Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer
Hadn't planned on reviewing it this go around, MissyJean. As I mentioned above, this is a series taking a look at the At-Home Group.
I will say that in general I don't recommend CIA textbooks for people such as yourself. They are, like Cooking At Home,
strongly techniques oriented, but less concerned with recipes as such. In fact, the recipes can be vague and unclear to the non-professional.
As originally envisioned, the At-Home books were supposed to be the professional texts adapted for use by the home cook.
All that aside, I think you've been taking the wrong approach. In several threads, now, you have stressed the desire for cookbooks with great recipes. And, in several threads, you've talked about how disappointing you find many of them.
I believe that is the point of the CIA books. Instead of worrying about recipes, you should be steeping yourself in techniques. The way you move from being a novice cook to a great cook is to realize that there is only one secret: Good cooking consists of applying good techniques to good ingredients. Once you've learned that, recipes become all but irrelevent.
Take that Waldorf Salad you found disappointing. Did you ever analyze why it lacked any sort of Wow! factor? And figure out how you could adapt it so that it both impressed those you served it to, and, in the process, became your recipe instead of somebody elses?
The way to advance as a cook is to use recipes strictly as guidelines, rather than something you slavishly follow. You read a recipe and it inspires you. Then you adapt and amend until it pleases you best. Doing that, of course, requires that----are you ready?----you are well versed in technique.As a novice, I would not recognize errors in type or ratio.
Precisely my point. If a recipe doesn't work out you should understand why. Sometimes, to be sure, it's your fault. But more times than not, novices blame themselves when it was the recipe itself that was to blame.
Here's a precise example. In my review I mention how off the recipe for fried calamari is. Cooks who work with cephlopods (i.e., squid, octopus, cuttlefish) use all kinds of recipes. But they have one underlying technique: the 2/20 rule. That means that no matter what the recipe is, these critters are cooked either for less than two minutes or more than 20 minutes. Thus, as soon as I saw a recipe that said to cook them at high heat for four minutes I immediately recognized a problem.
The difference is: Let's say you decided to make that recipe. You'd have wound up with little breaded rings of rubber. But would you have known why? And how would the experience have effected you? Not knowing what the problem was, you likely would conclude that you don't like squid, and won't make it again. And thereby cut yourself off from a vast range of great dishes.
Another thing about becoming a techniques-oriented cook. You'll never find yourself intimidated by, or afraid to try, new ingredients. Then, if it turns out you don't care for it, you know it was actually the taste of the product, not because you mishandled it. Or you might conclude, this is OK, but it would be spectacular if I did such and such with it.