Emeril 20-40-60: Fresh Food Fast

By Emeril Lagasse

Published by HarperCollins Canada 2009, $32.99; softcover, 257 pages

Emeril Lagasse has kicked up fast food quite a few notches here with his latest book, which focuses on dishes you can cook up in, yes, 20, 40 and 60 minutes.

The beauty of it all is that you are cooking something fresh and tasty, rather than digging into another bucket of chicken or tearing out a slice of takeout pizza. Even deli food doesn’t ever compare to something home-made because, quite frankly, who knows how long ago it was made.

Lagasse doesn’t take a lot of space yakking about non-essentials. The book is primarily one recipe after another and most sound pretty darn good and pretty easy to pull off. The recipes that take an hour require the time mostly for cooking, not for prep, so you can take care of all those millions of other things on your to-do list while dinner simmers.

I made the Oven-Crispy French Fries with Paprika-Parmesan Salt tonight and served them with lemon/roast tomato mayo as a side to roast salmon with braised greens. Delicous! I used a Creole seasoning mix I had in the pantry for the potatoes instead of  Emeril’s Original Essence. Sounds like a perfume, but it is actually one of countless Emeril products available on the market, though to give the man credit, he does provide a recipe for the mix, which I’ll include below. He calls for it in a lot of the recipes, so you know you are in for kicky flavour when it’s among the ingredients.

Starters, soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta, rice and beans, veggies, seafood, poultry, meat and desserts all get the Emeril treatment. Among those that sound tantalizing: Sweet Pea Soup using fresh or frozen peas with lemon, mint and spinach; Fish Tacos with Black Bean Salsa; Spicy Pork Stirfry with Green Beans; Potato and Turkey Hot Dog Soup with Herbs, okay, maybe not company fare but the kids will love it; Shrimp and Zucchini Fritters with Roasted Red Pepper Mayo; Spicy Pork Wraps with Creamy Coleslaw; Bacon Braised Green Beans; Crispy Pan Roasted Chicken with Thyme Butter; Glazed Radishes, an unusual side dish; Country Fried Steak with White Gravy, a southern comfort food; and Emeril’s New-Style Caldo Verde. None are particularly difficult and all promise big flavour.

Here are some recipes from the book, including the Emeril spice mix.

EMERIL’S CREOLE SEASONING

2 1/2 tbsps. paprika

2 tbsps. salt

2 tbsps. garlic powder

1 tbsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 tbsp. onion powder

1 tbsp. cayenne pepper

1 tbsp. dried oregano

1 tbsp. dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Makes 2/3 cup.

OVEN-CRISPY FRENCH FRIES WITH PAPRIKA-PARMESAN SALT

2 large baking potatoes, about 1 1/2 lbs., scrubbed well

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp. Emeril’s Essence or Creole Seasoning

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tbsp. sweet paprika

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Pat potatoes dry and cut them lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Turn each side flat and slice again legthwise into even 1/2-inch thick fries. Place potatoes in a mixing bowl and add olive oil, Essence and 1/4 tsp. salt. Toss well to combine. Transfer fries to large baking sheet and arrange them in one even layer so that they are not touching. Roast, scraping the potatoes from the baking sheet with metal spatula and turning them over halfway through, until golden brown and crispy, 30 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, combine the cheese, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt in a small bowl and stir to blend.

When potatoes are crisp and brown, remove them from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle potatoes with the paprika-parmesan salt, and serve hot. Serves 4-6.

From Emeril’s 20-40-60