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Think Like a Chef Paperback – November 13, 2007
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Cookbooks by chefs can be daunting. They're apt to include tricky restaurant recipes, or, alternately, watered-down "translations." Tom Colicchio, chef at Manhattan's top-rated Gramercy Tavern, has a better way. Think like a chef, he advises, and you tap into food preparation creativity--the ability to forgo recipes, when you wish, for spontaneous kitchen invention. In a series of innovative chapters that explore cooking fundamentals, culinary themes and variations, and "plug-in" component preparations, Colicchio provides a cooking "anatomy" for gaining kitchen mastery. The book's 100-plus recipes are offered not as ends in themselves (though they stand as delicious examples of Colicchio's simple yet sophisticated style), but as illustrative keys to the culinary processes.
How does it work? Beginning with a chapter that reviews basic cooking techniques, and includes exemplary stock- and sauce-making formulas, the book then presents a series of "studies," building-block recipes like Roasted Tomatoes, followed by simple-to-sophisticated variations, such as Roasted-Tomato Risotto. A chapter called "Trilogies" explores clusters of three-ingredient recipes--duck, root vegetables, and apples is one ingredient grouping--that show how various techniques, applied to the same ingredients, yield various exciting dishes. "Component Cooking," which focuses on vegetables (Colicchio's major source of inspiration), provides recipes like Corn and Potato Pancakes to be used for assembling a "plate." Concluding the book is "Favorites," a selection of Colicchio's specialties that range from My Favorite Chicken Soup to Poached Foie Gras, a taste bonus that also stimulates the cooking imagination. Illustrated with more than 100 color photos, and including a wide range of tips, Think Like a Chef succeeds at helping readers see through a chef's eyes--and in so doing to visualize cooking with fresh insight. --Arthur Boehm --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Unlike many chef-authors, Colicchio (chef at Gramercy Tavern) does not offer modified restaurant recipes for the home cook. Instead, he sets out to inspire readers to think like trained chefs: to riff on ingredients and techniques rather than always follow recipes to the last letter. Indeed, the recipes Colicchio includes serve as creative fodder rather than authoritarian instructions. He begins with techniques ("Get these [roasting, braising, blanching, sweating, stock making and sauce making] down, and you've mastered the most fundamental tools to creating great recipes"). The chapter on sauce making includes excellent basic instructions that can be used for variations such as Apple Cider Sauce and Lemon-Rosemary Vinaigrette. He is the first to admit that his approach is unusual, but it works beautifully, and dishes such as Artichoke and Tomato Gratin and Root Vegetable Soup with Apples and Duck Ham not only illustrate the author's premise effectively, but also sound delicious. Colicchio has a natural voiceAthere's no foodie pretentiousness here at all, and his book is as straightforward, yet inventive, as the food he serves. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I think the author did a good job in bringing his technique to the masses, and I better understand now the magic that happens in a chef's brain that allows him/her to see a few ingredients and picture a complete meal. I also respect and agree with the premise of starting with the basics, braising, blanching, etc. As with most complex endeavors, a firm background in the basics makes all the difference.
There is one complaint that I have with this book, and perhaps it will go away if I can COOK my way through the book rather than read my way through (the recipes are there for practice, not just to eat). Although I see how the professional chef combines ingredients and techniques and the end result just happens, and I understand that what is fresh at the market tells you what to make, when I get to the fresh market, I'm still overwhelmed with what to pick and what to do. Mustard greens, fresh tomatoes, turnips, carrots, lettuce, etc, etc. What goes better with pork? Can I put corn and turkey together? Apples and chicken? It's like I need a color matching wheel to match foods together and I didn't get that out of this book. I still cannot see the end of the road, the final product, and always end up with too many shelled peas and having to run back for mushrooms, which I didn't even think about. I know others who put together meals easily on the fly, so it may be some mental block in my head but I still find myself backing my way into a recipe by picking one main ingredient, then looking for something that includes it, then hunting all over for all the other ingredients.
I did build a meal on the fly one time, as the author does and professes, and it was pure nirvana. The family loved it; the ingredients were all fresh from the garden and simply prepared, and spiced up with simple additions. But don't read this book thinking it'll have "the secret." Putting these combinations together requires knowledge and experience, neither of which is fully available from a book.
This book has wonderful, up-close, high-resolution pictures of food. My personal favorites are Braised Fresh Bacon (fork-tender pork butt; so flavorful...), Eggplant Caviar (eggplant with fire roasted red bell peppers and shitake mushrooms; put a spoonful on top of a slice of crusted bread with chesse and proscuitto and non-eggplant eaters will become believers), Beurre Fondue (creamy butter resulting from butter melted in water; use as a substitute for a dish requiring a finish of a pat of butter), and Pan Roasted Mushrooms.
Excellent book. Thanks, Tom!
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!