Monday, January 17, 2005

Big-flavour sauce, or, less is more

For reasons a little beyond my ken, my quick pasta sauce with sausage is much more flavourful than the beef sauce I make and let simmer for 1.5 hours. The sausage is already seasoned, of course, and downright salty. Something in the way it browns, too, helps greatly - the natural sugars are fantastic.

I should backtrack to state that it isn't really my sauce; it comes from Chatelaine Quickies, which is one of my culinary bibles. Now I need to backtrack again to talk about the book. My friend - let's call her R2D2 - is an amazing creature with an ability to get straight to what is needed at any time. Whereas I love to comparison shop, engage in countless hours of product research, and dither my life away dreaming about cookbooks, cookware and perfume, she has this sickening knack of Getting Things Right The First Time. This irks me daily, because I pride myself on the knowledge I have gained concerning all those things. But her favourite fragrance is now mine, I am jealous of her cookware, which she chose quickly for her bridal registry at The Bay, and her Holy Grail Cookbook is now also my secret weapon, despite the fact that I own over eighty cookbooks and counting.

R2's mother recommended it to her heartily, and at first R2 was skeptical. Quickies is a book that gives you ten quick ways to make a meal out of stuff you have on hand, and thus flew in the face of everything she has been raised to cherish about meal preparation. Like me, R2 is hesitant to give away the tricks up her sleeve until she's drunk. So about a year ago we we well into our cups while my husband and I had dinner at her house. I asked, she spilled. "It taught me how to cook! You have to get it!"

That was all I needed to hear. If it taught the most gifted natural cook I know how to cook, I was so there. I bought the book for a mere $14.95, and I now see what she means. The section on chicken taught me how to saute it properly, and now I'm set. The quinoa pilaf is a new staple side dish. The layout is just plain magical. It gives you ingredients and measurements in red type as it offers cooking instructions. Simple, ridiculously so. Crystal clear.

Not all the recipes are to die for. The sum is not always greater than its parts, particularly when he parts include canned or frozen peas. But most are fine, and some, like the Hearty Red Wine Sauce in the Sausage section, put some fancier and more time-consuming recipes, like my dear old meat sauce, out of business. Perish the thought that an out-of-print book is likely to fall apart in five years, but it may be time to start trolling for a backup copy..