I am not the world’s most impressive chef, but I’ve always wanted to be a good cook. I’ve debated signing up for cooking classes, but end up skipping it because of expenses or time.
As a cook I like to have recipes, but tend to not follow them exactly. It drives my boyfriend crazy when I don’t measure – too lazy to wash all the measuring utensils – or just guess on how long something should cook. This works out for me about half the time, and the other half I get a dish that doesn’t quite seem right.
The improviser in me was excited to see that Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee was going on a book tour in October, and e-mailed to ask if I could be a part of it.
As the introduction of the book explains, Keys to Good Cooking isn’t a cookbook:
Keys to Good Cooking is meant to be a constructively critical companion to your recipe collection and a guide to the kitchen, gadgets, ingredients, and techniques with which you turn recipes into foods. It’s a concise, up-to-date summary of the basic facts of food preparation. It provides simple statements of fact and advice, along with brief explanations that will help you understand why, and apply that understanding to other situations. It will help you evaluate recipes, recognize likely ﬂaws or problems, and make adjustments and corrections as you cook. It will help you put aside recipes, improvise and experiment, and come up with your own better ways of doing things.
I think having some idea of what cooking terms mean and why recipes give the directions they do could be helpful for me as an aspiring better cook.
As part of the tour, we got a preview of the book, and are supposed to share a couple of tips we found helpful. With just 17 pages to look at, I already found quite a few things I didn’t know:
- Frozen vegetables can equal or better the quality of fresh, especially vegetables that lose ﬂavor and tenderness rapidly after harvest. These include green peas, lima beans, and sweet corn.
- To make baked potatoes with a crisp skin, oil or butter potatoes before baking in a hot oven, 425-450°F/220-230°C. Baking without oil or in foil produces a leathery skin.
- The quality of cooked meat deteriorates in the refrigerator, even in a stew or other dish whose overall ﬂavor may improve for a day or two. Freeze leftovers to keep them in good condition for more than a few days.
I should have the book soon, and a full review to post sometime in October. I’m looking forward to it!