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Food52 Cook in the Blank: The Fun, Freewheeling Game Plan That Takes You from Zero to Dinner: A Cookbook

The Fun, Freewheeling Game Plan That Takes You from Zero to Dinner: A Cookbook

Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs

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Cook in the Blank is the quick, easy way to cook everything from sheet-pan dinners to slow-cooker favorites with help from the pros at Food52. 20 fill-in-the-blank recipe templates spark creativity and nudge you out of ruts, paving the way for clever, easy-to-love meals that you can make your own, from chili to burgers to sheet-pan chicken. Take inspiration from whatever's in your pantry, whatever you're craving, or whatever your dining companions shout out to fill in each blank. These foolproof formulas will add up to happy bellies and lots of brand-new dinner ideas.

We're Food52, and we've created a groundbreaking kitchen and home destination. Founded in 2009 by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs—two authors, editors, and opinionated home cooks who formerly worked for the New York Times—we support, connect, and celebrate home cooks, and give them everything they need in one place. That includes smart and entertaining stories about cooking and home, over 60,000 recipes, a cooking hotline, a suite of cookbooks, a shop with everything from stunning tabletop goods to the trustiest pan, and a community of talented and curious home cooks. Oh, and we've won many a James Beard and IACP award doing it.


Seitenzahl 128
Erscheinungsdatum 30.10.2018
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-525-57445-3
Reihe Food52 Works
Verlag Random House N.Y.
Maße (L/B/H) 25,9/16,8/2 cm
Gewicht 499 g


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  • Welcome to Cook in the Blank

    Whether you’re a by-the-books cook who measures life in teaspoons or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants chef who chops now and thinks later, you’re probably going to eat dinner tonight. There are times for illustrious feasts and times for takeout—and then there are all the nights in between. Nights when you’re eager to use up whatever’s kicking around your crisper, nights when you’re on the hook for feeding your potluck or book club. Not to mention nights when it’s too cold or too late to leave the house . . . or when it’s Monday.

    Cook in the Blank is for all those nights. Dinnertime can be an adventure, and now you get to design your own. The twenty recipes that follow lay the groundwork for effortless cooking, giving you a little structure where you need it and a world of freedom everywhere else. Leaf through, and you’ll see something akin to recipes, save for the gaps peppered throughout each set of instructions. Those aren’t typos—they’re invitations for you to ad lib, interchange, give in to whims, and let inspiration (or necessity) take over. Fill them in as you see fit, and voilà—you’ve put together a fully functional recipe that is completely yours. You’ll find each recipe three times, so that you can try a few different spins or share them around.

    Use these templates to become your own mealtime hero, or play them as a game with your kids, spouse, roommate, or zany neighbor. The results are likely to be both delicious and fun. These are meals that you can fearlessly adapt to your mood and pantry, that you can juggle when there are a dozen other items on your to-do list. Maybe, for you, this sounds like a pot of soup. Or burgers. Or a frittata. As it turns out, you don’t need to be a seasoned home cook or pro chef to cook without a recipe. You just need a little inspiration (and like eating).

    Cook in the Blank is playful, forgiving, and subject to all your wacky whims. Within these pages, you’ll find the guardrails for bold experimentation—as well as permission to put dinner on cruise control. Either way, you’ve got this. 

    How to Play

    Fill in the blanks. Grab a pencil—or a pen, if you’re feeling bold—and cobble together a game plan, one blank at a time. (At a loss? Peep the sample on the next page to help break  the ice.)

    Use what you have. The first step to making dinner easier is what’s in front of you. If you’ve got a container of leftovers or a new ingredient you’re excited to use, spin the rest off that. Otherwise, peruse your pantry to see what you can pull together before you book it to the grocery store. 

    Cook what you like. Your kitchen, your rules. The best meals come from what you like best, so stock up on spices that smell wonderful, produce that calls out to you, whatever looks good at the butcher or fishmonger. 

