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Think Like a Chef Paperback – November 13, 2007
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"In Think Like a Chef, Tom has opened the door to his culinary process and explained--in straight terms--how his very personal style is actually based on a simple logic that can be employed successfully by anyone who simply loves great food."
From the Inside Flap
With Think Like a Chef, Tom Colicchio has created a new kind of cookbook. Rather than list a series of restaurant recipes, he uses simple steps to deconstruct a chef's creative process, making it easily available to any home cook.
He starts with techniques: What's roasting, for example, and how do you do it in the oven or on top of the stove? He also gets you comfortable with braising, sauteing, and making stocks and sauces. Next he introduces simple "ingredients" -- roasted tomatoes, say, or braised artichokes -- and tells you how to use them in a variety of ways. So those easy roasted tomatoes may be turned into anything from a vinaigrette to a caramelized tomato tart, with many delicious options in between.
In a section called Trilogies, Tom takes three ingredients and puts them together to make one dish that's quick and other dishes that are increasingly more involved. As Tom says, "Juxtaposed in interesting ways, these ingredients prove that the whole can be greater than the sum of their parts," and you'll agree once you've tasted the Ragout of Asparagus, Morels, and Ramps or the Baked Free-Form "Ravioli" -- both dishes made with the same trilogy of ingredients.
The final section of the books offers simple recipes for components -- from zucchini with lemon thyme to roasted endive with whole spices to boulangerie potatoes -- that can be used in endless combinations.
Written in Tom's warm and friendly voice and illustrated with glorious photographs of finished dishes, Think Like a Chef will bring out the master chef in all of us.
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Take for instance the braising chapter. There is a long exhortation of the beauty of braising, followed by a short explanation of the actual process. We are told that it's basically cooking something in liquid that surrounds but not covers the ingredient. Then a mouth-watering recipe of braised pork belly follows. But there are so many more steps than just cooking it in liquid! The recipe tells us to score the skin, but doesn't explain why (crispiness). The pork is to be braised for an hour, and another cup of stock is to be added. Why, we are never told. A cup of stock might work very differently depending on the shape of the pan being used. An explanation like "add more stock so liquid comes up halfway pork belly because xyz" is way more informative and gives us the knowledge to apply concepts to another ingredient. Colicchio maintains throughout the book that the goal is to free us from following recipes and cooking times strictly through an understanding of his thinking process, but the actual recipes themselves encourage us to follow recipes and cooking times strictly. Come on. Later in the Component Cooking section there is a treatment on ramps which starts out with pickling. Wait, isn't this a technique that was totally ignored in the Techniques chapter?
If you would like basic cooking techniques, Youtube it or buy Alton Brown's book. If you want some Colicchio recipes, get this book. If you're looking for deep insight into his thought process, that content doesn't exist yet.
It's a great book chock full of basic easy to follow tips and tricks for beginners and more advanced chefs alike.
The pictures are beautiful! Some snippets of Tom's life and personal stories were a welcome surprise.
The recipes are very easy to follow and I can imagine easily becoming a better chef once going through all the recipes with the wonderful step-by-step instructions! You will impress people for sure with some of these delicious dishes!
Though a dedicated food lover, I'm a novice's novice when it comes to cooking up something beyond a good grilled cheese, so I needed the basic tips and technique instruction this book provides that other more sophisticated chefs may find tedious.
Laden with tons of full color pictures, and interspersed with personal tales from Colichio that inspire one to want to cook great food - this book starts off teaching you what you need to know about basic techniques - braising, roasting, sauteeing, etc... and how to do them well. Then, it's onto basic recipes that get built upon with later more advanced recipes to keep you going.
Along the way, there's plenty of tips covering everything from the easiest way to peel a fava bean to where to get good duck fat for confit that should make even those more advanced than I happy.
Though I now understand the techniques of cooking much better, I haven't advanced beyond the more basic recipes. But I've achieved my goal of having a couple of gourmet dishes I can do well with this book. My favorites (from a fish and veggie lover) are: Roasted Sea Scallops with Pan Roasted Mushrooms, braised red snapper and salmon in sea salt.
I highly recommend this book for any amateur cook or foodie that wants to have a better understanding of cooking terms or who want to add a couple of gourmet dishes to their repetoire with which to "wow" their dinner guests!
But a cook book should be judged on the merrits of what it adds to the information of a cook and on that level this book is also wildly successful in my opinion. This is not a book to pick up if you just want to have something packed cover-to-cover with new recipes - though the recipes in here are outstanding from those I have tried so far.
What is so great is this book tries to not just equip a home cook not just with a few more written recipes which they can follow, but to equip them with the ability and skill to see recipes for themselves and the knowledge and confidence to try new things themselves.
From the layout of chapters and information, to the content of the "teaching" to the recipes themselves this is a great book and is far and away the best cook book I've encountered in recent memories. I can't recomend it enough.