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The Culinary Institute of America’s Gourmet Meals in Minutes

Lebhar-Friedman Books

ISBN: 0-86730-904-0Hardcover. 372 pages $40

Gourmet Meals in MinutesMany cookbooks seem to be designed to seduce the home chef with beautiful graphics and spectacular presentation. “The Culinary Institute of America’s Gourmet Meals in Minutes” (quite a mouthful of a title) doesn’t disappoint in that department. Ben Fink’s photographs are as good as any I’ve seen. A passionate amateur can enjoy a vicarious meal from every other page, it seems.

But volumes that have only pretty pictures often wind up on the remaindered table at bookshops. More is needed. The promise of turning out great meals in a short time is intriguing, but this bait has been used before. Who wouldn’t want food that was delicious and easily—or at least quickly—prepared? That many books implying such bounty have fallen short of delivering, naturally may make readers wary.

This book from America’s foremost professional cooking school succeeds as a traditional collection of recipes, beautifully accompanied by photos. It would seem to validate the “in Minutes” promise also. But its greatest strength may be the solid information, both theoretical and practical, that is clearly and cogently presented. Simply defined chapters such as Appetizers, Soups, Meats and Side Dishes all include sections with headings like “At A Glance,” “Step-By-Step,” and “Focus On.” In each case, basic information is presented in terms both clear and refreshingly un-technical. Inexperienced cooks should find these tips invaluable.

“Gourmet Meals in Minutes” provides over 200 recipes, none of which looks too daunting for a typical home cook. In each case, the number of ingredients is reasonable and the method is condensed to a just a few paragraphs. In the world of sports, it’s often said that, “The really good ones make things seem simple.” Perhaps the phrase applies in the culinary world, too. Certainly, The Culinary Institute of America should have no shortage of highly qualified chefs. Maybe more to the point is that their mission is to teach how to cook. Pupils in any realm need to build confidence as they start with little successes and proceed to bigger ones. This publication from the Culinary Institute of America will be supportive of beginners’ efforts, but more experienced home cooks will enjoy no doubt appreciate the clarity of the recipes.

Curiously, there is no author credited in the book, though its publicists name Chef John DeShetler, Professor in Culinary Arts at the Culinary Institute of America, as a spokesman. Acknowledgement is given to chefs Olivier Andreini, Bruce Mattel and Michael Skibitcky for execution of the recipes for the photographs.

Editor’s Note: Sample recipes from The Culinary Institute of America’s Gourmet Meals in Minutes follow:

Black Bean and Avocado Crostini

Crostini is a general term that refers to “little toasts” which are usually topped with one or more garnish items. This Southwestern version combines the creaminess of black beans with the heat from the guacamole for a terrific hors d’oeuvre or snack idea.

Makes 8 servings / preparation time: 45 minutes

24 baguette slices, 1/4-inch thick

1/4 cup Garlic and Parsley Butter (recipe follows)

1/2 cup Vidalia onion, small dice

2 plum tomatoes, small dice

3/4 cup cooked or canned black beans, drained and rinsed

1-1/2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

2 avocados

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

24 cilantro or parsley leaves, washed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Toast the baguette slices in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until the outside edges are golden brown. Spread each baguette slice with approximately 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic butter. Reserve the toasts until needed.

Combine the onion, tomato, black beans, cilantro, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Peel and core one of the avocados and dice into 1/4-inch pieces. Combine the avocado with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Peel and core the remaining avocado. Slice each half across the meridian into 8 slices. Sprinkle the avocado with the rest of the lime juice to prevent oxidation.Spread 1 heaping teaspoon of the avocado mixture on each crostini. Top with 1 tablespoon of the black bean mixture.

Garnish with an avocado slice and a cilantro or parsley leaf.

Garlic and Parsley Butter

Versatile and delicious, this is a compound butter used in classical French cuisine. The butter holds well, so make enough to enjoy with crostini, or simply on toasted bread as an accompaniment to pasta dishes.

Makes 2 cups / preparation time: 10 minutes

1-1/2 bunches parsley, stems removed

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 pound butter, diced into small cubes, cold

Place the parsley, garlic, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade and pulse until evenly minced and well blended.

Add the cubed butter to the parsley-garlic mixture. Process, scraping down the sides as needed, until the butter is softened and mixture is well blended. The butter should be light green in color.

The butter may be placed into a ramekin, or shaped into a log and rolled in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready for use. The butter can be held for at least a week in the refrigerator, or frozen for several weeks.

Tenderloin of Beefwith Blue Cheese and Herb Crust

Simple and elegant, this dish is a sure winner. Whether serving an intimate dinner for two or a number of guests, the delicious flavors of Madeira and blue cheese are a perfect choice with the beef tenderloin.

Makes 6 servings / preparation time: 30 minutes

3 tablespoons butter, softened

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups beef broth

6 tablespoons Madeira wine

2-1/4 pounds beef tenderloin

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

6 tablespoons blue cheese

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1/4 cup chives, chopped

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the butter and flour together.

Bring the beef broth and Madeira to a boil. Whisk in the butter and flour mixture until completely dissolved. Simmer for about 15–20 minutes, until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half. While the sauce is simmering, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the rack of a roasting pan with nonstick spray and place in the pan.

Slice the tenderloin into 6 portions that are approximately 3 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches thick. Tie butcher’s twine around the beef medallions so they maintain their shape while cooking, if desired.

Combine the breadcrumbs, blue cheese, parsley, chives, and pepper to form a paste.Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Sear the medallions until just browned, 2–3 minutes on each side. Arrange the medallions in a roasting pan. Coat the top side of each medallion with 3 tablespoons of the blue cheese and herb crust.

Roast until the crust is golden brown and the meat is cooked as desired, about 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare, depending on the size of the medallions. If butcher’s twine was used, be sure to remove it. Serve the medallions on a pool of the warm Madeira sauce.


--reviewed by B.J. Shepard

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