    Crowdsource it. Poll your family and friends fto fill the blanks. Welcome special requests, or let your little ones choose the menu for a night. 

    Pick a theme and run with it. If you’re looking for structure or guidance—stick with a cuisine (say, cumin, chiles, and black beans for something Mexican-influenced), a mood (stick-to-your-ribs, light-and-bright), or even a color or a season. 

    Look to the Hints and Winks. On the back of each recipe you’ll find a slew of ideas, from practical to silly, for all the components of your next meal. Use them as a springboard for filling in the blanks, but also . . .

    . . . Go off script. If you have an idea but don’t see it in the suggestions, go rogue. Can’t decide which protein or grain to use? Go with a combo!

    Take notes along the way. If you’ve tried something and struck gold, write it down so you remember it. There’s a blank section on the back of each template where you can scrawl your lessons, hopes, and dreams. Consider it a down payment on future dinners.

    Our cooking victories are meant to be shared and nurtured, so when you hit on something you love, invite it to stay in your kitchen. Tear it out of the book to file away with your other back-pocket dinners, pass it along at your next recipe swap, or send a copy off to your mom or best friend. Let Cook in the Blank inspire you to try something you’ve never had before. Who knows, you just might pave the path to your next famous chili, salad, roast chicken—or fill-in-the-blank! 

    YIELD: As many (or as few) servings as you’d like!

    EGGS BAKED IN ______

    1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease ______OVENPROOF VESSEL(S)______ with ________COOKING FAT________ .

    2. Figure 1 or 2 eggs per serving. For every serving, put a little less than a cup of __Scrumptious Cushy Bed__ in the dish. You can sneak a slice of ____BREAD PRODUCT____ beneath this mess and even top it off with some ________WOW FACTOR________ , as long as the eggs have somewhere to make a soft landing while they bake.

    3. With the back of your spoon, make little divots and crack an egg inside each, followed by a pinch each of salt and pepper. If you’re feeling lush, top with dribs and drabs of _____SOMETHING RICH______ , a sprinkle of ___SOMETHING THAT’LL GET CRISPY___ , or a shower of _____GRATED HARD CHEESE______ . 

    4. Bake until the egg whites are opaque and the yolks are still a little jiggly, 8 to 10 minutes. Kick up your heels and eat it right away, or top it with ____A LIL SOMETHING EXTRA____ .



    • mashed potatoes

    • caramelized onions

    • sautéed or creamed greens

    • ratatouille

    • cooked lentils or beans

    • cooked grits

    • Really Easy Tomato Sauce


    • individual ramekins (one per serving)

    • cast-iron skillet

    • casserole dish


    • olive oil

    • butter

    • pork or bacon fat


    • English muffin

    • challah

    • brioche

    • whole-grain bread


    • sliced ham

    • goat cheese

    • ricotta

    • Brie

    • Greek yogurt seasoned with spices


    • heavy cream

    • olive oil

    • gold leaf


    • panko

    • bread crumbs


    • Parmesan or pecorino

    • Cheddar


    • hollandaise

    • chopped fresh herbs

    • more of your Wow Factor from earlier

    Whip it up 


    Heat 3 tablespoons oil or butter in a saucepan. Add a handful of chopped onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the onion is soft. Add some minced garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes, and/or tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste is toasty and it’s all smelling good. Dump in a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook until the bubbles start to slow down. (This makes enough for 2 servings, but can easily be doubled or tripled.)

    Notes to your future self






    YIELD: 4 servings


    1. If you’re baking your tenders, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. (If you’re pan-frying, skip all this and hold tight till step 4.)

    2. Cut about 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1¼-inch-wide strips. Stick them in a zip-top bag with ___YOU’RE FAVORITE MARINADE___ and set aside to marinate for about 30 minutes. Or don’t—you’re the boss of you!

