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.