7) PULL OFF PERFECT PASTA
Michael White, chef and owner of Altamarea Group and author of Classico e Moderno
Avoid gummy, tasteless noodles by following the lead of chef White. First, decide which pasta will pair best with your sauce: “Not every sauce goes with every pasta shape,” White says. “Flat pastas go best with ragùs or any sauce with texture and cream. For stuffed pastas (ravioli, tortellini), stick with butter and sage sauces—anything light that will complement the stuffing. Rigatoni, macaroni, and penne go well with really any sauce.” Resist the urge to simply fill a pot with water and dump in noodles: For 1 pound of pasta (about four servings), add 5 to 6 quarts water. “Not enough water and it will become too starchy,” warns White. “Your pasta needs ample cooking space to move around.” Next, salt the water with a heavy hand: “It should taste like the sea,” says White. Go by the time on the package instructions, and 2 minutes before your pasta is done, reserve ¼ cup of cooking water—this will help loosen up your sauce. Drain and transfer the pasta to a skillet (heated over low heat) with your sauce so the two can finish cooking together. “One old wives’ tale to avoid: Never add oil to pasta water,” warns White—“the sauce won’t stick!”
8) ROAST A CHICKEN
Bill Telepan, chef and owner of Telepan and Telepan Local in New York City
A little foresight goes a long way: Brining the bird overnight is key. “The salt will penetrate the meat so it comes out juicier,” says Telepan. Rinse the bird, pat it dry, lightly salt the skin and the cavity, and keep it in your fridge. When you’re ready to roast, preheat the oven to 425°. Pat the bird dry with a paper towel and season with more salt. (“I don’t like to use pepper—it tends to burn,” says Telepan.) Tie the legs together with kitchen twine, and place the bird on a rack, roasting pan, or cast-iron skillet. “Take a couple of tablespoons of soft butter or olive oil and rub it on the breast to help it brown,” says Telepan. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, basting the breast halfway. To test for doneness, use a small knife to pierce the fattiest part of the leg. If juices run clear, the meat is cooked. If the juices look red or muddled, it needs more time. Once it’s finished cooking, let it rest. “As it cools, the juices start to reabsorb back into the meat,” says Telepan.
9) MAXIMIZE PAN DRIPPINGS
Mark Bittman, New York Times food columnist and author of the forthcoming How to Cook Everything Fast
After you sear a steak, don’t even think about tossing out the flavorful bits left over in the pan. In 3 to 5 minutes, you can have a pan sauce. “The whole idea is that you combine water, wine, or stock with what’s left in the pan after cooking something—usually meat or fish,” says Bittman. To make one, brown whatever you’re cooking so you get a nice caramelization on the bottom of the pan. Once your meat or fish is almost done cooking, remove from the pan and let it rest, then turn the heat to high. “At this point, add some extra seasonings to the pan,” Bittman says. “Butter and shallots are classic, but it could be olive oil and garlic or anything similar.” Then, splash in some liquid and scrape the bottom of the pan until the mixture is uniform and the liquid reduces to a sauce. (For a thicker texture, Bittman recommends whisking in a little butter.) Return the meat or fish to the sauce for a minute or so just to reheat, and you’re done.