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Working your way through a cookbook?


mrsadm
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The "Julie/Julia" project has given me the idea that I could learn a lot by working through an important cookbook with classic dishes. But which cookbook to choose?

I thought something appropriate might be "The Cook's Book" by Jill Norman. It has the basics like stocks and soups, as well as varied cuisines. However, some of the recipes are famous chef's signature dishes, and I don't feel I can attempt those yet. Plus it feels more encyclopedic, rather than having chapters that build on previous lessons.

Julia Child's books have the distinct advantage of lengthy texts where she explains everything in detail, including suggested fixes if a dish goes wrong. But do I spend a full year making French dishes I may never repeat? Or, is this a wonderful education that would be helpful in all future cooking, no matter what the cuisine?

I thought of going down the path of Mexican food, which my husband and I both love, by using Rick Bayless' "Mexican Kitchen". That would be fun, but would not help me learn the European classics.

Another book I own is Cook's Illustrated "New Best Recipe" with 1,000 exhaustively tested recipes, including things like "Easy Pork Chops". Will I learn the most from this book?

And then there's the Culinary Institute's "Professional Chef" tome, which I don't enjoy because I have to convert everything down from 10 portion recipes.

I know the obvious answer is that one can learn from any of these books, the trick is to get in the kitchen and start cooking. But, considering my over-the-hill age, I want to learn the most in the least amount of time, that will help me in all future cooking, no matter what the style or ingredients.

Any advice?

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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While Mastering the Art of French Cooking has a lot of dishes that maybe don't fit your daily life, many of Julia Child's lesser known cookbooks fit better. From Julia Child's Kitchen is (aside from the minor horror of flour in potage parmentier) a much better fit for a typical American household.

My other preferred option would be to work your way through a comprehensive cookbook for a cuisine that *does* fit into your daily life. While I enjoy Thai food a lot, I probably wouldn't cook my way through the Thai cookbooks available to me. I live in a desert, not a tropical country, so many of the fruits called for don't grow well or at all here. On the other hand, Mediterranean cuisines fit well with what's available, and so does Mexican cuisine.

Emily

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How about "Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques"? It's just fantastic! I'm learning a lot from it. (Including, in just a few months, at least three new and wonderful ways to cook eggs, and some awesome cabbage rolls. :>)

I also submit the "Les Halles Cookbook", the "further reading" section of which pointed me to Pepin. I've made about 40 recipes from it so far, and I'm sure learning a lot (many more, and much learning to go).

(I'm editing to say that for me it has been the Bourdain book that's done it, and worked for my situation.)

_Jesse Williamson ;-};

Edited by chardan (log)
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How about Bittman's "How to Cook Everything", or maybe "Jacques and Julia at Home" or Fergus Henderson's "Nose to Tail Eating" ? Just some ideas... :smile:

Edited to correct Mr. Henderson's first name...

Edited by judiu (log)

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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The "Julie/Julia" project has given me the idea that I could learn a lot by working through an important cookbook with classic dishes.  But which cookbook to choose?

And then there's the Culinary Institute's "Professional Chef" tome, which I don't enjoy because I have to convert everything down from 10 portion recipes. 

Any advice?

I don't know what edition you have, but the Fifth has quite a number of one or two portion recipes. It's just as difficult to convert up to forty or eighty potrions.

Jim

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I think before you can pick a book to cook through, you need to decide what your goal is. Do you want to learn a specific cuisine or technique? Basic or all-around cooking skills? What do you want to eat?

I did something similar when I was learning to cook bread, systematically working my way through several different bread books. Working with several different books allowed me to compare and better understand techniques. While I'm certainly not an expert bread baker, I am very comfortable and can improvise or even create my own loaves based on the techniques I learned. Also, it was fun and gave me a great sense of purpose in the kitchen.

Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

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I think before you can pick a book to cook through, you need to decide what your goal is.  Do you want to learn a specific cuisine or technique?  Basic or all-around cooking skills?  What do you want to eat? 

I did something similar when I was learning to cook bread, systematically working my way through several different bread books.  Working with several different books allowed me to compare and better understand techniques.  While I'm certainly not an expert bread baker, I am very comfortable and can improvise or even create my own loaves based on the techniques I learned.  Also, it was fun and gave me a great sense of purpose in the kitchen.

Thanks for the sanity, chickenlady. A cookbook is an author's and editor's pick of recipes and techniques. I would find it hard to find just one book that wouldn't get redundant. Besides, I just can't follow a recipe ingredient by ingredient. I often take ideas from several different sources and come up with something different.

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We had a thread along these lines a long long long time ago, here, if you want to check it out for some ideas.

A small group of us did some work with Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. It was fun. I still use the book a lot.

