Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-09-19
- Reviewer: Staff
Noted food writer Ruhlman showcases his vast culinary knowledge for both novices and experienced cooks in this in-depth look at the fundamentals of cooking. He explores the most basic of basics that serve as the foundation for all other techniques from using salt, onions, and eggs to sautéing, roasting, and braising. He devotes a chapter to 20 fundamentals and includes recipes and gorgeous full-color photographs that illustrate the technique being utilized. While these techniques may seem obvious, such as the chapter on water, Ruhlman convincingly shows that there’s more involved than simply throwing it in a pan and explains the nuances of direct and indirect cooking, cooling and freezing, and extracting flavor. The dishes he includes are absolutely scrumptious from weekday coq au vin, butter-poached shrimp with grits, and sausage and escarole soup. Additional topics covered include using acid, butter, batter, sugar, and sauce as well as vinaigrettes, soups, and dough. While Ruhlman does explain a bit of the science involved in these techniques, he is far from dry; instead, his writing is engaging and relaxed, and he achieves the perfect balance of science and art. Thorough, clearly explained, and stunningly beautiful, this collection will appeal to cooks of all levels and will find its way to nightstands as well as kitchen shelves. (Oct.)
Gourmet gifts galore: Part 1
With the exuberance of zucchini in August, this holiday season’s crop of gorgeous, giftable cookbooks, from both beloved perennials and a few new kids on the culinary block, are starting to arrive. Take your pick!
The Momofuku phenomenon took a sweet turn when founding father David Chang hired Christina Tosi to be pastry chef and dean of desserts. Her playful, creative take on confections fit right in with the signature “in-your-face” flavors favored in the wildly inventive ethos of the Momo-sphere. In Momofuku Milk Bar, Tosi retells the story of desserts in her own unique voice, with her own special cravings as the main characters. The MMB repertoire is built on 10 “mother recipes,” like the traditional “mother sauces” in French cuisine. Her famed Cereal Milk™ becomes the basis of the divine Sweet Corn Cereal Milk™ Ice Cream Pie; Liquid Cheesecake, an homage to the No-Bake Jell-O cheesecake of her youth, is used in a Carrot Layer Cake that will knock your socks off. And on it goes—fabulous fun for foodies with a sweet tooth.
Michael Ruhlman revels in thinking about cooking and in encouraging his readers to, in effect, use their noodles as they cook their noodles. In his lavishly produced new tome, Ruhlman’s Twenty, he describes, with lots of color photos, the 20 fundamental techniques that “all cooks, regardless of their skill or station, need and use,” starting with “Think.” Many of these techniques are also ingredients that serve as cooking tools with multiple uses. And understanding what they can do “is like pumping steroids into your cooking muscles.” The 100 recipes here allow you to flex these amped-up muscles as you turn out superb variations on classic themes, from homey Mac and Cheese with Soubise to Pan-Roasted Cod with Chorizo Vinaigrette.
TOP PICK in COOKBOOKS
The subtitle of The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià is not an oxymoron. “The world’s best chef” fed the staff of his legendary elBulli real, un-deconstructed food, with nary a wisp of foam. You’ll find simple, deceptively elegant recipes for 31 three-course meals here, presented with Adrià’s peerless attention to detail. I’ve never seen cooking directions like these—each menu is prefaced with an “organizing the menu” timeline, ingredients are listed with quantities for two, six, 20 and 75 servings, then each separate instruction is superimposed over a photograph of what you should be doing. Nothing is left to chance, whether it’s slicing a fresh fish filet, caramelizing pears or blending olive oil into aioli. It’s manna from the maestro for home cooks, both novice and notable.