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‘Cooking for Two’ focuses on perfect portions

Wed., April 30, 2014

Chicken mole from “Cooking For Two.” (Adriana Janovich)
Chicken mole from “Cooking For Two.” (Adriana Janovich)

Quick Look: Just in time for wedding season, this bible for couples’ cooking helps two-person households limit leftovers, curb kitchen waste and prepare perfectly portioned and delicious dishes. Make dinners, desserts, breakfasts and other entrées for two, not the typical four to six servings.

What’s Inside: The 650 tested recipes in this comprehensive collection come from what is perhaps America’s most trusted brand for home cooking. A hundred are labeled light; 150 can be made within 30 minutes. And some fall into both categories.

America’s Test Kitchen has scaled back big-batch classics like Maryland Crab Cakes, Shrimp and Grits, New England Clam Chowder, Chicken Piccata and Simple Currant Cream Scones to fit small households. It also offers elegance: Sautéed Pork Chops with Pears and Blue Cheese, Lemon-Herb Cod with Crispy Garlic Potatoes, and Zucchini, Tomato and Ricotta Tarts. Recipes are divided into 17 chapters, including one devoted entirely to grilling. Another covers slow-cooking.

The introduction discusses the basics of cooking for two people, such as how to shop for and store food smarter – rolling and freezing strips of bacon for future use, for example. It also offers suggestions for emergency substitutions, leftover usage and kitchen essentials.

There are recipes for burgers, sandwiches, soups and stews as well as ethnically inspired dishes like Chicken Mole, Pork Vindaloo, Chicken Tagine and Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives. Other recipes are Italian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Greek or French. Each comes with America’s Test Kitchen signature “Why This Recipe Works” explanation. The “Notes from the Test Kitchen” sections are particularly helpful, covering everything from working with avocados, yeast and Asian noodles to the merits of fresh versus supermarket mozzarella, safely handling chicken and cooking with wine.

This packed volume would make a great wedding gift. Of course, it works for any combination of two people, not only newlyweds.

What’s Not: Other than the title page photo of Free-Form Summer Fruit Tartlets, there are no full-page pictures in this book. The food photography is gorgeous, but pictures are rather small, typically tucked into corners and covering up to a quarter of the page.

Chicken Mole

Rich, dark and spicy, mole is a signature sauce in Mexican cooking. There are all kinds of variations, using different combinations of seeds, nuts, dried fruits and chilies.

The Oaxacan black mole that chef Rick Bayless made at a White House state dinner in 2010 included more than 20 ingredients, including pecans, peanuts, almonds, tomatillos and a banana.

This version – with peanut butter, chili powder, toasted sesame seeds, raisins and chipotle chilies – is pretty easy to make, as long as you take care not to burn the chocolate and spices. The chocolate counteracts the heat of the chilies in this thick sauce, which isn’t as complicated or intimidating as the gourmet version Bayless created but still offers depth of flavor.

Geared for two, there won’t be any leftovers. But it’s so delicious, you might want some.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 small onion, chopped fine

1/2 ounce bittersweet, semisweet or Mexican chocolate, chopped coarse

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch ground cloves

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/4 cups chicken broth

1 tomato, cored, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted, plus extra for serving

Salt and pepper


2 (12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, skin removed, trimmed and – if desired – brined

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in chocolate, chili powder, chipotle, cinnamon and cloves; cook, stirring frequently, until spices are fragrant and chocolate is melted and bubbly, about 1 minute. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, tomato, raisins, peanut butter and sesame seeds. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to about 1 ¾ cups, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer sauce to blender and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Place chicken, skinned side down, in 8-inch square baking dish and pour pureed sauce over top, turning chicken to coat evenly. Bake chicken for 20 minutes. Flip chicken skinned side up and continue to bake until chicken registers 160 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes. Let chicken rest in sauce for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with extra sesame seeds and serve.

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