After reading Essentials of Cooking
, you will grill any fish with confidence, make delicious gratins using whatever vegetables are nicest at the market, and know that any pilaf, risotto, or paella you cook will come out just right. Author James Peterson's goal is to get people to cook comfortably without hewing to the precision of recipes and to feel relaxed in the kitchen whatever the task. Peterson accomplishes this by combining text with detailed color photos and paying attention to everything that makes a cook proficient. He teaches both small techniques, such as how to hold a swivel peeler, as well as large ones, such as how to determine the doneness of a steak, roast, or fish using just touch and sight and how to dress a salad by coating the leaves with oil, then dissolving salt in a spoon with vinegar and drizzling this over the greens before tossing them. In every case, the 1,100-plus color shots give a precise picture of what the reassuring text explains.
To teach skills and technique, Peterson leads you, for example, through sweating the leeks for Pureed Leek and Potato Soup in butter, then cooking the potatoes until they soften, and so on. This explanation includes no quantities or timing. Peterson's point is that these vary according to how much soup you are making, so he tells what to look for and when, enabling you to make this soup for 4 or 40. One possible drawback of this book is that you may have to consult its well-organized index when you need to locate one of the valuable hints grouped in any of the Kitchen Notes and Tips boxes, like the fact that chicken can be cooked over lower heat than steaks and chops because it takes longer to cook through. But cooks and eager students will settle into Essentials of Cooking, as one dives into a good novel, becoming immersed in its depth and practicality. Complete beginners might feel overwhelmed at first by the density of information and the tightly packed layout on each page. If they view this volume as a handbook, reading particular sections as needed, they will comfortably appreciate the nurturing Peterson offers their kitchen skills. --Dana Jacobi
From Publishers Weekly
Having written the masterful Vegetables and Fish, Peterson delivers an all-encompassing cookbook that is equally accomplished. This comprehensive manual is accompanied by extensive photographs and runs the instructional gamut, from boiling an egg to curing seafood. Paris-trained Peterson highlights basic French techniques, such as making beurre blanc, hollandaise sauce and stocks, blanquette de veau (creamed veal stew), beef daube and roast chicken. Chapters cover the "basics," such as cutting vegetables, making a green salad and clarifying butter, as well as "working from scratch" (e.g., gutting a fish, making fresh pasta dough). Explicit cross-referencing and applicable "Kitchen Notes and Tips" follow every demonstration. Since the focus is specifically on technique (e.g., poaching, saut?ing, deep-frying, grilling), traditional recipes are omitted. So, while Peterson explains the steps involved in making a basic mayonnaise, he does not provide measured quantities of ingredients, forcing readers to actively engage their senses during the cooking process rather than just read a recipe. He also introduces various kitchen equipment in his demonstrations, discussing the difference, for instance, between a ricer and a potato masher. Throughout, Peterson displays his culinary virtuosity, creating an invaluable, timeless reference that demystifies the cooking process. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.