It is not that hard to figure out how to reduce restaurant size portions to family size or even 2-people size.
Jacques Pepin's cookbooks are all pretty good, in different ways, and he's very serious about teaching fundamentals. Complete Techniques is exceedingly difficult to use as a cookbook, however, because it's not organized around dishes. Jacques Pepin Celebrates is a very good example of his later work, in which he puts together meals and dishes while teaching the fundamental techniques that go into them.
A very impressive cookbook that might interest you is Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook. The dishes are fairly high-end stuff, not heavy on spice or overloaded with garlic (your husband will be pleased!), and Portale went to a lot of trouble to make sure these things actually work in a home kitchen, which isn't the case with every chef-written cookbook. He also gives these running commentaries that discuss what he's telling you to do and why, how you can adapt this or that technique to other purposes, how you can manipulate a dish, and so on. It's a wonderful book. Certain recipes in there are bound to become part of your standard repertoire.
Peterson's Essentials is a good book, in many respects a sort of rewrite of Pepin's Complete Techniques, with color pictures.
The trick to using any of Julia Child's wonderful cookbooks -- both volumes of Mastering the Art, plus From Julia Child's Kitchen and The Art of Cooking (I'm less enamored of her menu cookbooks and such) -- is that you really do need to read through and get the hang of the whole "master recipe" / "variations" thing. If you do this, and try it a bit, you will suddenly find that a number of these recipes stop being something you need to look up any more: you just know how to do it. And then the variations become obvious. And then, pretty soon, you are really cooking, not following recipes.
Larousse Gastronomique is a fascinating read, but it's not really very useful in the context you have in mind. It's an encyclopedia with recipes, at base, primarily useful when you're wondering "gee, how do I use this? how do I make that sauce? what does this term mean?"
I am vehemently opposed to textbooks in almost all contexts, including (especially) teaching, and what I've seen of The Professional Chef doesn't make me alter my opinion.
Thank you for your help. I was actually looking at Complete Techniques the other day in the store. I compared my banana bread recipe to theirs and it is very similar. That makes me feel I have been doing it right.
Thanks for considering my husband's aversion to garlic. It makes it a little hard to select recipes for him. I love garlic but I don't mind giving it up if it makes him more comfortable. He also can't eat any citrus flavorings. I was very disappointed after I made the corn recipe in Ad Hoc because the lime was over-powering to him.
I have to remember to give him very small doses of flavor and maybe, someday, his tolerance will increase
I love garlic but I don't mind giving it up if it makes him more comfortable.
Then just leave it out, MissyJean! There are very few dishes that will actually suffer by leaving out an ingredient, or changing the amount, or adding something not specified.
The same dish with and without garlic might taste differently. But that's not the same as one being right and the other wrong.
This is the one lesson you must learn to be a good cook: Recipes are, at best, merely guidelines. They are not written in stone. Don't like a particular ingredient? Leave it out. Think the recipe would be improved with the addition of X? Pour some in.
This applies to all parts of the recipe. Even the main protein can be changed, if it suits your mood and taste. So what if the recipe calls for pork and all you have on hand is chicken. If the other ingredients seem to be a match for chicken, give it a try.
If you slavishly follow recipes it means two things; that you know how to read and know how to measure things. But when you adapt, and modify, and make the recipe your own, then you are a cook.
I have 2 of Wayne Gisslen's books: Professional Cooking and Professional Baking. I also have the CIA's The Professional Chef. I like them all. I still want to see the CIA's book on baking and pastry. I think from a cooking point of view (rather than the usual baking) if I could just get one book it would be The Professional Chef.
I own both of these books On Cooking and The Professional Chef and for somebody starting out in cookery or wanting to learn at home they are both great books.
I have been a professional chef in Australia, Europe and South east asia for 20 years.
There is a book that is common in English, Australian and French Culinary Institutes which is often overlooked by Americans it is called:
Practical Professional Cookery is recognised throughout the English-speaking world as the established source of recipes for both students and professionals. Practical Professional Cookery covers the full range of work from the most basic dishes to those requiring advanced techniques. Each recipe is presented in a stepped, easy-to-follow format.
Number Of Pages: 928
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.7 x 5.2
Weight (kg): 1.328
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Hi there. I've actually studied from both of those books--and currently still own both. I'm assuming the On Cooking book you are talking about is the one by Sarah Labensky and Alan Hause. I think the Professional Chef is definitely a great book, but as Phatch indicated, it's a book that comes with less explanation is better for a classroom setting with a Chef-instructor providing the missing pieces or some other form of additional instruction. But as a student, I loved the book. On Cooking, on the other hand, is an excellent book for the home cook because it EXPLAINS things really well. There are loads of great recipes which incorporate all of the material of the particular chapter they're in. I would say that for non-students, On Cooking wins, hands down.
Hi. I also have Larousse Gastronomique. It's basically an encyclopedia-cookbook that contains over 8,500 recipes and offers incredible, detailed information on all culinary matters, as well as numerous relevant historical references, including lots of wonderful techniques. This book is seminal and is basically understood the world over to be THE culinary authority. The book is actually written by Prosper Montagne and was originally published in France by the Librairie Larousse in 1938, from which the compendium gets it's name. I have the first, 1961 English publication of this book with an introduction by Escoffier himself with PH Gilbert. It's pretty awesome and every single fine restaurant in the world has a copy of this time tested and invaluable book. It is most definitely worth getting a copy, to say the absolute least. All great chefs should and do have this book. Ok, hope that was helpful :)
For European readers if you are a serious amateur cook but don't necessarily want to wade through a professional book, I would recommend three books as well as the aforementioned Harold McGee on food and cooking as this debunks a lot of myths and half truths.
I have a library of around 300 cookery books (as I am a bit obsessed ;-) and these three are very useful for someone learning to cook well:
Cookery School by Richard Corrigan (2* michelin chef) is extremely practical and as well as recipes illustrates with photos pretty much every technique you would use in a pro kitchen, but using domestic facilities. This is an excellent book and very explanatory, without being overly "cheffy".
Heston Blumenthal at Home. (3* michelin). Heston's books can be a tad pompous but this one runs through some excellent practical recipes along with all the science and techniques. It will deliver restaurant quality scaled back to a home cook level of practicality. If you want to discover how he achieves his menus at the Fat Duck then the book of that name goes into immense detail. However, time consuming special techniques and equipment are beyond many.
My third recommendation is Yotam Ottolenghi "Plenty". This is a vegetarian cook book but the chef is not vegetarian and you should ignore the vegetarian aspect as it will greatly widen your repertoire of side dishes / vegetable and make your work stand out from the crowd. Excellent and creative recipes.
In all three books the recipes work well and are properly explained. The best illustrations are in the Richard Corrigan book. (Though ignore what he says about cooking steak and stick to Heston's method!).
I have The Professional Chef too and although it is comprehensive, it is very expensive for what it is. It is good in many way, but at something of a student / trainee level. In some areas, knife sharpening for instance, specialist in this area would disagree with a fair bit of what is written. It is not a substitute for actually working in a good pro kitchen but does give an insight.