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hansjoakim

Cookbooks for the ambitious home cook

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Hi all,

I purchased Gordon Ramsay's "3 star chef" some time ago, and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading and cooking from it. What I particularly like about the book, is that it goes a long way in making "3 star restaurant food" accessible to dedicated home cooks. It takes time, patience, some ingredient hunting, but not overly expensive or hard-to-source equipment.

This is pretty much the only "for the dedicated home cook/ambitious but do-able" cookbook reference I have in my collection, and I would now like to see what else there might be out there. I'm mostly interested in French/Italian cooking, and it's a great plus if recipes are given in metric.

I am considering cookbooks by other celebrated chefs, such as titles by Heston Blumenthal, Alain Ducasse, Rene Redzepi (NOMA) etc., but most of them appear to me as coffeetable books meant for inspiring the pro chef rather than "home kitchen cookbooks". I've not had the chance to browse it yet, but would for instance Keller's "Ad-Hoc at home" be something to look out for?

Any and all suggestions are very welcome!

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Ad Hoc is home style food. I think Keller's books in general are nice, tho', and pretty much what you want--those box sets that pair French Laundry with either Bouchon (my favourite) or Ad Hoc are reasonably priced.

Grab Cuisine de Temps by Australian chef Jacques Reymond. Press Club by fellow Australian George Calombaris is nice, too. Neil Perry's Rockpool. Doyle's PIER. Savage's Bentley. Morimoto by Morimoto is mostly accessible. Tetsuya, too, if you can find a copy. Marco Pierre White's White Heat is older than these books but still very good.

Noma, Fat Duck, Alinea, Quay, Bras' Essentials are all lovely books but generally inaccessible--altho' not impossible, by any means--if you're intending to make faithful renditions of the restaurant dishes. Nothing is stopping you from stealing small ideas here and there, tho', and sticking them into something else.


Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

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Thanks so much for your helpful and quick reply, Chris!

A question regarding Keller's books: Would they be straight forward to use for a Euro-based home cook? I'm mostly thinking in terms of ingredient selections. I guess the recipes are given in volume in his books?

Thanks a bunch for those other cookbooks you mentioned - "White Heat" is another one I was considering before writing the original post.

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I've got all three of the Thomas Keller books mentioned (ad hoc, bouchon and french laundry) and love each of them. they are nicely written and give a lot of good background information on what goes into the dishes. ad hoc and bouchon are perfect for everyday cooking but for what you want the french laundry one would be prefect. It will keep you happy for months!

Ingredients-wise I've not had any problems with getting hold of things in the UK, it's all pretty standard stuff. It's a bit of an annoyance that everything is in cups/tablespoons when we all know that weights would be better, but hey.

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The older Raymond Blanc books are worth a look. Cooking for Friends is a bit more middle ground, but Recipes From Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons should be suitably challenging.

For something a bit more modern you could try 'Essence' by David Everitt-Matthias.

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A question regarding Keller's books: Would they be straight forward to use for a Euro-based home cook? I'm mostly thinking in terms of ingredient selections. I guess the recipes are given in volume in his books?

.

Ad Hoc and Bouchon are both very accesible to the home cook. The French Laundry cookbook is very doable but will be very challenging (which I consider a good thing for me). His other book, "under pressure" is a little too much for me. I wouldnt recommend that one for anything other than a coffee table book. Even though I have a sous vide setup I dont much like the book.

If you are considering doing the french laundry (which would be my recommendation if you want to challenge yourself) take a look at this blog if you haven't seen it.

http://carolcookskeller.blogspot.com/

She's just an ambitious home cook who managed to cook everything in the book and blog about it over the course of a few years. It was a fantastic project. She's doing the Alinea book now as well http://alineaathome.com/, but its not going quite as well as TFL did.

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If you are considering doing the french laundry (which would be my recommendation if you want to challenge yourself) take a look at this blog if you haven't seen it.

http://carolcookskeller.blogspot.com/

She's just an ambitious home cook who managed to cook everything in the book and blog about it over the course of a few years. It was a fantastic project. She's doing the Alinea book now as well http://alineaathome.com/, but its not going quite as well as TFL did.

Glad this blog was mentioned - I can't wait to read through it. I've got the FL and Bouchon cookbooks, and while I've cooked from Bouchon, I haven't had the nerve to properly try FL. Maybe this blog will kick me into gear.

