Lasagna. French toast. Roast chicken. Sauteed vegetables. Tuna casserole. Rice pilaf.
No matter who taught you how to cook or when you started to learn, we all have a set of dishes that are our culinary foundation. But just because you have a really great recipe for chicken soup doesn’t mean you know how to make shredded pork tacos, and it might not have occurred to you that the process for making scalloped potatoes is the same for making scalloped sweet potatoes.
These are the kinds of lessons former “Next Food Network Star” contestant Kelsey Nixon shares in her debut cookbook, “Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything” (Clarkson Potter), which is inspired by her Cooking Channel show, “Kelsey’s Essentials.”
Nixon covers basic cooking techniques, including stir-frying and pan-roasting, and then shares slightly evolved versions of the basic recipe and lots of tips for combining whatever you have in your pantry with these universal cooking methods. The teaching approach will appeal to seasoned and new cooks alike, even if you’re well versed in the kitchen.
Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
From “Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything,” by Kelsey Nixon (Clarkson Potter, $19.99).
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) Gruyere cheese, shredded
HEAT oven to 375 degrees.
MELT the butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cream, broth and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Add half of the sweet potato slices in a flat layer, then half of the cheese, then the remaining sweet potatoes. Bring to a simmer; do not stir. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 5 minutes longer. Top with the remaining cheese and transfer the skillet to the oven.
BAKE until bubbling and the surface begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 6 servings.