    3. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine a cup or so of all-purpose flour with a two-finger pinch of salt and a tablespoon or two of __________SPICES__________ . In another wide, shallow bowl, beat 2 eggs. Grab a third bowl and fill it with 2 cups fine bread crumbs or cornmeal. Add a fistful of ________SWANKY EXTRAS________ , if the spirit moves you. 

    4. If you’re pan-frying the chicken, now’s the time to pour enough ________COOKING OIL________ into a large, heavy skillet to fill the bottom. Set the pan over medium-high heat and let the oil get shimmery. Line a plate with paper towels.

    5. Dredge each piece of chicken through the flour, dip into the eggs, and finally coat evenly with the bread crumbs. Arrange the coated pieces on the prepared baking sheet or in the hot skillet in a noncrowded fashion and cook until each piece is deep golden all over, 6 to 8 minutes per side in the oven, 2 to 3 minutes per side on the stove. If you’re frying the tenders, transfer them to a towel-lined plate to drain.

    6. Dunk the chicken in __________SOME TASTY DIP__________ and enjoy, accompanied by _____YOUR FAVORITE ’90S SITCOM_____ .



    • panko

    • cornmeal

    • crushed potato chips

    • coconut

    • sesame seeds


    • soy sauce with sliced ginger

    • buttermilk

    • red pepper flakes with lime

    • something with hot sauce


    • black pepper

    • cayenne pepper

    • ground cumin

    • smoked paprika

    • chili or curry powder

    • za’atar


    • shredded unsweetened coconut

    • grated Parmesan or pecorino

    • sesame seeds

    • furikake


    • olive, canola, or coconut


    • honey mustard

    • barbecue sauce

    • herbed mayo

    • sriracha ketchup

    • blue cheese dip


    • Murphy Brown

    • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

    • Full House

    • The Nanny 



    Combine the seasoned flour from step 3 with a little less than 1 cup water or buttermilk. Swipe the chicken through this mixture until it’s completely coated, then get right to frying.

    Notes to your future self






    Yield: 8 burgers

    ____________PROTEIN____________ BURGERS WITH _______BELLS & WHISTLES_______ 

    1. Start with 2 pounds (give or take) raw _________PROTEIN_________ (this should be enough for 8 burgers). If it isn’t already ground, cut it down into small, evenly sized pieces and stick it in the fridge for an hour. If it’s ground, skip ahead to step 3! (And if your protein is a veggie burger, fast forward to step 4.)

    2. Transfer the chilled meat to your food processor, either on its own or with some minced or grated ___________ALLIUMS___________ , a two-finger pinch of ____________SPICES____________ , and maybe a couple tablespoons of _________SOMETHING ZINGY_________ . Pulse until the meat is well chopped but not pasty.

    3. Stick the meat in a large bowl and leave it ally shape the meat into patties the size of your palm, about 8 of them. Make a dimple in the center of each with the pad of your thumb and rain salt and pepper over both, or add some chopped _______FRESH HERBS_______ and an enthusiastic shake of _________SAUCE_________ sauce. If the meat’s on the leaner side, add ______SOMETHING RICH & MELTY______ to keep it tender. If you’re feeling fancy, add some crumbled _______CRUMBLY CHEESE_______ .

    4. Coax everything together with a spatula—don’t overwork it—then coy

    5. Set a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and get it very hot, then add the patties (don’t crowd them) and cook them, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 minutes per side—this’ll leave a center that’s pink, not red, and a burger that feels springy, not soft. Once that’s done, top your patties with a slice of _______ANY OTHER CHEESE_______ and let them sit in quiet repose while you toast some _________FANCY BUNS_________ .

    6. Lavish the inside of each bun with ____YOUR FAVORITE CONDIMENTS____ and add a burger, a dainty amount of ______ROUGHAGE______ , and ______BELLS & WHISTLES______ . 



