LAUNCH AT LUNCH: “Blue Jean Chef” Meredith Laurence Cookbook

This book, “Comfortable in the Kitchen” is with no doubt a relaxed, easy-handed approach to everyday cooking. It is all about being comfortable in the kitchen. Inexperienced homecooks are provided the basic (but great) recipes, encouraged to practise the basic techniques, and enjoy the pleasures (and pains too, feeling awkwardness and lots of finished dish imperfections included) of the process of preparing meals. Author Meredith Laurence encourages home cooks to “improvise”, experiment with different ingredients and flavors and really conquer the fear of trying something new in the kitchen. Meredith’s tips and recipe explanations provided makes going into the kitchen relaxed, fun and rewarding thing to do. And when in doubt, just remember Meredith’s fourth rule — “Taste your food before you take it to the table”.Very recognizable (marked with a star) in Comfortable in the Kitchen are Meredith’s Blue Jean Chef favorites and flipping through these pages, it’s impossible not to get tempted to run to the store, buy the ingredients, prepare the dish and get all the excitement and satisfaction of serving truly homecooked meals to family and friends.

“Tested and tested again, and again” Recipes (other than the Basics) include:

Curried Sweet Potato Soup (secret ingredient is orange juice!)

Lemony White Bean Salad (with Feta cheese)

Croque Monsieur and Madame (it’s a sandwich!)

Mango and Jalapeno Nachos (no sogginess, only oozing cheeses)

Fettucine with Tomato Vodka Sauce (without the boozy aftertaste)

Chicken in a Pot (“pot roast” a whole chicken to tender goodness)

Filet Mignon (with blue cheese crust, there’s no need to go to a steakhouse)

Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf (button mushrooms used both inside and out)

Chicken Chipotle Burgers (both stovetop and grill methods)

Swordfish en Papillote (a pretty package to open at the table)

Creamy Spinach Gratin (baked with crumbs and cheese on top, such a treat)

Peach and Toasted Almond Pancakes

Chocolate souffle with Molten Center

Raspberry Cheesecake (really luxurious and rich but a true delight)

Meredith make these Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes. The recipe is included in her book but she posted it too for her wonderful blog readers. Her website iswww.meredithlaurence.com.

 

Many of the recipes include TIP and are really a big help — not too lengthy nor engaging and definitely not a distraction from actual cooking. Here’s one tip (find it below recipe of Asian Shrimp Noodle Soup) that I am most familiar with and do the exact same process to peel and devein shrimp:

“To easily peel shrimp, start peeling from underneath at the legs and peel the shell away from the body. To devein the shrimp, make a shallow slit along the back of the shrimp to reveal the black “vein” or intestine. Simply remove this with the tip of your pairing knife and wipe it on a paper towel”

You can tell that a lot of time went into choosing and preparing the recipes in the book that will appeal to both beginner and seasoned homecooks. The recipes are quite varied and the choices are spot on. Even the recipe titles are not intimidating at all. I was hoping for more cake recipes though, since Meredith began her culinary career as a baker. I did check with Meredith about this absence of baked treats, but she gave no hint yet of a possible baking book in the future.

I asked Meredith (ML) to answer a few questions and she agreed to do an interview.

Q: Please tell us how you got labelled as the “Blue Jean Chef”.

ML: I’ve been known as the Blue Jean Chef for several years now, because I truly believe that people should be as comfortable in the kitchen as they are in their blue jeans. All you need is a little bit of cooking knowledge and some practice and anyone can gain confidence and comfort in cooking. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so we might as well be comfortable, right?

Q: There are lots of behind-the-scenes in publishing a cookbook, what were some of the challenges, and also what surprised you the most upon completion of the book?

ML: Well, every recipe in the book has been tested. Most of them have been tested and tested again… and again. That takes a lot of time and requires a lot of EATING! That was a challenge. Putting all the pieces together, from taking the photographs to designing the book, to selecting the paper quality took a lot of thought. But overall, the process was great and I really enjoyed it.

Q: What’s Blue Jean Chef favorite pizza topping?

ML: One of the pizza recipes from the “Comfortable in the Kitchen” cookbook, the Mushroom Pizza with Lemon, Garlic and Mint has been a long-standing favorite of mine. I do love BBQ pizzas, however, and recently I had a pizza with fresh corn on top which was delicious.

Q: Please tell me your seasonal food favorites or cravings — spring, summer, fall and winter.

ML: In the spring I can’t wait to use all the spring vegetables — garlic, spring onions, asparagus. I want green! In the summer, the BBQ beckons and I like to grill everything I can get my hands on. In the early fall, I’m all about tomatoes. They are so succulent and delicious then that I can’t get enough. By the time winter rolls around, however, I’m looking forward to turning the oven back on for slow cooked braises and stews.

Q: You included an Asian shrimp noodle soup in the book and of course, we Asians thank you for that. But I’m curious if you have dined in an authentic Filipino restaurant and if you have, please tell me the dishes you ordered and your comments.

ML: I haven’t dined in an authentic Filipino restaurant, but I’d love to. I’d welcome suggestions on what best to order! (I told Meredith to try: Mixed Adobo, Pancit, Sinigang, Kare-Kare and Halo-halo for dessert).

Q: How did you end up in QVC?

ML: I was a consultant to QVC once and they invited me back to do a series of educational shows called the “Tuesday Night Cooking Class”. I did five live one hour shows with them. Six months later, they asked me back to represent one of their proprietary lines of cookware. I’ve been doing that for almost ten years now.

Q: What is your favorite meal to make? Eat?

ML: I don’t really have a favorite meal to make because I like to keep things different and changing. I do love anything made with good quality, fresh, seasonal ingredients and love to try new foods.

Q: Name a chef you admire and why.

ML: Jose Garces is my favorite chef in Philadelphia, where I live. He now has eight restaurants in town and I love every one! His food is creative and perfectly executed, and his “front of the house” staff is the most professional in the city. Every experience at his restaurants is perfect. I’ve also always admired Sara Moulton, who has had several television cooking shows and was the executive chef at Gourmet Magazine. Sara’s style of teaching people how to cook has been an inspiration for me.

All in all, I love this book. I can’t recommend this book “Comfortable in the Kitchen” highly enough. For me, it is the most accessible book, a practical modern day recipebook for the casual homecooks. The clearly written recipes are not complicated, doable at home and so easy to get inspired and create own variations.

I read all the recipes and they are all so delicious sounding that I know the dishes will all taste fabulous.

It definitely stays in my kitchen and put to good use — not on my bookshelf collecting dust.

To Meredith: If it makes food tastes even better, I too will be in my blue jeans.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

Meredith Laurence’s Comfortable in the Kitchen cookbook will be launched at noontime in QVC this Sunday, October 31, 2010.

 

About the Author

Meredith Laurence began her culinary career as a baker and caterer for a small independent bistro in Canada called Bistro Delight. She had formal training from the New England Culinary Institute. Her kitchen experiences include: L’Ousteau de Beaumanière and La Cabro D’Or (France), Zuni Café (San Francisco), Café Rouge (Berkeley). Later in her career, she also taught culinary classes at the New England Culinary Institute and manage two HomeChef’s cooking schools in California. She is also a fixture at QVC, doing live television works for a cookware line called Technique by Cook’s Essentials®. She also hosts a half-hour cooking show called The Fretz Kitchen, which can be seen from Virginia through Maine on local cable channels. She is an active member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.

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3 thoughts on “LAUNCH AT LUNCH: “Blue Jean Chef” Meredith Laurence Cookbook

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review « Celebr-EAT-y by Sarah Lee

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