It's 8 PM and you just got home from work. What's for dinner?
Far from the halcyon Fifties, when a working stiff walked in the door, shouted, "Honey, I'm home!" and sat down to a meal cooked by a stay-at-home spouse, the responsibility for making evening meals has devolved upon Swanson, Dominos, and the food court at the mall. In The Working Stiff Cookbook, Bob Sloan shows us how to take back control over the family dinner.
This cookbook is like a Joy of Cooking for the new age. Like that older cookbook, this one doesn't assume that we know how to stock a pantry or select a good skillet. Instead, Sloan tells us, with several quick essays at the beginning. From the 33 items found in every well-stocked pantry, to the 11 pots and pans and four knives no kitchen should be without, he sets us straight on the basics.
Then he launches into the (mostly) simple, quick-to-prepare recipes. He focuses on main dishes, because "as a Working Stiff myself, I realize you're pushing yourself to the max just getting the entrée together." Having said that, though, he provides some staging tips for side dishes, and includes recipes for complimentary starches, vegetables and even a few desserts.
The cookbook, wire-bound underneath a strong cover, is divided into four encouragingly-titled tabbed sections: Instant, One-Pot, Pasta, and Soups, etc. A typical recipe page under the "Instant" tab, for example, is "Sole in Foil" for two. The three-ingredient recipe for the sole is supported by a side-bar that explains cooking in foil, a footnote that suggests variations in seasoning, and a recipe for Rice Pilaf that can be made while the sole is in the oven. The whole meal takes about 20 minutes to make, including prep time.
"One-Pot" recipes can be as pedestrian as a tuna casserole, or as sophisticated as Sloan's "Paella Rapido." Despite a slightly-daunting list of ingredients (compared with "Sole in Foil," anyway), I was encouraged to try this recipe by the frequent repetition of my favorite recipe phrase: "Open a can of..." The author acknowleges in the sidebar that this will not be exactly like the classic Mediterranean dish made with just-caught fish and shrimp, but I can testify from my own trials that it comes close enough! Prep time is less than 15 minutes, but cooking time after the paella is prepared is 45 minutes.