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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I have long had an ambition to do just this - cook my way through a book. However, along about the 3rd recipe I run into an ingredient that

a) I don't like

b) hubby wouldn't eat

c) costs the earth

d) is out of season

e) is only available in Patagonia on the 16th of June. :biggrin:

Of course, I could skip that recipe but then I wouldn't be cooking my way THROUGH the book and I like to be literal with these sort of projects. :raz:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Thanks Seth for the link - very interesting reading! Not quite through all 24 pages yet .....

Anna N - I understand what you are saying - but I don't feel the need to be literal, and I do plan to skip things, esp. strong dislikes that my husband has. He will NOT eat clams, brussel sprouts, and many other things. However, some dishes I will make for myself, e.g., I don't have any aversion to lobster like he does!

"e) is only available in Patagonia on the 16th of June." - exactly why I don't use Dianna Kennedy's books though I love Mexican food. Those inverse banana leaves and Oaxacan schnapps are too hard to find.

Now I am leaning towards the Jacques and Julia at home book .....

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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I've got that one and find it helpful on occasion. It's not really to my taste to cook from it, because it focuses heavily on dishes that are staples to both me and my mother. And while it's fun to try someone else's version of a favorite dish, it usually won't get remade exactly unless it's substantially better than our method. (Yes, I grew up on lots of French style food)

If French style food appeals to you, I think that book would be a good choice. There are no techniques used in there that cause mom and I to throw up our hands in horror. The ingredients used are pretty available. And honestly, it's the kind of cooking that makes up a large part of our daily life :). The leek and potato soup recipe is quite good (try it both ways to see which you prefer), and I seem to recall the methods for roasts were pretty good as well.

Emily

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I have long had an ambition to do just this - cook my way through a book.  However, along about the 3rd recipe I run into an ingredient that

a) I don't like

b) hubby wouldn't eat

c) costs the earth

d) is out of season

e) is only available in Patagonia on the 16th of June.  :biggrin:

Of course, I could skip that recipe but then I wouldn't be cooking my way THROUGH the book and I like to be literal with these sort of projects.  :raz:

:laugh::laugh::laugh: This is so me! I thought that the project was amazing, but I can't imagine doing it and working and actually having a life.

I have a perverse streak in me that makes me want to do this except with a book that I know won't be very good. As a goof, Mr. Kim gave me a Sandra Lee cookbook for my birthday. I find myself wanting to cook from it just to see how bad it could really be and still be published by a major firm. Does anyone understand this at all?

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I have long had an ambition to do just this - cook my way through a book.  However, along about the 3rd recipe I run into an ingredient that

a) I don't like...

c) costs the earth...

On the other hand, this is a great way to to learn more about that ingredient you might not love. (I'm the type who never completely crosses something off her list; although, I recognize that everyone is not this way.) Or a great excuse to splurge on that special item you would never prepare normally. I used to be a vegetarian, and even though I eat meat now, I still tend to gravitate to vegetarian recipes. But a couple years ago I made a bit of a project of a Julie Sahni book, in the process discovering that I absolutely adore lamb. :wub:

Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

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  • 2 weeks later...

OK after flirting with the Julia/Jacques book, I tried a recipe from Rick Bayless' "One Plate at a Time" and is was outstanding. Husband is already asking for it again. (Enchiladas Suizas). The book has a nice slant on learning; after each recipe is a Q&A section that explains the ingredients and techniques that are used, which is very interesting and helpful.

Since hubby favors Mexican cuisine, I've decided we'll both be getting fatter :wacko: as I go through this intriguing book.

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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OK after flirting with the Julia/Jacques book, I tried a recipe from Rick Bayless' "One Plate at a Time" and is was outstanding.  Husband is already asking for it again.  (Enchiladas Suizas).  The book has a nice slant on learning; after each recipe is a Q&A section that explains the ingredients and techniques that are used, which is very interesting and helpful. 

Since hubby favors Mexican cuisine, I've decided we'll both be getting fatter  :wacko: as I go through this intriguing book.

I do like that book a lot also; there are many good recipes in there. The classic red mole is spectacular. Maybe if you start another thread with your explorations others will join along also. It would be great to hear your comments on the different recipes. In any case, have fun!

edited to add: the red chile enchiladas "street style" are also excellent. To the garnishes he suggests I also added chopped radishes.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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It'd be great if eGullet could have a sub-forum in the "Cooking" category just for this "Cooking from..." purpose. It could eventually become a resource guide for others who come "late to the game" so to speak.

Examples:

"Cooking (or curing) from Charcuterie, sausages, terrines, cured meats"

"Cooking with 'The Cooking of Southwest France', Paula Wolfert's new Edition"

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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