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Cookbook review

‘All About Roasting’ by Molly Stevens

QUENTIN BACON

Molly Stevens includes recipes for poultry, vegetables, and tender cuts of meat ideal for roasting in her latest cookbook.

Fine Cooking magazine contributing editor and New England resident Molly Stevens rocked the cookbook world seven years ago with her first book, “All About Braising.’’ Books dedicated to technique (apart from grilling) are relatively few, and Stevens’s book was a novelty. But it was also punctiliously written, attractively packaged, and full of flavorful, one-pot recipes. Within a month it had earned one of the coveted spots on my kitchen shelves. Within a year it had taken home awards from both International Association of Cooking Professionals and James Beard.

Stevens’s new volume, “All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art,’’ looks to capitalize on the same strengths as its predecessor: global flavors, in-depth essays, and eminently doable weeknight meals. It may not convey the same shock of discovery that “All About Braising’’ did, but that’s principally because so little is required here. When roasting, dry heat and basic seasonings pretty much get you to a fine finished product.

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As far as red meat goes, Stevens concentrates on the tender cuts ideal for roasting. Unlike the fibrous cuts that were brought to melting transformation in the braising book, these cuts demand minimalist treatment, and that is what they get. Among the most conventional recipes is roast lamb loin chops, which come out rosy in the centers, though not with the golden searing one gets under the broiler or atop the grill. For that, you need “sear-roasting,’’ a stovetop-to-oven technique Stevens employs to good effect in her orange and thyme-rubbed sear-roasted pork tenderloin.

In contrast to these meaty roasts, a multitude of poultry recipes demonstrate that there’s more to roasting a chicken than just popping the bird in a pan. Garlicky chicken thighs roast up with skins of pure gold, inflected with lemon and herbs. A gingery roast chicken springs to life with tomatoes and elbow macaroni bathed richly in the pan juices. For tandoori chicken drumsticks, Stevens pairs the traditional spiced yogurt marinade with charred onions, whose crusted, smoky sweetness pay back with interest what they borrow from the spice mix.

But it is the vegetable section that makes “All About Roasting’’ new, different, and worth $35. Everybody roasts vegetables these days, and understandably so - even if you add nothing but oil, salt, and pepper, it’s an easy preparation and far tastier than the steaming and boiling we all grew up with. But Stevens’s book clearly shows that with just a little ingenuity and a handful of ingredients, you can end up with vegetables that are even better, dishes that routinely steal the show.

Quick roasted green beans and shallots with garlic and ginger juice live up to their name, with the shallots contributing a welcome contrast of textures and a vehicle for the seasonings. Capers and lemony brown butter banish all trace of skunkiness from Brussels sprouts, leaving them as bright and savory as a vegetarian veal piccata. And that old standby, roast potatoes, becomes alluring Sunday supper fare with the help of a glaze of mustard that miraculously evolves into a crunchy crust.

The book’s final section concerns fruit, which raises that existential question: If you call it “roasted’’ (as opposed to “baked) does it still count as dessert? Maple-roasted apples with candied nuts tastes like an indulgence, so I say yes. (My kids disagreed.)

A few months ago, I asked the author what might come next, finding myself at a loss to name another technique so ripe for explication. Stevens had no answer, assuring me only that it wouldn’t be “All About Boiling.’’

Fair enough. Whatever it may be, I hope the wait is not too long.

T. Susan Chang can be reached at admin@tsusanchang.com.
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