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Thanks so much for all the helpful feedback, everyone!

I'll definitely have a look at the amazing carolcookskeller blog, and the FL+Bouchon set, in addition to "White Heat".

Thanks so much :)

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If you are a moderately skilled cook, what tends to make restaurant type dishes unapproachable is the sheer number of components involved rather than the complexity of technique. I'm sure you know the drill: First prepare three different stocks and then use a tablespoon of each.

If you want to improve your basic techniques in preparation for approaching some of these dishes, I'd totally recommend "The Complete Robuchon." Be warned, however, there are no pictures, just tried and true versions of French classics.

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Hi Nick,

Thanks for your thoughts. I already have a stained copy of "The Complete Robuchon" - and I agree with you completely. It's a great resource for technique and tried versions of authentic French dishes.

I should add that I'm also looking for some new books for the inspiration, plating ideas and new, creative ways of combining "standard" components.

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...

I should add that I'm also looking for some new books for the inspiration, plating ideas and new, creative ways of combining "standard" components.

A serious recommendation for what I believe to be a UK-only book (but see if Amazon UK could get it to you economically).

Its by Jason Atherton (who used to run maze for Gordon Ramsay).

Absolutely everything is designed to be do-able in a home kitchen.

Generally the instructions are to prep components and set aside, before a (single-handed) last-minute finish and assemble on the plate. Very much restaurant-style.

Full plating instruction is given and the result of that plating is illustrated - for all the dishes.

The plating is largely what makes the book stand out - the cooking itself isn't really tricksy.

The food is modern Euro/British with some multiculturalism.

Naturally, metric measures (and largely weights) are used throughout. (As with all current UK cookbooks.)

There are hardly any exotic or expensive ingredients called for.

I think the title doesn't do the book justice - Its called Gourmet Food for a Fiver ("fiver" = £5 ~ US$8).

The costing is actually per head for 4, for more than one course. So its a £20 budget for meal ingredients ... but even that doesn't include "store cupboard ingredients" like cooking wine and other alcohols... so its NOT about cooking on a very tight budget - even if the book itself is inexpensive!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1844008169/

Of the 'look inside' recipes, the Chilled Cucumber Soup with Salmon Tartare is probably the most typical of the book.

Atherton has another book maze: the cookbook detailing dishes from the original restaurant, with suggested home-kitchen derivations and variations. The 'restaurant' versions are more complex than the recipes in Gourmet Food - so that might be what you are looking for. There is a cheaper and lighter physical weight (thinking of postage!) softcover edition in the UK. The USA (thus almost certainly non-metric) edition has been retitled "Gordon Ramsay's Maze - with recipes by Jason Atherton". No wonder he wanted to set up on his own!

Since Raymond Blanc was mentioned upthread, I'd suggest that his most appropriate title might be his newest, Kitchen Secrets - UK book, Amazon UK link - the book of his two latest BBC series, in which he explains dishes from simple to complex, and the cheffy touches and techniques that 'make' them.

He's much more traditional than Atherton, "Recipes from Le Manoir" particularly so!

If that's what you think you are after, you might have a look at Ducasse's Grand Livre de Cuisine. And then think again!

Regarding Keller, you probably wouldn't choose Ad Hoc (since its about US home cooking translated to a restaurant and then back to home) or Bouchon (haute cuisine treatment of Bistro classics) or Under Pressure (unless you have sous vide aspirations). But French Laundry? Quite possibly - as long as you know what you are getting into!

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Thanks dougal!

Those are some great recommendations. I wasn't aware of Atherton's books, and I'll be sure to peek inside both "Gourmet food for a fiver" and "Maze".

I've had some time to browse through the three Keller books (not "Under pressure"), and I think I share the same impression as you, dougal, regarding both "Bouchon" and "Ad-hoc at home". I've put "French Laundry" at the top of my list.

Thanks again :)

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In that case, I'd definitely second Jason Atherton's Maze cookbook. Also have a look at Shannon Bennett's My Vue. Shannon trained under such luminaries as John Burton Race and Marco Pierre White. The book won a Gourmand award as best French cuisine book in 2005.

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The cookbook to recommend depends on your goal, so my main advice is to start from either someone's approach to food you like or a set of things you want to learn and then find a cookbook that you're willing to spend time with.

