“Just Cook It! 145 Built-to-be-Easy Recipes That Are Totally Delicious” by Justin Chapple, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 288 pages, hardcover

If you’re looking for a Father’s Day gift for a dad who likes to cook, you can’t go wrong with Justin Chapple’s cookbook, “Just Cook It! 145 Built-to-be-Easy Recipes That Are Totally Delicious.”

As deputy test kitchen editor at Food & Wine and host of the video series “Mad Genius Tips,” Chapple often must take recipes developed by superstar chefs and simplify them for the home cook. He says he has become quite the expert at knowing when “you really have to sift the flour or peel the tomatoes and when it’s okay to skip that step.” And, as one of six siblings in a family without much money but who “lived sensibly,” he learned how people really cook at home and how to make food more affordable.

Side Dish: Recipe for Peel-&-Eat Shrimp with Green Chile Butter

“Because I’m a nostalgic person, I’ve filled this book with reinventions of my childhood favorites as well as faster versions of the classic dishes — Caesar salad, beef bourguignon, lasagna — so many of us crave,” Chapple writes in the book’s introduction.

He opens his book with ingredients to stock your pantry just like his, nothing too exotic unless you consider Asian fish sauce or a jar of hearts of palm novel. He also offers a list of basic kitchen tools that can do double duty and includes answers to some basic cooking questions like how to make the easiest crisp bacon (baked in the oven at 400 F on a foil-lined baking sheet) and how to steam white rice.

Recipes are divided into nine chapters beginning with simple, make-ahead party foods and snacks like crudités and baked chicken wings. His chapter on breakfast and brunch foods begins with a primer and step-by-step photographs on how to poach eggs. There are recipes for soups and stews; salads and vegetables; pasta and grains, such as Grandma’s Chili Mac; seafood; meat and poultry like free-form chicken enchilada stacks and classic meat loaf sandwiches; desserts (his chocolate-peanut pie looks enticing); and condiments and sauces like speedy preserved lemons and all-purpose buttermilk ranch.

The book is filled with lots of gorgeous full-color photos, but not all the recipes are illustrated.

This fun-to-read cookbook is a good choice for anyone wanting to learn foolproof, easy cooking methods.


Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at sonnierfood@gmail.com, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.