By Rachael Ray
Clarkson Potter. 360 pp. $24.95
Reviewed by Robin Currie, for the Inquirer
First, a confession: I have never been a big Rachael Ray fan. I have always found her, well, annoying. But I was willing to look at her new
Big Orange Book
with an open mind. Rachael refers to this book as "BOB," for
Big Orange Book
, so I will, too.
Well, BOB and I did not get off to a great start. I could not identify the first photograph in the book. What was it? Why did it look like there was raw chicken in it? I was surprised to find other unappetizing photos, as well - rather strange, given the gazillion-dollar Rachael Ray industry. Shouldn't photos of food in cookbooks make your mouth water? Also, many of the titles for the recipes seemed long and over-described. But, still, I thought, it's about the recipes.
The first one I tried was the Cheddar and Chutney Stuffed Chicken Breasts served with BLTP. (BTW, those are bacon, leeks, tomatoes and potatoes.) FYI, Ray really likes abbreviations, in case you didn't know; EVOO; MYOTO (I turned to the Internet to find that it means "make your own takeout"). My guess is she must really like to text, LOL.
The recipe was one of the "30-Minute Meals," but it took more like 50 minutes. It was easy to prepare with simple ingredients found at my local supermarket, and it was like having pub food in your home, perfect for a weeknight dinner. The whole family enjoyed both the chicken and the potatoes.
I should note that there were no instructions for cleaning the leeks in this dish. Leeks are grown in sandy soil and should be soaked in cold water for a proper cleaning (see ehow.com). Gritty leeks could ruin a dish, and I was surprised that BOB didn't give the reader more information. I would also toothpick my stuffed chicken together during cooking so the cheese and chutney stay inside.
Next up was the Smoky Tomato Soup with Mini Grilled Cheese and Bacon Sammies. This healthful soup and the not-so-healthful sandwiches were finished well within 30 minutes. While the cheese-popcorn garnish for the soup seemed like a cute idea, it became soggy very quickly.
I've saved the best for last when I tell you about the Gnocchi with Fresh Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe. It really is delish! The easy-to-prepare store-bought gnocchi with its lemony sauce was the perfect one-bowl dinner of comfort food on a recent snowy weeknight with the family. The only substitution I made was broccolini for the rabe since that was available in my grocery store. I will definitely make this again.
So this book may not be for the real foodie, but it is terrific for the cook who wants to provide a hearty meal in a timely fashion. Me and RR, we'll still never be BFFs, but I think BOB and I may have a future together.
Today we introduce Bookshelf, a new occasional review of a cookbook, with a sample
Makes 4 servings
12-16 ounces fresh or frozen gnocchi
2 bunches of broccoli rabe, stem ends trimmed and coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
11/2 pounds fresh kosher Italian chicken sausage links
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the gnocchi. Once the water is boiling, add some salt, add the gnocchi, and cook according to package directions. Right before draining, remove and reserve about 11/2 cups of the cooking liquid.
While the water for the gnocchi is coming to a boil, bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large high-sided skillet. Add some salt and the broccoli rabe and simmer for 5 minutes; drain and reserve.
Return the skillet to the stove and heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken sausage and break it up with the back of a spoon or a potato masher while it cooks and browns, 6-7 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the sausage and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the onions start to get tender. Remove the sausage and onions from the skillet and reserve.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat it up. Add the drained gnocchi to the skillet and brown lightly for a couple of minutes. Return the sausage and onions and reserved broccoli rabe to the pan. Toss to combine and add the reserved pasta cooking liquid. Turn the heat up to high and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and juice and serve with the bread.
Per serving (without bread):