In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Review - Dinner: Changing the Game

Written by Chef Donna Desfor | Mar 3, 2017 9:00 AM


Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark.  Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Our Summary:

Who hasn't asked the age-old question, "what to make for dinner?" and then begrudgingly cook the same-old-same-old wishing they had more choices, and possibly more time to cook.  Open the pages of Melissa Clark's Dinner and you find the answers you've been waiting for.  Over 200 new recipes that have the range and the ease of changing up dinner just about every night of the year.  Organized by ingredient you need know little more than what you are hungry for, or maybe even just what you have on hand.  Without laborious introductions or instructions on what to do in your own kitchen, you simply begin and, Dinner is served.

What you need to know:

Get it:  Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark. Photographs by Eric Wolfinger Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, March 7, 2017, Hardcover $35.00 (Amazon $20.82; Kindle $18.99)

See it:  400 pages with vividly sharp color photographs of most of the recipes; an exceptional table of contents organized by main ingredient - including proteins, grains, pastas, eggs, pizzas, soups, vegetables, salads, and dips and spreads, which includes crackers and biscuits and a cornbread, to pair with your meals - with both bold and italic typesetting to help you quickly find what you are looking for.  There is a thorough and easy to use index listing the recipes multiple times under the primary ingredients. 

Make it:  Over 200 all-new, one-pot or one-dish/bowl meals with suggestions for sides from the book, and helpful and instructional tips in the headnotes. To hear more about our community's experiences with recipes from this cookbook, please tune in to Now That's a Mouthful - WITF's food and cooking podcast.

Our Review:

If you know who Melissa Clark is you're already curious.  If you don't, you need only read the first page of her new book, Dinner, to realize she's on to something.  Most of us have changed the way we eat.  Still, every day we ask "what to have for dinner?" we're beholden to the idea of a meat (or protein) and two sides.  Instead of eating what we're really hungry for, we're cooking up "what we think a proper meal should be."

Dinner encourages you to stop.  Think about what you're really hungry for.  If you're like most contemporary families it's probably a bold combination of tastes and textures, but you can't break out of the routine of what you always cook.  This is where Clark excels.  Her book is overflowing with choices - each a one-pot, one dish or bowl, amalgam of flavor.  That all the recipes rate high in flavor and most are doable on any given weeknight means you might not pick up another cookbook for a very long while.

Clark is a realist, though.  She encourages you to rethink your pantry staples, which isn't so hard to do, especially if you're already a home-cook that likes to try different recipes.  You probably already stock a variety of vinegars, some Asian ingredients, Sriracha and a handful of seasonings.  Other than finding a few exotics, like Za'atar (a Middle Eastern spice and herb blend), you're not starting from scratch.  Still, you're likely to resist the idea that Roasted Sausage & Cauliflower with Cumin and Turkish Pepper or Fresh Corn Cakes with Tomatoes and Fried Sage - without something more - could be dinner.  Why not? Why not embrace the idea that Thai-Style Mussels with Coconut Lemongrass or Cumin-Chicken Meatballs with Green Chile Sauce is simply enough. 

You'll have to scan the table of contents at the beginning of the book to narrow down your choices; each section does not lead off with its own.  But the table of contents is detailed with bold- and italic- typesetting to key you into the main ingredients and the component pieces.  If you have the time to flip through Dinner section by section, you're likely to find something that looks appealing.  This book is realistically photographed in vivid, sharp color to whet your appetite.  And while not every recipe is pictured, you'll be forgiving because the recipe names are picturesque enough. 

Dinner is practical and useable.  Once you start cooking from this hefty volume you'll find a new stride at dinnertime.  Clark suggests the first time you make her Cacio e Pepe with Asparagus and Peas it might take a full 30 minutes.  The next time, 25 minutes, and by the third time, she says it will take you exactly 2 minutes longer than it took the pasta to cook.  A gamble most home-cooks should be willing to make.  Give Dinner more than just a sporting try, and you may find cooking a meal one of the most satisfying moments of your day, or so Clark hopes.  That she offers a nearly endless variety of meals puts you back in charge of your kitchen and changes up your game.

Published in In witfs Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

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