Ten years after I started to cook, I’m a good cook. I can make the scrambled eggs that troubled me 10 years prior. I make meals without a recipe more often than I use one. When I use a recipe, I’ll liberally make changes and they work. I make 5 course dinners for special occasions, have served dessert for 100, and have cooked on national television. I still use the New Best Recipe and Ratio regularly, but that’s not always what I’m looking for. More often than not, I need inspiration rather than directions.
The Flavor Bible is my favorite book these days. The premise is simple: it’s a thesaurus of flavors. Look up any ingredient and the book lists complimentary flavors, using font to indicate strength of pairing. It is not a recipe book. There are no rules or structure. It’s a reference book more than anything else. There are essays on flavor, pairing, and balance; the book is chock full of beautiful photography; and the world’s greatest chefs (favoring Americans) contribute their favorite flavor pairings for certain ingredients; but that’s all secondary to the lists.
Editor’s note: this post is the second part of a series. The first part reviewed a beginner’s book, New Best Recipe.
So you can make dinner without needing to follow a recipe to the letter. When you look at a recipe, instructions like “until properly cooked” no longer scare you. You can look at a recipe and have a pretty good idea whether or not you will like it before you cook it. Congratulations, you’ve made it to intermediate. Now how do you get better? Well, you can continue to follow recipes. You can continue to experiment and put an assortment of ingredients in to a pan together, and I recommend you do, but if you want to make the next leap, you need a whole lot more “how” in your vocabulary. more »
I must have 50 cook books in my kitchen—some are useless, some have some inspired recipes, and some are totally impossible to cook out of—but there are three books that I love. Three books where all the pages are stained, covered in notes, check marks, and smiley faces. Three books that taught me how to cook. These are the three best books in my kitchen, the three books I recommend to everyone.
As I’ve progressed as a cook, I’ve gone through three distinct phases, beginner to intermediate to advanced, each well supported by one of these books. Today, New Best Recipe, the book that taught me to cook. more »