    • beef

    • turkey

    • pork

    • lamb

    • shrimp

    • salmon

    • Veggie Burgers


    • white, red, or yellow onion

    • garlic


    • red pepper flakes

    • ground cumin

    • smoked paprika

    • fennel seeds


    • minced lemongrass or ginger

    • minced chile

    • capers


    • tarragon

    • mint

    • cilantro

    • parsley


    • barbecue

    • Worcestershire

    • soy

    • fish

    • hot


    • an egg

    • a couple tablespoons of grated butter

    • mayonnaise


    • feta

    • blue cheese

    • goat cheese

    • cotija


    • American

    • Cheddar

    • Swiss

    • Gouda or Gruyère

    • pepper Jack

    • Brie


    • challah or brioche

    • pretzel or potato roll

    • ciabatta

    • sesame seed bun


    • mayo (flavored with sriracha, canned chipotles, or fresh herbs)

    • barbecue sauce

    • pesto

    • hoisin sauce

    • peanut butter (yes!)


    • sliced tomato or cucumbers

    • iceberg or romaine lettuce

    • arugula

    • watercress


    • sliced avocado

    • cooked bacon slices

    • fried egg

    • onion rings

    • sautéed mushrooms

    • potato chips

    Whip it up 

    VEGGIE burgers

    Combine about 2 cups lentils or beans (cooked or canned) with 1 or 2 eggs (real or flax), ½ cup bread crumbs, and your favorite spices, herbs, or condiments. If you’ve got leftover cooked rice or grains, you can throw in up to ½ cup; a cup or so of grated or finely chopped raw vegetables will be right at home, too. Pulse in a food processor until everything is incorporated and coarsely chopped. Then start at step 4.

    Notes to your future self






    Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    FAMOUS ____________PROTEIN____________ BEAN CHILI

    1. Coat the bottom of a big stockpot with ____________FAT___________ and set it over medium heat. Add about 1 cup diced onions, 1 cup diced _______VEGETABLES IN YOUR CRISPER______ , a diced _________TYPE OF PEPPER________ pepper or two, plus minced garlic, if you have it, and season the vegetables with salt. Cook, stirring, until softened.

    2. Add a smattering of _________NON-CHILI SPICES________ , followed by two or three times that amount of assorted ground chiles and/or chili powders (because: this is chili!).

    3. Pour in 1–2 cans ____YOUR FAVORITE TYPE OF CANNED TOMATO___ , a couple cans of _________TYPE OF BEAN________ (drained and rinsed), and about a can’s worth of ___________LIQUID__________. If you’re looking for a protein boost, add _________BONUS PROTEIN________ now. 

    4. Half cover your pot with a lid (like the pot’s winking at you!) and simmer for about an hour, until most of the liquid has evaporated, leaving behind a thick, rib-sticking stew. You can use your spoon to coarsely mash the vegetables until they’re the way you want them. 

    5. Spice as needed, then eat: over a scoop of _______COOKED GRAINS/MUSH______ , wrapped in or plopped on a _______BREADY PRODUCT______ or just straight up with a _________UTENSIL________ .



    • kidney

    • black

    • white

    • chickpeas


    • olive, canola, or coconut oil

    • butter

    • pork or bacon fat


    • celery

    • carrots

    • leeks


    • any combination of bell (red! green! yellow!) and hot (jalapeño, serrano, bird’s-eye)


    • ground cumin, coriander, or turmeric

    • smoked paprika

    • dried oregano


    • diced

    • fire-roasted

    • chopped San Marzanos


    • water

    • stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef)


    • chopped fresh or thawed frozen tofu

    • tempeh

    • cooked ground meat


    • rice

    • farro

    • polenta

    • orzo


    • flour tortilla

    • bun of sorts

    • fleet of chips


    • spoon

    • fork

    • spork



    Stir any extra chili into your favorite macaroni and cheese, pile it onto french fries and top with cheese, or make it into a chili burrito creation with avocado, shredded lettuce, and (yep, you guessed it) cheese. 

    Notes to your future self