12 October 2019

Weekend Cooking: From Scratch by Michael Ruhlman

Review of From Scratch by Michael RuhlmanYou'll have to forgive me if I start this post by quoting myself, when I wrote about Michael Ruhlman's book How to Roast, because I can't introduce him any better than I did then:

There are a handful of cookbook authors whose books I just have to own: sometimes because I know the recipes will be foolproof and sometimes because I know I'll learn something. Michael Ruhlman succeeds on both these accounts while providing that magic third element of timelessness.
Michael Ruhlman's newest book is From Scratch (Abrams, Oct. 15), which I received as part of the Abrams Dinner Party program. I was happy to see that Ruhlman included my all-time favorite way to roast chicken (see the cover photo), which I discovered in his earlier roasting book. You may think you know how to roast chicken, but his method is seriously moist and delicious.

Now, here's where From Scratch does something a bit different. Ruhlman doesn't stop with the main dish, he goes on to teach us how to make a couple of sauces, how to brine a chicken (if we're so inclined), and how to add in a salsa verde or other flavors. He tells us how to cook a spatchcocked chicken (another favorite of mine) and how to turn a store-bought rotisserie chicken into a comforting feast after a long day.

Review of From Scratch by Michael RuhlmanBut wait, there's more! What else can you do with your chicken? Ruhlman to the recuse: make stock, make soup, make consomme. Serve it with Brussel sprouts or broccoli and take your pick of potato options. Have leftovers? Make a chicken salad or chicken pot pie.

Ruhlman treats omelets, lasagna, steak frites, paella, cassoulet, slow-roasted pork shoulder, curry, the BLT, and the profiterole in the same manner. A base recipe spins and curves and bends into many others (see the scan to the right). So you see, even though the subtitle says "10 meals," the 175 included recipes help you create enough dinners to get you through, say, a half year. Then you can start all over again and continue to perfect your skills.

Ruhlman adds plenty of extras throughout From Scratch, such as notes on specific ingredients (like summer tomatoes), thoughts on a variety of dishes (like risotto), and tips on techniques (like toasting spices). You'll also find a few cocktail recipes and lots of solid good advice.

I love Ruhlman's easygoing attitude about what "from scratch" means. While it'd be amazing to raise your own livestock and grow your own grains, vegetables, and fruit to make a truly from scratch dinner, in the long run:
"From Scratch" is an attitude, not a recipe or a ridgid set of instructions. Take a whole chicken, place it in a skillet, roast it in a hot oven for an hour--dinner from scratch.
Michael Ruhlman's From Scratch is the perfect cookbook for anyone who wants to hone his or her kitchen skills, whether that person is just learning to cook or has been cooking for decades. Besides all the delicious, well-presented recipes, I love how Ruhlman demonstrates just how easy it is to serve from-scratch dinners, even after a jam-packed day at work or school. If you've been in a rut or have lost your cooking mojo or passion, this is the book for you. If you love to cook or wish you knew how to cook or if you're somewhere in between, put From Scratch on your wish list.

Review of From Scratch by Michael RuhlmanThe first from scratch dinner I made From Scratch was pulled pork sandwiches. I made the bread from scratch, I cooked the pork (locally produced) slow and low in the oven, I made the BBQ sauce, and I made the broccoli slaw using vegetables from the farmer's market. I did buy the pickles, but, hey, I didn't have weeks to wait!

Ruhlman's Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder was amazingly tender and flavorful for such a simple preparation. The recipe includes quite a lot of extra information and tips on how to speed up the process or slow it down, so I encourage you to get a copy of the cookbook (from the library or the store).

The photos (above and below) are of my own bread baked from Ruhlman's recipe (it looks just like the photo in the book!) and the finished dish. We were in heaven.

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder
Review of From Scratch by Michael RuhlmanServes 8
  • 1 (4-pound / 1.8 kilogram) bone-in pork shoulder or 1 (3-pound / 1.36 kilogram boneless pork shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 275F/135C.

Give all surfaces of the pork a generous coating of salt. Put the pork in a Dutch oven or other large pot, cover it, and put it in the oven for 4 hours (or a little less for a boneless shoulder).

Remove the lid and check to see if it's tender by shredding it with two forks. If it doesn't pull easily, cover the pot and return it to the oven for another hour, or until it does.
Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

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rhapsodyinbooks 10/12/19, 6:16 AM  

I think rather than have the cookbook, I would like to have Michael Ruhlman come live with me and make these things, at least for a while! Too bad cookbooks don't include that option! :--)

(Diane) bookchickdi 10/12/19, 7:33 AM  

I can almost smell that bread, it looks heavenly. This seems to be a must-have cookbook, I'm going to be on the lookout for it.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 10/12/19, 7:49 AM  

My grandmothers, of necessity, cooked everything from scratch, but my mother learned shortcuts and these were passed on to me. My learning experiences with cooking, of late, have consisted in erasing all the shortcuts my mother shared, and discovering the ways of my grandmothers. I will look for this book.

Mae Travels 10/12/19, 7:52 AM  

Ruhlman's large number of cookbooks all sound fantastic -- I've only read "Grocery" which is a history/social history book. I guess I do cook from scratch quite a bit, but never as ambitiously as your dinner. Sounds tricky.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Jackie McGuinness 10/12/19, 8:25 AM  

I love cooking from scratch, cheaper and so much better. That bread looks divine.
Heading (virtually) over to the library to request this book!

P.S. I haven't made pulled pork in ages, adding it to to menu soon.

bermudaonion 10/12/19, 8:31 AM  

We don't really cook all that often these days but Carl loves to spend the day in the kitchen cooking from scratch. I'm going to take a look at this cookbook because I think it might make a great Christmas gift for him.

jama 10/12/19, 8:31 AM  

I'll have to look for this cookbook at the library. Your pulled pork and bread look sooooo good! :)

Deb in Hawaii 10/12/19, 12:28 PM  

Your bread is picture perfect! I am just starting to read this one and love how in-depth he gets with a dish.

Vicki 10/12/19, 3:14 PM  

My favorite meat is chicken and now that's what I'm wanting for dinner. The bread looks yummy too!

I'll have to check this book out.

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