After you' ve narrowed down the field, go to a physical bookstore and leaf through the cookbooks you're considering. The right one for you will speak to you. You'll like the way the author tells you about cooking. I cooked out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for years because I wanted to learn French cooking. I loved the way she talked about what she was trying to do, which made me want to make time to cook from her book sooner.

You're going to try things that don't turn out the way you expected, so it's a relationship: why are you going to cook another recipe from this cookbook raher than start on a different cookbook. Coobooks are quite cheap compared to the cost of all of your time that you're going to invest.

I have several Keller cookbooks and the Complete Robuchon, and they are great choices. That said however, start from what you want to cook.

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Not a cookbook in the traditional sense, but The Flavor Bible is my new indispensable kitchen companion. It is essentially an index of flavors, foods and their attributes along with what works well with what. it's hard to describe, but it will provide you endless ideas. The book is a revelation.

I also love Lake House by Alla Wolf-Tasker. It's subtitled "A Culinary Journey in The Country of Australia" I love the approach of the book. Has quite a bit of narrative about the origin of the foods presented. The recipes are very unique(for me anyway), accessible, very good.

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Another vote for Keller's "French Laundry." There are a couple of great things about this book I would add.

First, the recipes and directions are incredibly detailed and clear. In some ways it is a very easy cookbook to cook from because the recipes are so well explained. In my opinion the recipes are not difficult so much as they are incredibly painstaking and very time consuming. If you've got the time and patience as well as some basic cooking skills, you will do great with French Laundry.

Secondly, the book includes numerous general techniques used by Keller that will benefit your cooking in general -- for example his techniques for braising meats, cooking soup, baking gougeres, poaching lobster and boiling vegetables are as close to a gold standard for french cooking as you'll find. For all of his whimsy and cleverness, Keller's cooking philosophy is very direct and focused.

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Thanks for your reply, Brown Hornet.

I actually received my copy of FL before the weekend, and I've been browsing/reading/obsessing ever since. It's a lovely book, with surprisingly detailed recipes and instructions. A lot of great chef/gourmet restaurant cookbooks have been written since, and this one, now already in it's 12th year, sets the standard for all of them. I'm already eyeing potential dishes for next time I got guests over for dinner (including the lobster broth, butter poached lobster or the braised veal breast). Great book.

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      I can say that not only does the Panasonic KY-MK3500 “work” with copper and aluminum pans, but that it works very well with them. Thermally, thick gauge conductive material pans perform in close emulation of the same pans on gas, even though there are no combustion gasses flowing up and around the pan. I found this startling.
       
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      I initially thought I could handicap such a race simply by using the temperature setting and comparing the times required to achieve a “preheat” in a pans of cold water. Alas, no—the Panasonic’s IR function signified the copper pan was preheated to 350F before the water even reached 70F! Obviously, the entire thermal system of cold food in a cold pan needs to come to equilibrium before the Panasonic’s temperature readout becomes meaningful.

      A. Temperature Settings
       
      Unfortunately, with every pan I tried, the temperature settings were wildly inaccurate for measuring the temperature of the food. I heated 2 liters of peanut oil in a variety of pots, disk-base, enameled cast iron enameled steel, and copper. I thought it might be useful to see how close to 350F and 375F the settings were for deep frying. The oil in a Le Creuset 5.5Q Dutch oven set to 350F never made it past 285F, and it took 40:00 to get there. I kept bumping up the setting until I found that the setting for 420F will hold the oil at 346F. A disk-based pot didn’t hit 365F until the temperature setting was boosted to 400F. The only pan which came remotely close to being true to the settings was a 2mm silvered copper oven, which heated its oil to 327F when the Panasonic was set for 350F, and 380F when set for 410F.
       
      The temperature function was a lot closer to true when simply preheating an empty pan. With a setting of 350F, all the shiny stainless pans heated to just a few degrees higher (about 353-357F) and held there. This is useful for judging the Leidenfrost Point (which is the heat at which you can oil your SS and have it cook relatively nonstick) and potentially for “seasoning” carbon steel, SS and aluminum, but not much else, since it doesn’t translate to actual food temperature. There’s also the issue of the temperature settings *starting* at 285F, so holding a lower temperature for, e.g., tempering chocolate or a sous vide bath, or even a simmer would be by-guess-by-golly just like any other hob—your only resort is lots of experience with lower *power* settings.
       
