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Books That Cook: 'Best Skillet Recipes,' 'Pillsbury Fast Slow Cooker' and 'The Vineyard Cookbook'

TITLE: The Best Skillet Recipes, by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated (Cook's Illustrated, $35, 368 pages)

Generally speaking: Like other cookbooks from the editors of America's Test Kitchen, this is full of techniques and helpful illustrations. On the downside, this book is very wordy and sometimes it's hard to get to the meat of the directions.

For: Fans of Cook's Illustrated magazine and previous America's Test Kitchen cookbooks. There is a lot of variety in this cookbook. Everything from pasta to pad Thai, all made in a skillet.

Recipes: Baked ziti with sausage, spinach and Gouda strata, orange honey-glazed chicken breasts, cornmeal fried fish and succotash, garlicky pan-roasted broccoli with lemon browned butter and smothered pork chops.

Special equipment: A skillet! That's all that's needed for most recipes, making cleanup easy.

TITLE: Pillsbury Fast Slow Cooker Cookbook (Wiley Publishing, $19.95, 208 pages)

Generally speaking: Slow cooker usually means convenience. Put all the ingredients in before leaving for work and voila! dinner is ready when you get home. Many of the recipes take more than eight hours to complete and some take 10 or more. Planning is key, but these dishes can fit nicely in a busy schedule.

For: Beginner and seasoned cooks alike. This cookbook can work with small and large families; servings range from 2 to 12.

Recipes: Barbecued pork chops for two, honey Dijon ham, Italian bean and pasta soup, apple-walnut stuffing, rosemary beef with noodles, Moroccan chicken stew, biscuit chicken pot pie and turkey with cornmeal-thyme dumplings.

Special equipment: Slow cookers in various sizes. Sizes to prepare these recipes include 1 ½ quarts, 2 to 3 quarts, 3 ½ to 4 quarts and 3 ½ to 6 quarts.

TITLE: The Vineyard Cookbook: Seasonal Recipes & Wine Pairings Inspired by America's Vineyards, by Barbara Scott Goodman (Welcome Books, $24.95, 160 pages)

Generally Speaking: The 12 multicourse menus, complete with wine pairing choices, make entertaining easy. Each menu is organized by season, and mixing and matching is part of the fun. Lots of fresh ingredients are used, and the recipes are very flavorful.

For: Those entertaining more at home these days. The book also will appeal to oenophiles; wineries from all over the country are represented.

Recipes: Lobster, corn and tomato salad, lemon-fennel olives, ricotta and prosciutto crostini, salmon steaks in orange-lime marinade, grilled sirloin steak with port marinade, risotto with broccoli rabe and Parmesan cheese, and shrimp with garlic-chili mayonnaise.

>>easy

Tortilla Casserole

1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

Salt and ground black pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 medium onion, minced

6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed

2-4 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 can (10 ounces) Ro-Tel tomatoes

8 ounces tortilla chips, broken into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups, divided use)

8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided use

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (1 lime)

Adjust broiler rack to 5 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Carefully lay the chicken breasts down in the skillet and cook until lightly browned on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet; return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chipotles and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and tomatoes with their juice, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a simmer.

Stir in half the tortilla chips. Nestle the browned chicken into the skillet, cover and cook over medium-low heat until the thickest part of the breast registers 160 to 165 on an instant read thermometer, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a carving board. When the chicken is cool enough, shred it into bite-sized pieces.

Return the shredded chicken to the skillet and stir in half the Cheddar, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro and the lime juice. Stir in the remaining tortilla chips until moistened.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Broil the casserole until the cheese is melted and golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes and sprinkle with the remaining cilantro before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: The Best Skillet Recipes, by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated (Cook's Illustrated, $35, 355 pages)

>>moderate

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Dinner

Cooking spray

1 pound unpeeled small potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cups ready-to-eat baby cut carrots

1 cup frozen small whole onions (from a 1-pound bag), thawed

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 jar (12 ounces) chicken gravy

1 ½ cups frozen sweet peas, thawed

Spray a 3- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place potatoes, carrots and onions in slow cooker. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper; place over vegetables. Pour gravy over top.

Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 10 hours.

Stir in peas. Increase heat setting to high. Cover; cook about 15 minutes longer or until peas are tender.

Tip: Place the peas in the refrigerator to thaw when you start the slow cooker in the morning. They'll be ready to add at the end of the cook time.

Serves: 6 (1 ½ cups each)

Source: Pillsbury Fast Slow Cooker Cookbook (Wiley Publishing, $19.95, 207 pages)

>>easy

Ginger-Soy Chicken Wings

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons dry sake

1 tablespoon honey

2 scallions, trimmed and minced

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

1 tablespoon finely minced ginger

1 small chili, trimmed and finely minced, OR ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 pounds chicken wings, wingtips removed, drumettes and wings separated

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, sake, honey, scallions, garlic, ginger and chili together. Put the chicken wings in a large, non-reactive baking dish and pour the marinade over them. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Turn the wings occasionally in the marinade.

Preheat the broiler. Remove the wings from the marinade and arrange them in one layer in a baking dish or broiler pan lined with aluminum foil. The pan should be 6 to 8 inches from the heat. Cook for about 10 minutes on each side, remove from heat. Sprinkle wings with sesame seeds and serve within 30 minutes.

Serves 6.

Source: The Vineyard Cookbook: Seasonal Recipes and Wine Pairings Inspired by America's Vineyards, by Barbara Scott Goodman (Welcome Books, $24.95, 159 pages)

Books That Cook: 'Best Skillet Recipes,' 'Pillsbury Fast Slow Cooker' and 'The Vineyard Cookbook' 03/31/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 4:30am]

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