The most famous meunière preparation is probably sole — it’s a slam dunk for pretty much any thin, delicate, white fish fillet. But it’s also one of the best ways to treat chicken cutlets. The recipe, which I wrote about in an early Minimalist column, is infinitely variable, but here I’ve done it about as simply as possible. Dredge the chicken in flour, cook it in a skillet with oil or butter until nicely browned and just cooked through — as long as you get really nice browning on one of the sides, you’re fine — and finish with lemon juice and chopped parsley. The brown butter is luxurious and totally optional.
As for the variations, you can change the coating, using cornmeal, breadcrumbs or finely ground nuts instead of flour. You can season it with chopped fresh herbs, dried spices or parmesan. You can flavor the butter with herbs and garlic as it browns, or make any number of pan sauces — with wine, stock, butter, mustard, vinegar, capers, etc. — after you sauté the chicken.
Get the recipe and the video here.
Broccoli rabe usually doesn’t make it past a sauté pan with garlic and olive oil, nor does it need to. But the extra step of baking it in the oven with a shower of grated Parmesan on top – which was suggested to me by the chef John Schenk, now at the Strip House, and which I wrote about in a 1997 Minimalist column — is one you should try.
Blanch the broccoli rabe until it’s bright green and nearly tender, then cook it in a pan with golden toasted garlic. From there, put it in a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, and bake until it the cheese melts, which Parmesan does unevenly — but in a good way. This is a recipe that you can easily start cooking, stop, and pick back up later if you need to, either after the blanching or after the sautéing. You can also serve it at room temp, so despite the three-step cooking process, it’s pretty flexible.
You can use almost anything green and leafy in place of the broccoli rabe, too — spinach, escarole, kale, broccoli and so on — and you can certainly play around with other cheeses in place of the Parmesan. But there’s something about the bitterness of the broccoli rabe combined with the spicy-sweet garlic and rich, salty Parmesan that’s just right.
Click here for the video and recipe
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not wild about apple pie. If that makes me a bad American, so be it.
Of all the ways you can combine cooked apples, butter, flour and so on, pie is not nearly the best. I prefer either a nice crispy crumble topping made with oats, or this free-form apple tart. It is essentially an apple pizza, but uses a short dough, meaning it contains plenty of butter. It comes together very easily in the food processor.
Once you roll the dough out — into a thin circle or whatever other shape you choose (or your rolling pin chooses for you) — you have to address this question: how precious do you want this thing to be? If you have much more patience than I do you might start an elegant spiral of apple slices in the middle of the crust and loop it gracefully around until it reaches the edges. If you’re like me, you’ll randomly scatter the apples until you don’t see dough anymore. Call it rustic — I actually think it ends up looking just as nice, but maybe that’s equally un-American.
The last straw? Cut it with a pizza wheel.
Get the recipe here.
Poaching — cooking in simmering liquid — is a fairly forgiving way to cook fish, since it’s not likely to dry out. (It also virtually eliminates the likelihood of anything sticking to the bottom of the pan, which is often in the back of your mind when you sauté.) I love using this method with striped bass, which has the added bonus of being a local fish, but you can use any firm white fillets or steaks. It’s also a great way to cook mackerel or bluefish, other locals.
As the fish cooks, the soy sauce turns it a beautiful golden brown, almost verging on mahogany. Since the skillet is uncovered, the liquid reduces, intensifying in flavor and becoming thicker and thicker. In the end you want to be left with a kind of glaze that coats the fish and serves as a sauce for the rice that you should definitely eat with it. Use a minimal amount of liquid; if you start out with too much, the fish will cook through before the liquid reduces.
One unexpected treat in this recipe is the scallions. They drink up all the flavor of the poaching liquid and become tender, but they still hold on to a slight crunch. A whole skillet of those served over rice would almost make you not miss the fish.
(Watch the video and get the recipe here.)
(Watch the video here.)
I’ve been making this pasta for a very long time, probably since the 1980s, since it’s derived from a Marcella Hazan recipe. It’s dead simple — one of the things that I love about it — and you can pre-cook the cauliflower a day ahead or so if you’d like. I usually do the whole thing at once: cook the cauliflower in water, scoop it out and then, later, cook the pasta in the same water. It’s already boiling, and you want the taste of the cauliflower anyway, so why not?
The cauliflower gets cooked more, in a skillet with toasted garlic, so don’t boil it to death; you do want it to be tender, though. And in the original Minimalist recipe, from 2000, I added the bread crumbs to the skillet along with the cauliflower, but since I usually add some pasta water to the skillet to keep the mixture saucy, the bread crumbs become soggy. Better, then, to stir the bread crumbs in at the very end. They should be very coarse, ideally homemade, and if they’re toasted in olive oil in a separate skillet before you toss them in, so much the better.
For a while now I’ve been cooking pasta recipes with less pasta and more sauce. That’s a very personal decision, I know, but you could easily make this dish with half a pound of pasta and two pounds of cauliflower, and it would be excellent.
(Read the recipe here.)
Want to read every single Minimalist column of all-time? Of course you do. September 17, 1997 to January 26, 2011. Have at it.
Thank you to everyone who has read the Minimalist column. It has been thirteen wonderful years of cooking and thinking about food. Here’s to many, many more (and some champagne for the road.)
My friend and colleague Gabe Johnson has shot and produced every single Minimalist video (more than 200.) Here he describes his favorite one to shoot (and more importantly to eat.)