Vague Directions

I don’t like vague di­rec­tions when I’m try­ing out a new recipe. Not vague like Patrick’s black beans, but vague like this: I made man­go sor­bet this week­end and the recipe called for re­duced sug­ar wa­ter, but the di­rec­tions sim­ply said bring to a boil then re­duce heat and sim­mer for five min­utes. .5C of sug­ar in 1.25C wa­ter. Then you mix it in with some man­gos and or­ange juice and freeze it [adding whipped egg-white lat­er]. Mine end­ed up like man­go ice or a man­go slurpee in­stead of sor­bet be­cause there was [ob­vi­ous­ly] too much wa­ter in it. In ret­ro­spect, I have de­ter­mined that the sugar/​water was sup­posed to be re­duced un­til it was sim­ple syrup, but I guess the recipe just as­sumed I’d know that. Which brings me to my con­clu­sion:

I’d like a Stupid Chef’s Illustrated Encyclopedia that gives you both meth­ods and pic­tures of cer­tain culi­nary tasks. Like what “stiff peaks” means when whip­ping egg whites, and how to sep­a­rate an egg in the first place [which my mom told me how to do when I asked] and lots of oth­er things that cook­books as­sume a chef al­ready knows. The Better Homes and Gardens cook­book is good for some of this, but it isn’t com­pre­hen­sive and is more fo­cused on pro­vid­ing recipes than tech­niques.

5 thoughts on “Vague Directions

  1. Joy of Cooking is great for ba­sics and il­lus­tra­tions. My fa­vorite things I’ve learned are the il­lus­tra­tions and de­scrip­tions of what can go wrong with baked goods and why (sunken mid­dle, done on out­side and not on in­side, etc) and the vol­ume of cooked beans you get from dried.

  2. Joy of Cooking is one of those you should own, not bor­row. It’s a huge ref­er­ence. I use mine all the time. Truthfully, the recipes them­selves are on­ly okay, but the ba­sic in­fo con­tained with­in is price­less.

    And you should ask Genevieve about messed up Mango sor­bet 😉

  3. I used to watch the all the cook­ing shows on PBS, while they had them and the good ones were the ones that did show you what all these terms meant. This was be­fore food­net­work stole them and made it en­ter­tain­ment ver­sus ed­u­ca­tion.

    Also for the food­ie geek, I rec­om­mend On Cooking by Mcgee for the sci­ence be­hind what hap­pens in cook­ing.

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