5 Classic Recipes To Master Before Spring

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Baby, it’s cold outside. Chances are you’re spending a lot of time indoors. Why not make it worthwhile? Sharpen your knives, switch on your oven and master a few classic dishes. Heck, throw on an apron if you want to live dangerously. From an all-star roast chicken to rich chocolate mousse, these five recipes will bring out your inner Julia Child.

RELATED: Try This Roast Chicken In A Simple Crust Tonight!

All-Star Roast Chicken

Everyone's got opinions when it comes to roasting a bird. We polled some of our favorite chefs for tips and rolled their collective advice together to create the ultimate, all-star roast chicken.

Start with a good bird. All our chefs agree — buy the best chicken you can find, naturally raised, no antibiotics, never frozen, medium size (3.5 lbs is ideal). "Four Story Hill Farm is the best," says Michael Tusk of Quince in S.F.

Brine and stuff it like Ethan Stowell. Prolific Seattle restaurateur Stowell recommends a basic brine of 1 cup salt to 1 gallon water, 1 bulb of garlic cut in half, 4 bay leaves, 1 bunch of thyme, and the peel of 1 lemon. Boil it all together and then cool, then submerge the chicken overnight.

"Stuffing the cavity is crucial, because it seasons the bird from the inside out," says Stowell. "I do a lemon and bulb of garlic, each cut in half, with some thyme and bay leaf."

Season it like Justin Smillie. Smillie, chef at NYC's Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, makes an herb paste with harissa spices, oregano, parsley, and lemon zest, which he rubs all over the chicken and then lets dry on the skin.

Baste it like Waxman. "Baste it like hell every five to ten minutes!" says the king of roast chickens, Jonathan Waxman of NYC's Barbuto.

End it hot like Hugh Acheson. "Most people play the high to low temperature game," says the chef from Five & Ten in Athens, GA. "But I start at 325 degrees then finish at 400 degrees. My logic is I want the fat to render into the meat as slowly as possible."

Sauce it like Andrew Carmellini. Roast your chicken atop a bed of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, green olives, and rosemary seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. Afterwards, make a sauce right in the pan; hit it with store-bought stock and "a little Banyuls vinegar to brighten it up," like the chef of NYC's The Dutch and Lafayette does.

Click here for a step-by-step recipe!
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Chicken Stock

No matter what form your chicken soup takes, the foundation of one that has you coming back for seconds is always a rich and lip-smackingly soulful stock. And, a smart way to make your own is from chicken bones. Yes, already cooked chicken bones, the ones you usually trash before doing the dishes. They could be from a chicken roasted for Sunday supper, from a rotisserie chicken or the picked-clean bones from fried chicken takeout.

The key to pulling out as much flavor as possible is to slowly simmer the boned-up stock for a good long time — an hour is a must, two to three hours not unheard of. To store for later divide among a few zipper-lock freezer bags, seal three-quarters closed, and then carefully push any extra air out before sealing completely. Freeze flat on a baking sheet and stockpile in a nice, tidy stack.

Click here for the step-by-step recipe!
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Prime Rib

Let us now praise that great behemoth of beef, the rosy-hued, well-marbled, wide-as-a-tree-trunk holiday hero-maker, prime rib. First, the bad news: Prime rib — often called a standing rib roast and sold by the number of bones you desire — is not cheap. And, it's not quick. But, it's an investment of effort and resources that pays great dividends in meaty joy.

"When I see it on the table I know it's a party and a special occasion," says Michael Symon.

And, getting a big joint ready to carve at the table is easy — especially if you follow our golden rules of roasting.

Spend
"Are you going to buy your best Christmas present at the dollar store? Probably not," says Brent Young, butcher and partner at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "Go to a real butcher, ask where the meat came from, and trust your eye." Look for dry-aged meat with good fat.

Salt
"Salt overnight," advises Symon. "That allows the salt to permeate the meat and break down the cell structure making it more tender."

Sear
"Brown the roast on the outside first," says Erika Nakamura of Lindy & Grundy, a butcher shop in L.A. "Turn the oven up to high heat for 20 to 30 minutes, and then drop the temperature to cook slowly."

Sustain
"Cook it low and slow," suggests Cosmo Goss of Chicago's Publican Quality Meats. You're looking to reach an internal temperature of 125 for rare or 130 for medium.

Stand By
Sit on your hands. Pace. Pour another drink. Whatever you need to do, just make sure you let the meat sit for at least 30 minutes after roasting. "The greatest thing about roasts is they're impossible to emulate in a restaurant," says Marco Canora of NYC's Hearth. "You have to do this at home, and you have to wait. But, when you're making gravy from those deep, dark brown drippings that come off of it, it's worth it."

Click here for the step-by-step recipe!
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Mac & Cheese

A nub of Stilton here, a Gouda rind there. Party's over. Your cheese plate's been destroyed. But, don't toss out those glorious odds and ends. René Redzepi has his "trash cooking" at Noma. We salvage cheese leftovers and transform them into leftover gold.

Mac and cheese is a cheese-hoarder's delight — and it's easy. Start by melting butter and flour (a roux in Frenchytalk), whisk in some warm milk until it thickens (oh hello, béchamel), add the rumps and remains of whatever cheese you've got left in your fridge, and you've got what culinary school instructors call a Mornay sauce (feeling fancy yet?).

Then you just fold in some good quality cooked pasta — preferably something with a ridged or rough edge to hold the sauce well. Our bare-bones version has sharp cheddar, but the idea is to use what you've got. Go wild with your wedges. Fontina and Gruyère melt well, but you can throw in P'tit Basque, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano and that luxurious Vacherin Mont d'Or (which you should never waste anyway). Soft, semisoft, hard — use everything but the hard rinds.

Blue cheese works too, in moderation — a combination of sharp and mild is a safer bet. Pair Taleggio with Humboldt Fog, or Roquefort with Gruyère. Now that you've got your base, it's time to start thinking upgrades. A fragrant bouquet garni, a shot of hot sauce, a hit of mustard powder, bacon crumbles, an array of pasta shapes, and maybe even a topping of crisp brioche breadcrumbs.

Click here for the step-by-step recipe!
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Dark Chocolate Mousse With Earl Grey

Unless you've tasted chocolate with Michel Richart, it's possible you haven't really tasted chocolate. At least you probably haven't tried it with Roquefort cheese or foie gras. The French chocolatier, whose family has been making the confection since 1925, recently led us through a sampling of his new chocolate and savory macaron collections, inspired by the flavors of the Périgord region: foie gras, black truffles, and the famous blue cheese.

"The taste you get from chocolate is personal," Richart advises. "You should try to put into words what you're tasting." Some of the words we have for his creations aren't fit for a family publication. Suffice it to say, we would be happy eating chocolate and foie gras all day, every day. One practical takeaway — Richart urged us to never, ever (ever!) refrigerate chocolate: The chill will keep you from experiencing all of its flavors.

While we had our hands on the adorable Frenchman, we asked him to make that ever-so-classic dessert of chocolate mousse. His version infuses earl grey tea into heavy cream; to make the finished mousse, the chocolatier gamely rolled up his sleeves and whisked egg whites into soft peaks by hand — no small task.

Although it's obvious Richart takes his craft seriously — from personally crafting the beautiful, modern designs atop each truffle to sourcing the best regional French ingredients — he says his reason for making chocolate is quite simple: "To make people happy." Judging by the reactions his mousse got around the Test Kitchen, it seems to be working.

Click here for the step-by-step recipe!

NEXT: Make Your Own Hot Sauce — Here's How!

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