Words by Lucy Baker | Simon Hopkinson is dismayed by the current state of mustard. Specifically, of "the half-used jar of very good, expensive Dijon mustard that has lived on that warm kitchen shelf forever—and yet is still in use. I have been known to throw other people's mustard away... This simply won't do."
In truth, Hopkinson is less upset about wasted condiments than he is about what they stand for: our collective trepidation in the kitchen, our growing reliance on prepared foods, and our impatience when it comes to cooking a traditional meal. Hence, we buy a pricey jar of French mustard, add a teaspoon or two to a recipe we make once, and then forget about the mustard entirely, in favor of can't-be-bothered take-out dinners.
It should come as no surprise then, that his first cookbook, the smashingly successful Roast Chicken and Other Stories, was named "the most useful cookbook of all time" by the British magazine Waitrose Food Illustrated. Above all else, Hopkinson wants us to actually cook his recipes, as opposed to just "idly turning the pages...until the microwave pings."
This week's Cook the Book selection is Second Helpings of Roast Chicken. As in his previous title, Hopkinson has divided his chapters by "favorite ingredients"—from beets to linguine, oysters to tarragon, pancakes to Roquefort cheese—and offers a trio of recipes for each. Though Hopkinson is himself British (and a co-owner of Bibendum, one of London's most illustrious restaurants), many of the dishes in his new book are inspired by the exotic, such as an Armenian rice pilaf flavored with green chilies, saffron, and pistachios.
Much as Hopkinson might want us to keep Second Helpings of Roast Chicken in the kitchen, I must admit that for the past week (ever since I got a copy) my book has been on my bedside table. Quite simply, he is a brilliant, droll writer. Consider his musings on salt: "To be told that I was never to use salt in cooking ever again would remove the very essence of the joy of eating. I might as well give it all up and secure a job selling ties at Harrods."
I guess the answer is to follow the advice of Lord Birkett, who penned the foreword, and read the entire thing cover to cover, then go back and start cooking.
Win 'Second Helpings of Roast Chicken'
In addition to excerpting a recipe from Simon Hopkinson's new book each day this week (plus a sixth in our weekly Recipes Newsletter—sign up here), we're giving away five copies. To enter for a chance to win, simply answer this question in the comments section below: What is the one ingredient you cook with most often, and what is the one that always goes bad before you can use it up?
Five (5) people will be chosen at random from eligible comments below. Comments will close Monday, November 10 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.