About two years ago, Stephanie Izard set out to compile 100 of her favorite recipes, adapted for home cooks—goodies like beef stew, braised chicken thighs, and a maitake-laced green bean casserole. “The hardest thing about writing a cookbook is trying to remember what it is like to not know everything I know about cooking,” says Izard, winner of the fourth season of Top Chef, chef/partner of Girl & the Goat, and now author of Girl in the Kitchen (Chronicle Books, $29.95). So how did Izard, an award-winning chef, go back to the beginning? For starters, she shopped exclusively at Whole Foods, Dominick’s, and local farmers’ markets for easily accessible ingredients. Next she did all recipe testing at home—without a Vitamixer, multiple stoves and ovens, and a kitchen crew to clean up. That’s cool, but more impressive is that Izard invited friends over while she was cooking—civilians, if you will—and had them ask questions every step of the way. That’s how she knew what to address in each recipe—like the best way to shuck oysters or peel pearl onions. Lastly, Izard handed off the recipes to her collaborator, Heather Shouse (Time Out Chicago), for a final “normal person” test run. The result is a cookbook that should make anyone comfortable in the kitchen. The photos by Dan Goldberg are lush, and tips throughout cover techniques, ingredients, and wine or beer pairings for each dish. Izard wants her readers to have fun and even invites them to change up the recipes—just the way a professional chef does.
Photograph: Todd Urban