4) POACH AN EGG
Greg Marchand, Paris chef and author of the cookbook Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking
“A poached egg is much healthier than a fried one and much more pleasurable to eat,” says Marchand. “But you must follow a few very important rules.” Use the freshest eggs you can find—“as the egg gets old, the white begins to liquefy”—and make sure they’re at or close to room temperature when they hit the water. “Otherwise, the egg will stay too cold.” Bring a pot of water to a simmer (not a boil) and add a dash of white wine vinegar, but no salt: “It will break the egg,” Marchand says, “but vinegar will help it stay nice and round.” Carefully crack the egg into a small ramekin or bowl, making sure not to break the yolk, “then take a whisk and create a whirlpool before pouring in the egg.” Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes and use a slotted spoon to transfer the egg to a paper towel. Serve on salads, in soups, or with a piece of toast and a drizzle of olive oil.
5) DO GUAC THE RIGHT WAY
Ivy Stark, executive chef of Dos Caminos in New York City and author of the new Dos Caminos Tacos
This beloved dip is all about texture: creamy but still a tad chunky. The best way to achieve that? Perfectly ripe avocados. Three things to look for: “Always choose one that has shiny, pebbly dark skin and a stem intact, and yields slightly to gentle pressure,” says Stark. To make a batch, use the back of a spoon to mash 1 tbsp chopped cilantro, 1 tsp finely chopped white onion, 1 tsp minced jalapeño, and ½ tsp salt in a bowl. “You want the ingredients to become a paste so that they release their oils,” Stark says. Add 2 ripe avocados and gently mash with a fork until chunky-smooth. Fold in another 1 tbsp chopped cilantro, 1 tsp finely chopped white onion, and 1 tsp minced jalapeño, then stir in 2 tbsp finely chopped tomatoes (cored and seeded), and 2 tsp lime juice and adjust salt. “Salt is really important here to develop the flavor,” Stark says. If you want to cut back, she recommends an extra squeeze of lime for more zing.
6) MAKE A MIXED GREEN SALAD
Curtis Stone, celebrity chef and executive chef and owner of Maude L.A.
Sounds easy enough, but perfecting a simple salad can actually be tricky. “Think about a mix of textures and flavors,” says Stone. “You want something crunchy like romaine, something peppery like arugula, and maybe something frizzy like frisee.” Then wash your greens and properly dry them—“a waterlogged salad looks sad!” says Stone—with the help of a salad spinner. “The key to any salad is not to dress or toss it with other ingredients until you’re ready to serve it, or else the textures collapse,” says Stone. “Have your lettuces and toppings prepped and your vinaigrette made, but wait to combine them.” As for toppings, Stone opts for nuts (toasted walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts) and homemade croutons. Memorize a back-pocket basic vinaigrette: Stone prefers equal parts vinegar to oil for “a real sharpness.” He adds: “Always toss your vinaigrette into your greens and not the other way around to avoid overdoing it.”