      With heat-tarnished copper, a 350F setting resulted in a wide swinging between 353F and 365F, which I attribute to the copper shedding heat far faster than the other constructions, once the circuit stops the power at temperature. Then, when the circuit cycles the power back on, the copper is so responsive that it quickly overshoots the setting. Aluminum, on the other hand, *undershot*, the 350F setting, registering a cycle of 332-340F.

      I conclude that the IR sensor is set for some particular emissivity, probably for that of stainless steel. If true, the Panasonic, even though it automatically switches frequencies, does not compensate for the different emissivities of copper and aluminum. And even if Panasonic added dedicated aluminum and copper IR sensors, there is enough difference between dirty and polished that the added cost would be wasted. Bottom line here: the temperature setting mode is of extremely low utility, and should not be trusted.
       
      B. Power Mode – Pan Material Comparisons
       
      Given the differences in power setting granularity and maximum power between the two frequencies, it is difficult to assess what X watts into the pot means in, say, a copper-versus-clad or –disk showdown. What is clear, however, is that Setting X under disk and clad seems “hotter” than the same setting under copper and aluminum.

      I will need to precisely calibrate the Panasonic for wattage anyway for the hyperconductivity project, so I will obtain a higher-powered watt meter to determine the wattage of every power setting for both frequencies. Until then, however, the only way I can fairly handicap a race is to apply a reduction figure to the ferromagnetic setting (2400W being 69% of 3500W). Given that we know the wattage at the maximum settings, we can infer that Setting 14 (actually 13.8) on the 20-step ferromagnetic range iis approximately the same heat output as the maximum setting (18) for copper/aluminum.

      The boil times for 4 liters of 50F water in 10” diameter pots shocked me. The 10” x 3mm tinned copper pot’s water reached 211F in 36:41. Not an especially fast time at 2400 watts. The 10” disk-based pressure cooker bottom? Well, it didn’t make it—it took an hour to get to 208F and then hung there. So that left me wondering if the Panasonic engineers simply decided that 2400 watts was enough for copper and aluminum. I have a theory why the copper pot boiled and the SS one didn’t under the same power, but getting into that’s for another time.

      C. Evenness Comparisons
       
      The wires which generate the induction field are wound in a circular pattern; when energized, they create a torus-shaped magnetic field. The wound coil is constructed with an empty hole at its center. As matters of physics, the magnetic field’s intensity drops off extremely fast as a function of the distance from the coil; a few millimeters above the Ceran, the field is so weak no meaningful heat will be generated. This means that most induction cooktops heat *only* the very bottom of pans, and in a distinct 2-dimensional “doughnut” shape.

      All of the above can result in a pan having a cooler central spot, a hotter ring directly over the coil, and a cooler periphery outside the coil. It is left to the cookware to try to even out these thermal discontinuities when cooking. Some materials and pan constructions are better at this than others: the successful constructions utilize more highly-conductive metals such as aluminum and copper, but unless the material is very thick, there can be a ring-shaped hotspot that can scorch food.
      Until the Panasonic arrived to market, hotspot comparisons between ferromagnetic and aluminum/copper pans depended largely on comparing induction’s flat, more discrete heat ring with gas’s more diffuse, 3-dimensional one. Dodgeball-style debate ensued, with few clear conclusions. But now, for the first time, equally-powered flat heat rings in two different frequencies allow us to directly compare evenness in ferromagnetic and aluminum/copper cookware.

      The simplest and easiest way to assess cookware evenness is the “scorchprint”, which does not require infrared or other advanced thermal imaging equipment. I’ve posted on how to conduct scorchprinting elsewhere, but basically a pan is evenly dusted with flour; heat is applied to the pan bottom. As the flour is toasted, any hotspots visually emerge, giving the viewer a useful general idea of evenness.
       
      I will later post the photos of scorchprints I made of 4 different pans run using the Panasonic KY-MK3500: (1) a Demeyere 28cm Proline 5* clad frypan; (2) a Fissler Original Profi disk-base 28cm frypan; a 6mm aluminum omelet pan; and (4) a 32cm x 3.2mm Dehillerin sauté. To make it a fair race, I heated all the pans at 2400W until they reached 450F, and then backed off the power setting to maintain 450F. I did this in order not to compromise my saute’s tin lining. As you will see, both the clad Demeyere and the disk-based Fissler did print the typical brown doughnut, with a cooler center and periphery. By far the most even was the thick, all-aluminum pan, which actually was even over its entirety—even including the walls. The copper sauté was also quite even, although its larger size and mass really dissipated heat; once 450F was dialed in, no more browning happened, even after 30 minutes.
       
