Along with the title the subtitle The Step-by-Step Methods That Will Turn a Good Cook Into a Great Cook makes the intent of this cookbook by Clara Paul and Eric Treuille very clear. Published by Firefly Books, the book stresses the importance of basic skills and how to build upon them to become a whiz in the kitchen. That is done through text and pictures across twelve chapters that each address a needed skill.
After a multipage introduction and multi-page lists of essential kitchen equipment, the book gets going with “Sauce Skills.” After a brief intro that explains, among other things, how you will now learn to make perfect gravy and hollandaise, it begins with “Tomato Sauce” on pages 18-19. Instead of using such sauce from a jar or can, this tells you how to make your own by way of a list of ingredients and directions. Along with tomato sauce, vinaigrette, and gravy, one can learn how to make “White Sauce” (page 28), “Sugar Syrup” (page 32) and “Chocolate Sauce” (page 33) among others.
While there is not any nutritional information on the recipes, most have pictures of the finished items as well as a color coded “expert tips” section with additional good advice. This same format is followed throughout the hardback cookbook. Each recipe is skill numbered to reflect the title. Therefore, the aforementioned “Chocolate Sauce” of page 33 is skill number 18.
“Vegetable Skills” comes next so that you can learn to do more than bring a pot of water to boil and throw something in. Along with teaching you how to slice as well as dice an onion, peeling tomato and shallots, there is information on how to handle herbs correctly. Also included here is how to go about “Blanching” (page 52), “Caramelizing Onions” (page 58), and “Bouquet Garnii” (page 62) among others.
After dealing with vegies it is time to move on to “Fruit And Nut Skills.” Starting on page 64, the authors take you through “Coring Fruit” (page 67), “Preparing Pomegranate” (page 71), “Toasting And Skinning Nuts” (page 82) and “Dry-Or Pan-Toasting Nuts” (page 83), among others.
After an introduction that also explains the different cuts of beef, tip number 70 on “Cutting Beef” (pages 88-89) leads off “Meat Skills.” Learn how to go about “Cooking Streak” (page 90), “Preparing A Rack Of Lamb” (page 101) and “Roasting Pork With Stuffing” (page 104) among others. While often a chart of beef cuts is included on a chapter on meats, a nice touch in this book are the two charts reflecting cuts of lamb and pork.
You can do a lot with chicken and they are the subject of next chapter section titled “Poultry Skills.” Along with different ways to prepare various types of chicken, there is also information on “Scoring A Duck Breast” (page 120) and “Searing a Duck Breast” (page 121).
We go from the land to the sea next with “Seafood Skills.” After a two page deal on “Identifying And Choosing Fish (tip number 100 on pages 124-125), various ways of preparing a fish of different types from cleaning to cooking are covered. Also included here is tip number 116 “Identifying And Choosing Shellfish” (pages 140-141), how to peel as well as devein your shrimp (pages 142-143), “Cooking Crab (pages 144-145) among other items. If you ever wanted to know how to go about “Preparing Squid” the information is here at the end of the section on pages 154-155.
The highly versatile and common in a lot of dishes, the egg comes next with “Egg Skills.” Along with how to crack one properly and how to separate yolk from the white, one can learn to make a “Soufflé” on pages 166-167 among other skills. This chapter section is one of the shortest in the book.
“Pastry and Baking Skills” come next with an introduction on page 168. Then we are led through “Making Basic Pie Crust” (pages 170-171), how to go about “Beating Butter and Sugar” (page 178) the right way and making “Phyllo Pastry” (page 194), among other topics.
We move a bit backwards with the next chapter “Pasta, Grain, Legume and Bread Skills.” Along with teaching you how to go about “Making Fresh Pasta” (pages 200-201) and “Cooking Pasta” (page 203) correctly there is information here on making your own “Ravioli” (pages 204-205), a “Basic Risotto” (pages 212-213), “Making Bread Crumbs” (page 219) and making “Melba Toast” (page 222) among other ideas are here.
“Broth Skills” come next and start on page 224. The recipes here include making a “Brown Broth” (pages 228-229), a “Vegetable Broth” (page 230) along with other information such as “Skimming Broths” (page 232) and “Clarifying Broth” on page 234-235.
The very short chapter “Spice Skills” is the twelfth and final section. Toasting and grinding spices are explained as is how to go about “Soaking Saffron” (page 290) and tip 200 “Using a Vanilla Bean” (page 291).
A four page glossary of ingredients comes next followed by a three page dictionary of terms. That leads readers into the usual one page of resources and two pages of conversion charts. That is followed by a five page index.
Despite the obvious lack of nutritional information of any type throughout the book, The 200 Skills Every Cook Must Have: The Step-by-Step Methods That Will Turn a Good Cook Into a Great Cook is a good cookbook. The pictures are colorful and illustrative of what is being taught and the text is simple and straight forward. The color coded tabs for each section are a nice touch and can make finding the section one is looking for quicker. Another nice touch is the color coded “expert tips” section in each chapter that highlight information that will help the user turn out quality food. A solidly good book that shows users how to build on the skills they have or learn new ones The 200 Skills Every Cook Must Have: The Step-by-Step Methods That Will Turn a Good Cook Into a Great Cook is a good hardback reference material for your kitchen endeavors.
The 200 Skills Every Cook Must Have: The Step-by-Step Methods That Will Turn a Good Cook Into a Great Cook
Clara Paul and Eric Treuille
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2014
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