What’s in a cooking repertoire? Is it basics, like how to make rice and a go-to method for roasting chicken? Is it your family’s classics, like a plum cake or the roast a cousin makes on Christmas Eve? Is it a collection of durable, flexible recipes that might be the last you ever need? I’ve been thinking about this since getting Jessica Battiliana’s first cookbook, Repertoire, this spring. I loved the concept immediately: the recipes she relies on most — not demanding but rewarding; not fancy, but special. There are recipes for parmesan chicken cutlets, meatballs, and a simplified eggplant parmesan; chicken tortilla soup, pretzel rolls, and corn fritters. There’s a recipe for the thing that most quickly went into my repertoire — a negroni (although I made it boulevardier-style) and potato chips (spoiler: they’re from a bag) — and birthday cakes too. But it was this candy pork that I couldn’t forget about, and I’m so glad I chose it, well, second.
[I wondered what my cooking repertoire would look like but realized with 1200 recipes in the archives and 105 in each of my cookbooks, it’s probably a little late for that, as I could never choose, although I did my best here.]
Battilana is a food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle but also works on cookbooks, such as the incredible Vietnamese Home Cooking book (we made the pho here) from Charles Phan. From Phan, she learned about Vietnamese-style caramel sauces laced with Thai chilies, ginger, garlic, and shallots. At his restaurant, The Slanted Door, it’s applied to clay-pot chicken but in Repertoire it’s used to braise chunks of pork shoulder and it’s one of the best things I’ve made this year. [Her kids call it candy pork because kids know: nobody can resist candy.]
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