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 Replies

  • 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.

  • 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 😉

  • 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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