Care to share the recipe? What’s in the seasoned flour?

    I could smell the fried chicken smell.. *drool*

  2. Eggy July 13, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    M’s also a meatloaf lover from his schooldays in Oregon. I usually make mine from Martha Stewart’s recipe. That chicken looks lovely too—another favourite for M. We do the same but add a healthy sprinkle of cayenne pepper for (a very) subtle kick.

  3. San San July 13, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    It is so rare that a spouse/partner shares the same level of interest in food. My hubby tries to act interested but is quite contented with any edible food. So you & CH are such rare gems :)

  4. J July 13, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    gorgeous chicken! the brothers k should co-author a manual on the fine art of effective persuasion ;)

  5. Vivilicious July 13, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    Oh S, CH is such a lucky man! I understand though, being an avid fan of American comfort/trashyn food… Fried chicken is in my top 5 list and so is chicken fried steak. Must get that book next, my shelves are groaning at the mention…

  6. bizofknowledge July 14, 2006 at 1:59 am

    This looks like one really good fried chicken recipe! I haven’t had that dish in years, but suddenly I have a craving for it, with buttermilk biscuits on the side. Yummy!

  7. cath July 14, 2006 at 9:23 am

    S. — trust you to find one of my weaknesses: fried chicken! Yummy! Thanks so much for joining us!

  8. Herbie July 14, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    Is this an easy cookbook to follow? My M’s still new in the kitchen, so easy cookbooks with non-too-exotic ingredients would be nice.

    It’ll be best if they throw in a few doggie recipes as well.

  9. Melissa July 15, 2006 at 1:16 am

    Dear S, never fear – I grew up in the US and I’ve never even eaten many of those down-home American favorites either (I’ve never even heard of a creamsicle pie, for instance). Your review of Davis’ book is so good, though, that I’m starting to question my resolve. Maybe it’s time to rediscover my roots with a good old-fashioned juicy meatloaf…

  10. Anonymous July 15, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    Hello there! Was wondering whether you made buttermilk from scratch or is it available off the shelves in Sg? If the latter (woohoo!) where can I buy the stuff? Cheers & here’s to many more yum escapades!

  11. S July 16, 2006 at 8:28 am

    Hi everyone, thank you for your comments!

    Zara’s Mama: Seasoned flour is simply flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

    Eggy: Thanks!

    San San: Well, we met over lunch when we were both food critics many years ago. Lady luck was smiling on us.

    J: You call what they do persuasion?

    Viv: It’s great for people like me who don’t have a clue what this style of food should taste like in the first place. Do check it out!

    bizofknowledge: Davis seems to be a little fond of buttermilk. A good number of recipes I’ve earmarked for later use contains it (everything from breakfast foods to cakes).

    Cath: Again, thanks for including us!

    Herbie: I guess some of the dishes could be adapted to a doggy’s diet! If you enjoy detailed instructions, this is a great book.

    Melissa: Wanna share your meatloaf recipe? :P

    Anon: I usually get my buttermilk at Marketplace in Tanglin Mall (I’m sure other supermarkets sell it too, look out for it when you’re next in the dairy section). They also sell fresh jalapeno chilis.

  12. bea at La tartine gourmande July 17, 2006 at 3:59 am

    I will have to try this recipe from the book! Your realization is tempting! ;-) On s’en lèche les babines!

  13. Frederico July 17, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Refreshing to have the blog from your eyes for a change! :)
    But erm… where’s the meatloaf ? :p
    i was expecting a meatloaf feature after all that talk about it.

  14. S July 17, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Bea, Thank you. I love your duo of clafoutis.

    Frederico: Now you’ve set CH off! How cheeky of you to leave a comment like that. I promise I’ll work on a meatloaf post.

  15. Chubby Hubby July 17, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    Fred: You rock! Thanks for asking. I can’t wait for that meatloaf. In fact, for making that remark and prompting my wife to promise me a meatloaf, you win a tub of homemade ice cream! The next time S makes a fresh batch, I’ll drop you an email and we’ll get you a small tub. :-) (p.s. it won’t be the one we’re going to post about this week, because that’s mostly eaten already.)

  16. Frederico July 18, 2006 at 10:25 am

    hooray! :D

  17. cobes July 18, 2006 at 11:18 am

    Hi, how about posting the recipe for the buttermilk chicken??

    It looks really good!

  18. S July 18, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    hi cobes,

    Sorry, but the publishers have requested that we not publish recipes. To be honest, it really isn’t any more complicated than what I’ve described :)

  19. Jasmine July 22, 2006 at 9:23 am

    Great post! And I love the photos.

    I tend to agree with you regarding all-purpose tomes. KS isn’t a bad one as it gives a taste of a bunch of different cuisines.

    j

  20. enji April 16, 2007 at 10:37 am

    hey, the chicken looks tempting..

    the question is, what kind of oil we should use to get a tempting and crispy fried chicken?

    thx..
    hope to hear from u soon

  21. S April 17, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Enji

    I usually use fresh corn oil (recycled oil tends to give you darker coloured results and can sometimes be bad for your health).

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