May 23, 2012
"How to Cook Everything. The Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food — With 1,000 Photos" By Mark Bittman; Wiley, $35
What it is:
"Everything" is a bold boast, but obviously longtime New York Times food writer Mark Bittman is not going to teach you how to make everything. Otherwise he'd have stopped with the first "How to Cook Everything," now 14 years old, and wouldn't have needed to give the world the companion, "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian." Instead, the aim with "Basics" is to give novices a collection of essential recipes, each an end in itself but also a building block to learning how to cook.
Praise and quibbles:
Bittman has produced a work with an impressive attention to detail. With 1,000 photos to present just 185 recipes, you'll understand exactly what he means by sauteing or deglazing or any of the myriad techniques. He teaches nearly everything, from cuts of fish to how to cut onions to cutting butter into pie dough. The book's organization extends its utility.
Techniques mentioned in a recipe are cross-referenced with "Learn more" lessons, which will refresh you on, say, making stock. (The e-book edition makes jumping back and forth a breeze.) The "Is it done yet?" feature — such as five stages of a hard-cooked egg — alone could prove revolutionary to many cooks, beginner or not. Quibbles are few. Images purporting to show stages of pasta doneness all look the same. A tip to remove thyme leaves from the stem is more effective opposite the way he suggests.
Who it's for:
Experienced cooks would be wrong to zero in on that word "basics" and dismiss this comprehensive volume. Bittman aims for the novices of the kitchen, sure, but he has lots to teach, well, everyone.
— Joe Gray, Tribune Newspapers
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