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.