on December 13, 2015
Good science and great tips for those of us who are interested in how food reacts to its given environment. There are times though that I found it a little frustrating because the scientific information was there, but the basic recipe was missing. For instance, baked custard. The food's reaction to heat is explained, but a definitive recipe on baked egg custard just wasn't there. Also, I was surprised that, with all the information on frying foods, there was no actual recipe for fried chicken (the one fried recipe most of us are willing to put aside healthy eating for occasionally). All in all, it's a very informative book and, except for the missing recipes and the fact that the information is not, in my opinion, as well organized as it could be, I would have given it 5 stars.
on September 15, 2015
The modern version of the Joy of Cooking with even more detail. How to boil an egg may seem ridiculous, but you will be thinking that you should have read that part when you are trying to peel those slippery little suckers and the shells won't come off. A" go to" essential book that covers A thru Z cooking secrets. A little too much detail for me..I don't care about how or why the components of flour makes it rise, or what makes up the gluten that everyone is going crazy about. But is there, along with other information that you won't have to Google.
on June 8, 2016
Wonderful, educational, inspiring. I looked forward to my time each evening reading this book cover to cover. It was like going to a fun school with Mrs. Corridor, a favorite instructor. Many years ago I asked many PhDs in various fields what actually happened to food when it was cooked. What did heat, temperature and time do to it structurally so that we recognized it as cooked? Ah, Mrs. Corridor knows and tells in a way that is easily comprehensible. My time preparing and cooking food will now be so much more intelligently spent (although I will need to re-read sections as there is so much in this book, one could not remember it in one comprehensive reading). This book won the James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence and truly deserves that award.
These are nigh-perfect recipes – and I don’t say that lightly. Every single thing that we have made from here has been to-die-for. The Salmon Fillet with Sweet, Grainy Mustard Crust is the first “perfect” fish recipe I have ever tasted. Ever. I’m not a big fish fan, so even when it comes out well I’m not likely to put a big star next to the recipe in the cookbook. I did on this occasion. The sweet-tartness of the sauce is the perfect foil to the fattiness of the salmon. You actually boil down apple juice to almost nothing in order to flavor the sauce! Not only is this recipe perfect in terms of taste, but it’s also distressingly simple to make: Heat oven. Boil juice; stir stuff into it. Season salmon and place on greased baking sheet; cover with sauce. Bake. That’s it!
Then there’s the broiled tomato slice recipe. Wow. You just top thick tomato slices with seasonings (Shirley has a laudable fondness for white pepper), grated lemon zest, and a bread crumb/butter mixture, and broil for a minute or two. The tartness of the lemon zest adds the strangest, most delightful taste to the tomato – and I was dubious at first. And let’s not forget the broccoli with chili oil. I’m not a broccoli fan. But a simple recipe of minced jalapeno, peanut oil and seasonings, and I go wild over it.
You may notice a couple of trends here. One: very simple recipes. This is not rocket science. Many of these recipes are five-minute jobbies. Two: sharp, clear tastes that are just a little unusual, but not completely “out there.” Three: very high-quality results.
How many of you are fans of the Food TV show, “Good Eats” with it’s wacky host, Alton Brown and his fondness for food science? Whenever Alton gets really deep into the science aspect, he tends to bring on one of his favorite zany guests (also a teacher of his, I understand): Shirley O. Corriher. Shirley is the author of this book, and as you read through it you can see where Alton learned most of his techniques. If you like “Good Eats” and the food that results from following along, you’ll love “Cookwise.”
Instead of just demonstrating techniques, Shirley explains things. She debunks mysteries. She tells us straight out when we just don’t know why something works the way it does. She often details her experiments for us, so we can try it ourselves if we want. She explains the science of things, but not too much: even if you aren’t into science you’ll be able to make use of this cookbook. She provides the most amazing troubleshooting charts.
Shirley also doesn’t presume that we want our food done the same way she wants hers. Her Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe has four columns: Basic, Thin, Puffed, and In Between. You can compare the amounts and types of ingredients that she uses for each sort of cookie.
She includes a list of typical cookie ingredients and what they do to cookies (reduced-fat spreads, for example, make cookies soft and puffy). She tells us how to shape cookies through heat control, and discusses how to alter an existing cookie recipe to turn it into the sort of cookie you’d like. There’s even a “Fine-tuning cookies” chart. It has two columns: “what to do for more” and “what to do for less.” The categories are Spread, Puff, Tenderness, and Color.
Shirley gets called in by chefs to help them figure out why their recipes are going wrong. She includes some really interesting stories of these adventures; this is one of only a few cookbooks I’ve ever been tempted to just sit down and read.
The index is perhaps the most thorough index I’ve ever seen. The “sources” chapter includes ingredient and equipment sources – and far more than just the one or two sources provided by most cookbooks. The layout is clear and obvious, although a few recipes do trail onto the next page, occasionally necessitating flipping back and forth.
This is nothing short of a stunningly fantastic cookbook. If you have any amount of curiosity about the way cooking works, or any desire whatsoever to do something beyond just blindly following recipes, then you need a copy of “Cookwise.” Shirley is described on the back cover flap as a “culinary food sleuth,” and by the time you’re done with this book you’ll feel like one too.