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You Asked For It | Ellen Folkman

Books That Cook: 'Creme Brulee,' 'Glorious One-Pot Meals' and 'Kneadlessly Simple'

TITLE: Creme Brulee by Lou Seibert Pappas (Chronicle Books, $14.95; 95 pages)

Generally speaking: Creme brulee is an impressive finale to a meal. This new single subject cookbook, Creme Brulee, walks you through the process. Don't let a bain-marie that's a water bath — or a handheld blowtorch keep you from making this delicious dish. Interestingly, every recipe serves 6.

For: Creme brulee lovers and people who want to learn to make the creamy dessert with the crackly top. The book includes varieties from sweet to savory.

Recipes: Cappuccino creme brulee, mango creme brulee, bananas foster creme brulee, double chocolate creme brulee, sweet corn-roasted creme brulee, shrimp and tarragon creme brulee, sun-dried tomato and olive creme brulee and classic vanilla bean.

Special equipment: The most essential piece of equipment is a small, handheld kitchen blowtorch used to caramelize the sugar. Although this could probably be done under the broiler, you'll have better control with the handheld torch. The techniques section of the book provides clear instruction. Each recipe calls for flan dishes 5 inches in diameter; however 6-ounce porcelain ramekins will work just as well.

TITLE: Glorious One-Pot Meals by Elizabeth Yarnell (Broadway Books, $17.95; 574 pages)

Generally speaking: One-pot meals are appealing for their ease of preparation and cleanup. The variety of dishes is generally adequate but a bit heavy on chicken.

For: Beginner and veteran cooks alike, and people who want to cook in small quantities. The recipes serve 2, though most can easily be doubled.

Recipes: Pacific island seafood, fiesta steak, California chicken, one-pot Thanksgiving, scallops and sweet potatoes, Greek chicken, springtime paella, sweet and spicy tofu, artichoke and mushroom pasta, curried veggies and macaroni and cheese.

Special equipment: A cast-iron Dutch oven. Every recipe is made in a cast-iron Dutch oven with a lid, and according to author Elizabeth Yarnell, there is no substitute. If you feel you have a suitable substitute for the cast-iron pot, make sure it is oven-proof since many of the dishes are finished there.

TITLE: Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads by Nancy Baggett (Wiley Publishing, $24.95; 210 pages)

Generally Speaking: Kneadlessly Simple makes it easy to enjoy freshly baked bread. Some recipes may require ingredients that are not stocked in your pantry such as coarse salt or caraway seeds. Read the label on that packet of yeast in your cabinet to make sure it's not past its prime.

For: Cooks looking for a slightly quicker way to make bread. Although there is less kneading called for than in other recipes, the process is still involved, with two risings and sometimes a variety of baking times. Some are high-maintenance recipes. The good news is some recipes can rise in the refrigerator under an "extended rise" for up to 24 hours.

Recipes: Easy buttermilk pot bread with coarse salt, cheddar and chilies bread, simple streusel coffee cake, French walnut bread, pull-apart butter top rolls, easy oat bread, double chocolate honey bread, cinnamon pinwheel raisin bread, English muffin loaves, and hearty caraway beer bread.

Ellen Folkman's cookbook review column appears monthly.

>>difficult

Mango Creme Brulee

¾ cup diced fresh mango

1 ¾ cups heavy (whipping) cream

6 large egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar, plus 6 tablespoons for topping

2 tablespoons dark rum

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Lime wedges for garnish

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a blender, puree the mango with ½ cup of the cream.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in color. Whisk in the 1/3 cup sugar until dissolved. Whisk in the mango puree, the remaining 1 ¼ cups cream, the rum and the lime juice.

Place six standard size flan dishes in a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Pour warm water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of each custard still jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and lift the dishes from the hot water. Let cool briefly, then refrigerate 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, place the dishes on baking sheet and evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over each custard. Using a handheld blowtorch, caramelize the sugar. Serve each dish with a lime wedge.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Creme Brulee by Lou Seibert Pappas (Chronicle Books, $14.95)

>>easy

California Chicken

Nonstick spray

½ cup couscous

½ cup water

½ to ¾ pound chicken breasts or thighs

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into strips

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges

½ cup small pitted ripe olives, sliced

1 firm-ripe avocado, sliced or cubed

1 small onion, diced

1 teaspoon celery salt

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly coat the inside and lid of a cast-iron Dutch oven with nonstick spray.

Pour the couscous into the pot. Add ½ cup water and stir to make an even layer of the grains. Arrange the chicken on top of the couscous and season lightly with pepper. Add the bell pepper, tomatoes and olives in separate layers, and again season lightly with pepper. Layer the avocado on top of everything.

In a small bowl, combine the onion, celery salt, marjoram, basil, sherry and lemon juice and distribute over the ingredients in the pot.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes, or until 3 minutes after the aroma of a fully cooked meal escapes the oven. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Source: Glorious One-Pot Meals by Elizabeth Yarnell (Broadway Books, $17.95)

Books That Cook: 'Creme Brulee,' 'Glorious One-Pot Meals' and 'Kneadlessly Simple' 02/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 3:30am]

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