Monday, March 7, 2011

Classic Cooking References

First of all, I'd like to give a shout out to all the people riding their bikes.  Its not yet spring, but these guys and gals are out there navigating not only the flattening snow banks, crazy parking, puddles and traffic, but they're out there in the cold doing this.  Its amazing.  Way to go.  I'll see you on the streets this weekend.

Now, for the reason why we're all here: to talk about food...books, fine then, books on food. In each kitchen I've been asking each professional which books they have that they turn to the most often?  What sites they go to for recipes and research?  This seems the most streamline way to get to the gold nuggets that make up a quality food philosophy. Go straight to the source.  Here's a list of a few books, that I use and have been recommended to me.

Joy of Cooking - thousands of recipes in all categories.  This book breaks down each section and offers popular variants.  The instructions are fool proof, I know cause I had someone foolish test them, and the cook feels successful , inspired, as like they can take on and accomplish any culinary feat.  I use this as an encyclopedia for ingredients and techniques.  Gives specifics without wordiness. On the Picton Castle, this book was heavily used by the crew.

Food Lover's Companion - a reference guide that spells out techniques, ingredients, wines, sauces, you name it, all in alphabetical order.  There are cross references, common names, abbreviations to lead the cook to the origin and its definition.  Its all here, the appendix is amazing. It breaks down cuts of meat, conversion charts, safe cooking temps, pan substitutions, you get the idea. Great book, especially to answer the first round of inquiry.

On Food and Cooking - Harold McGee is the father of thinking of cooking as a science, a topic of great interest.  This book takes the reader every step of the way when it comes to dairy, for example. McGee breaks down the process from how the cow makes milk to the chemical break down of lactose, sugars, fat and protein. Then into yogurts, creams, cheese, (which is a huge topic on its own). The book hits all the major categories of interest and more, cause its all interesting.  This gives the cook an understanding of what is happening to their product in each stage of cooking.  I can imagine when you become comfortable and eventually master these concepts, that the cook can stop food at any step in the process, giving crazy control to the outcome of the product.

Thrive - Brendan Brazier is a vegan professional triathlete.  His perspective on food is valuable because he uses it as fuel and as a tool to recover from physical stresses.  He teaches the reader how to be good and take it easy on their body and how to maximize nutrition in every meal you make.  Something as simple as soaking grains before you make your morning cereal can boost the nutritional availability exponentially.  His recipes are tasty.  I'm a huge fan.  We'll be discussing the vegan topic in depth at a later date... stay tuned.

Culinary Artistry - Dorenburg and Page have written a few books together.  This one I like cause it breaks down flavors and plating, putting together a menu as their own skills.  Someone may be awesome at composing a dish, but doesn't know jack about making a restaurant menu.  My favorite part of this book is the Desert Island Lists.  The authors asked major chefs in major cities what 10 things they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert isl.  Start gathering your ideas, folks, that question will be posed to the audience.  You can count on that.

This is just a short list.  There are many more quality guides that exist.  If you have other books that are priceless to your collection, don't hold back, let me know what I'm missing. 

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P.S. - I received more suggestions in the days following the post.  Heat, and Kitchen Confidential are other favorites to look into.

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