      I conclude that the straightgauge pans were far more effective at shunting heat to their peripheries and walls (and also to some extent into the air) than the clad and disk-based pans. The latter accumulated their heat with most of it staying in the center of the pans. Eventually, even the “doughnut hole” blended into the scorch ring because the walls were not bleeding sufficient heat away from the floor. This was especially pronounced in the Fissler, the high wall and rim areas of which never exceeded 125F. The aluminum pan, in contrast varied less than 30F everywhere on the pan.

      D. Other Considerations

      The Panasonic’s fan noise at the cook’s position was noticeable at 63 dBA, higher than with the VMP’s 57 dBA. These levels are characterized as “normal conversation” and “quiet street”, respectively. Interestingly, I found two other, potentially more important differences. First, the Panasonic’s fan stays on, even after the unit is powered off, whereas the VMP’s fan shuts off immediately when the hob is turned off. Second, the Panasonic’s fan steps down from the louder speed to a much quieter (47 dBA, characterized as “quiet home”) level until the Ceran is cool to sustained touch, at which point it shuts off completely. I think the Panasonic’s ability to continue to vent and cool itself is a great feature, especially since a cook could leave a large, full, hot pan on the glass.

      The glowing circle is useless for gauging heat setting or intensity. And while it works to indicate a hot surface, it remains lit long after you can hold your hand in place dead center.
       
      VI. Summary and Lessons
       
      The Panasonic KY-MK3500 is a solid unit, well-conceived and rugged. It is extremely easy to use. It works well with both the common 24kHz frequency used with ferromagnetic cookware, and the 90kHz frequency chosen here for copper and aluminum. It effectively and automatically switches between the two.

      In my opinion, it points the way to expanding the worldwide induction appliance market to include dual frequencies. It also obviates the need to: (a) junk otherwise excellent cookware merely to have induction; and (b) retrofit designs to bond on ferromagnetic outer layers. In fact, in my opinion, my tests indicate that, in a dual-frequency world, adding ferromagnetic bottoms may well be a drag on pans’ performance.
       
      I also consider the Panasonic Met-All to be ground-breaking in what it can tell us about *pans*, because all metallic pans are now commensurable on induction. Clearly (to me anyway), watt-for-watt, the copper and aluminum pans performed better than did the clad and disk-based pans on this unit. Boil times were faster, there was less propensity to scorch, and the conductive-sidewall pans definitely added more heat to the pans’ contents. We may ultimately find that 90kHz fields save energy compared to 24kHz fields, much as copper and aluminum require less heat on gas and electric coil.
      In terms of heat transfer, the copper and aluminum pans came close to emulating the same pans on gas. And at 2400W/3500W it has the power of a full size appliance in a relatively small tabletop package.
       
      The Panasonic is far from perfect, however. It can’t really be considered portable. There are far too few temperature settings, and what few it has are not accurate or consistent in terms of judging pan contents and attaining the same temperature in different pans (and even the same pan unless clean). The luminous ring could easily have been made a useful indicator of intensity, but wasn’t. And it lacks things that should be obvious, including a through-the-glass “button” contact thermocouple, more power granularity, an analog-style control knob, and capacity to accept an external thermocouple probe for PID control.
       
      Most importantly for me, the Panasonic KY-MK3500 portends more good things to come. Retail price remains $1,700-$2,400, but I jumped on it at $611, and I’ve seen it elsewhere for as low as $1,200.
       
      The manual can be found here: ftp://ftp.panasonic.com/commercialfoo...
       
      Photo Credit:  Panasonic Corporation

    • By artiesel
      THE BOOKS ARE SOLD
       
       
      I have Volumes 1 ,2 and 4 of Jean-Pierre Wybauw's Great Chocolate books are for sale.
       
      The books are in great shape!  There is some tape on the corner of the front of volume 1 that I used to keep it together after a drop.  Volume 1 is also autographed by the author (See pics below).
       
      I'm asking $150 for the lot OBO.
       
      Let me know if interested or if you have questions
       
       
       



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