How to Roast — Off the Shelf
Michael Ruhlman's newest cookbook, How to Roast, is here to bring the magic back to holiday cooking. Slated to be the first in a series of technique-specific cookbooks, How to Roast takes you through the history of and variations on roasting, one of the oldest forms of cooking. The book reads easily, laced with Ruhlman's signature wit and humor, and his efficient approach to cooking translates nicely here. He gives you all the information you want without making you feel like he’s telling you too much, or taking too much of your time. It’s beautifully concise while remaining descriptive enough to whet your appetite for roasting.
The book starts with an introduction that lays out a quick history of roasting, then jumps right into chapters on The Basics, The Recipes, and Equipment and Tools. The Basics covers the technical side of roasting, from what Ruhlman means when he says “high heat” versus “medium heat” to various kinds of specialty roasting, like spit roasting and smoke roasting. Then you move on to The Recipes, a chapter that includes iconic dishes like Roasted Chicken and includes step-by-step tutorials for skills that are a little more complicated, like how to properly truss that chicken up before you pop it in the oven. But Ruhlman doesn’t stick solely to the classics. You’ll find recipes for roasted dishes that range from Roasted Shellfish with Tarragon and Thyme Broth to Broccoli with Garlic to Roasted Tomato Sauce. He even sidles up to the sweeter side of the technique with dishes like Roasted Peaches with Creme Fraiche and Mint (recipe below for you to try at home).
The book is full of wonderful tricks and tips that you can use in your everyday cooking, tips like:
- When given the choice to roast meat (or fish) with the bones or without, always roast on the bone.
- Basting not only flavors the meat, but it also helps it to cook uniformly. My go-to baste for red meat is simply butter with a bunch of thyme and a few smashed garlic cloves; the butter takes on the flavor of the thyme and garlic as it browns.
- Because green vegetables have so much moisture in them, always roast at high heat and use convection if you have it.
- When you’re pan roasting, it’s best to use a side towel, rather than an awkward potholder, to retrieve the pan; leave that towel on the pan’s handle anytime it’s out of the oven so no one mistakenly grabs it and gets burned.
- Roasting potatoes in animal fat (as opposed to vegetable oil) enhances their flavor and makes them especially crispy.
Each dish has a place on your table, whether it be for special occasions or weeknight meals, and the skills and understanding of roasting as a process that you will glean from the book will make you a better overall home cook. You can order your copy of How to Roast right here.
2 large peaches or 4 small peaches, peeled or unpeeled (as you prefer), pitted, and quartered
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F/220 degrees C (or 400 degrees F/200 degrees C if you have convection).
Sprinkle the peaches all over with sugar as you would season meat with salt. In a heavy, ovenproof skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, put the peaches in the pan with one of the cut sides down. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Tip the peaches onto the other cut side and continue to cook until they’re nicely browned, another 5 minutes or so (if you leave them in the oven too long they’ll be too mushy).
Divide the peaches between four bowls. Put a quenelle, or dollop, of creme fraiche on top of each, squeeze a little lime juice over the bowls, and garnish with the mint chiffonade. Serve immediately.
Photo credit: Donna Turner Ruhlman. Recipe reprinted with permission, courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.