Ever wondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that's perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it? How to make homemade mac 'n' cheese that is as satisfyingly gooey and velvety-smooth as the blue box stuff, but far tastier?Read more...
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Ever wondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that's perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it? How to make homemade mac 'n' cheese that is as satisfyingly gooey and velvety-smooth as the blue box stuff, but far tastier? How to roast a succulent, moist turkey (forget about brining )--and use a foolproof method that works every time?
As Serious Eats's culinary nerd-in-residence, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has pondered all these questions and more. In The Food Lab, Kenji focuses on the science behind beloved American dishes, delving into the interactions between heat, energy, and molecules that create great food. Kenji shows that often, conventional methods don't work that well, and home cooks can achieve far better results using new--but simple--techniques. In hundreds of easy-to-make recipes with over 1,000 full-color images, you will find out how to make foolproof Hollandaise sauce in just two minutes, how to transform one simple tomato sauce into a half dozen dishes, how to make the crispiest, creamiest potato casserole ever conceived, and much more.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-07-20
- Reviewer: Staff
The managing culinary director of the Serious Eats website, editor, and author of the James Beard Award–nominated column that informs this massive investigation into the best methods for preparing a litany of foods, Lopez-Alt takes a deep dive into classic recipes and their best preparation methods. Lopez-Alt’s experience as test cook and editor at Cook’s Illustrated magazine clearly comes in handy, as he recounts the many steps he took in order to determine the best way to pan-sear a steak, whip up a quick tomato soup, scramble an egg or make the best French fries. Though he’s hardly the first to tackle the topic of a more scientific approach to cooking—the ghosts of Cook’s Illustrated, Harold McGee, and Alton Brown loom large— for the most part he deftly manages to hold the reader’s interest and educate without devolving into arcane ingredients or overly complicated instructions. Yes, there are sous-vide cheeseburgers, and his four-step process for cooking steak fries will test many a relationship, but helpful tips on pan-searing a steak (frequent flipping is fine, and might even be the best way), taking the armwork out of risotto, and whipping up a flavor-rich homemade chicken stock in under an hour are genuinely informative and sure to help home cooks of all skill levels. Lopez-Alt’s writing style is friendly and informative; he’s genuinely interested in his material, and that enthusiasm shines through. Given the book’s breadth and depth, this is a remarkable piece of work that stands up to its culinary comrades, and is a terrific starting point for home cooks interested in perfecting their techniques. (Sept.)
Cooking: Gourmet gifts galore
If there’s a super-serious cook on your holiday gift list, NOPI: The Cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully’s ode to their latest restaurant in London’s West End, should be your pick. Though this is restaurant food—complex dishes designed to be made by a team of pros—the recipes here have been somewhat simplified so that the courageous home cook can take on the challenge and serve up a reasonable facsimile of a NOPI creation. Just make sure your lucky giftee invites you over for Scallops with Corn and Merguez Salsa and Sorrel Sauce or Baked Blue Cheese Cake with Pickled Beets and Honey.
Curious cooks will be thrilled with J. Kenji López-Alt’s The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. An MIT-trained nerd with a passion for food (a ferd?), López-Alt believes that only by understanding the scientific principles that underlie what ingredients do when exposed to different techniques will you become a freer, more fluent cook. This may be serious food science, but with more than 300 recipes and 1,000 step-by-step photos seasoned with the author’s charm, wit and clear, patient explanations, it’s revelatory fun.
For lovers of la cucina Italiana, Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine promises to serve up “everything you need to know to be a great Italian cook.” And matriarch Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, keep their word. With 400 recipes from appetizers to desserts, plus in-depth info on Italian ingredients and cooking techniques, this is her most comprehensive Italian cookbook yet and the book every Lidia fan should have.
Drawn to the more exotic? Yearning for crunchy, fragrant Fried Sesame Pork Tenderloin or lightly sauced Kung Pao Chicken as it’s served in Sichuan? Then Kian Lam Kho’s lusciously illustrated Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees is just right. He has organized the book by cooking methods, rather than by region or ingredient, giving you the gastronomic essentials you need to master these exquisitely varied Chinese dishes—for everyday meals or for more elaborate feasts.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
Hartwood is a trip—a glorious culinary adventure to the edge of the Yucatán jungle and the delicious edge of contemporary cuisine. Eric Werner and Mya Henry left their restaurant jobs in Manhattan to follow a dream that turned into a restaurant open to the tropical night, serving their unique take on dazzling, wood-fueled, Mexican-infused dishes. Beautifully photographed and compellingly written, Hartwood is their celebration of the “love project” they’ve created. You can make and savor these 88 recipes (almost all the ingredients are obtainable in the U.S.) or you can luxuriate in armchair cooking and dream along with Werner and Henry.