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Books

Tom’s Cookbook Library: ‘Dinner for Everyone’ embraces choices

“Dinner for Everyone” (Clarkson Potter), the 21st cookbook by prolific writer Mark Bittman, recently was released, and it’s a dandy.

The premise of his latest undertaking is to connect cooks with 100 iconic dishes, and to suggest three levels of relevant meals in each category: quick and easy; vegan; and perfect for company.

For example, the cacciatore dinner category options are Drumstick Cacciatore (see accompanying recipe), a tasty take on an Italian-inspired classic; Hearty Vegetable Cacciatore, a flavorful legume alternative; and Rabbit Cacciatore, an all-out take on hunter’s stew. Note that the estimated prep time is 30 minutes for the first version, about one hour for the second, and at least 10 hours (largely unattended) for the company version.

The same format applies to the remaining categories from dumplings, tacos and cassoulet to gumbo, Thai curry and stroganoff, among others.

Bittman’s hefty book comes interleaved with more than 100, luscious-looking food photos by Aya Brackett.

In a brief introduction, the author encourages his readers to be open-minded about exploring new ways to interpret old standbys.

“I take advantage – you should too – of the wide range of cuisines, techniques and ingredients now available everywhere,” Bittman said.

Journalist Tom Witom, who lives in Elgin, has written extensively for years about food and the food industry. Feedback on the column can be sent to editorial@kcchronicle.com.

Drumstick Cacciatore

Takes 30 minutes and makes four servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 pounds)

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dried sage (or dried oregano or thyme)

1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes, or to taste

1 pound small button mushrooms, trimmed but left whole

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Adjust the heat so it sizzles without burning, and cook, undisturbed, until it’s browned and releases easily from the pan, 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the tomato paste and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add 1-and-a-half cups water, the sage, red chile flakes and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork until smooth.

Turn the chicken when it’s browned on one side and releases easily, after about 5 minutes. Scatter the mushrooms and garlic onto the hot fat.

Pour the hot sauce over the chicken and vegetables, then shake the pan once or twice to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, so it bubbles steadily without splattering.

Cook uncovered, carefully shaking the pan a couple times more, until the chicken is just separating from the bone, about 20 minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve.

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