Happy Tuesday, all! I’m writing to encourage you (at my lovely publisher’s request) to pre-order my new book FROM SCRATCH: 10 Meals, 175 Recipes (and all you can learn from those 10 meals). It’s out next week and I’m very excited about it! If you’re interested in the Cassoulet Flow Chart, from my publisher send in this form (photo of said chart on this page as well). Cassoulet is meal #6 (best ways to cook beans, making your own sausage, confiting duck legs, curing ventrêche (French-style salt-cured belly). It’s a cool chart my publisher made to thank people for pre-ordering.

The Story of the New Book

From Scratch came about while I was writing a completely different cookbook, thinking about one of my favorite meals, roast chicken, and all you can learn from it (how to make a stock, and then any stock, how to make a pan jus, how to make gravy, a refined sauce fines herbes, various sides that go with it).

And I recalled the long ago BLT From Scratch Challenge. How great was that?! Everyone agreeing to make their own bread, make their own mayonnaise, grow their own lettuce and tomatoes, and cure their own bacon. None of it particularly difficult, and a blast if you like to cook. I went back to the winners entry, and remembered 9-year-old Emma Kate, who once again brought me to tears with her story (sadly, the post is cached without pix). And I tell this story in my introduction. So Emma Kate, who with her father, Walter, made a BLT from scratch, bringing father and daughter and family and friends together with a simple sandwich.

And so, thinking of that great challenge and all the people who took it up lead me to wonder aloud (lying in bed one Sunday reading The Times), “What other meals can you learn from?” My wife Ann, stepping into the shower, shouted out “Lasagna!”

Yes, I thought! How to make pasta dough! A variety of tomato sauces. How to make your own ricotta, and even mozzarella! And also Bolognese sauce and Béchamel! And other pasta dishes. There’s even an offshoot recipe for the cleanest, most refreshing Bloody Mary you can make.

And so the book began. Image at top is the table of contents and the ten meals I chose to represent all of cooking.

What does “From Scratch,” really mean?

To me it means only this: you made the meal yourself. You didn’t buy it and reheat it or have it delivered. Is popcorn made on the stove top in a pot with melted better “from scratch” if you didn’t make the butter yourself? Of course it is. 

For lasagna, if you roll your own pasta, make your own sauce from tomatoes you grew, include sausage you seasoned yourself and add ricotta and mozzarella you also made? That is SERIOUSLY from scratch. But so is my pal Blake’s version—and he uses jarred sauce, frozen spinach and cottage cheese (seriously, Blake, cottage cheese?)—he calls it “from scratch” and in my opinion it definitely is. Why? Because he cooks everything, assembles it and bakes it, filling the house with great smells and sharing a delicious homemade lasagna with his beloved wife and daughter.

He cooked his own food. That what From Scratch means to me.

And this is what From Scratch looks like:

Emma Kate Smith, in 2009 with her BLT from scratch, made with her father Walter. (I tracked her down on Facebook. She’s now a college student and still cooking she told me.) Thank you both! I owe this book to you and your dad.