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Old 09-14-2007, 06:06 PM   #1
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Need "Non-Cookbook Cookbook" to learn to cook without recipes

Hi there. I'm on a mission to improve my abysmal cooking skills and had a question for you all. I'd like to learn the basics, not just in a sense of techniques, but also in terms of improvisation. I can follow a recipe okay, but I'd like to learn to cook the way one learns to dress with style. You don't buy a book with pictures of outfits to wear, you just learn the principles of style, right? So I want to learn what flavors go together, stuff like that. I've paged through "The Improvisational Cook" which looked neat, except about 70% of the book is recipes, many of which are a little too "gourmet" for me and my family.

Can anyone recommend any books I should look into?

Thanks,
~K

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Old 09-14-2007, 06:10 PM   #2
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You should check out Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food. It fits the bill for what you are looking for. There are a small handful of recipes ( 10-20 or so), but they are just there to demonstrate the lessons he is trying to teach.
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:18 PM   #3
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As it happens, I just returned "I'm Just Here for the Food" to the bookstore this morning. I was so excited when I found it, but... I tried the first recipe last night, for steaks. Let me just say, it bombed, and I followed the instructions to a "T." According to my husband (whose opinion I trust more than Alton Brown's, as Alton's not the one eating my cooking), the recipe was absolutely wrong. Should have cooked on low heat, not high; should have marinaded, not just salt and pepper, the cut of beef wasn't suited to that method of cooking, etc. So... I dunno... =\
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:21 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by k_young221 View Post
As it happens, I just returned "I'm Just Here for the Food" to the bookstore this morning. I was so excited when I found it, but... I tried the first recipe last night, for steaks. Let me just say, it bombed, and I followed the instructions to a "T." According to my husband (whose opinion I trust more than Alton Brown's, as Alton's not the one eating my cooking), the recipe was absolutely wrong. Should have cooked on low heat, not high; should have marinaded, not just salt and pepper, the cut of beef wasn't suited to that method of cooking, etc. So... I dunno... =\

Are you referring to the recipe with the cast iron skillet pre-heated in the oven and the ribeye steak?
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:24 PM   #5
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Id suggest How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It covers technique, improvisation, and recipes for nearly every kind of food you can think of. From salad to bread to soup to every meat imaginable. If you could only have one book, Id go with this one.
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:27 PM   #6
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I can't recommend Julia Child's The Way To Cook highly enough.

She gives "basic" recipes for everything, & then follows with recipes on how to use the "basic" recipe to make new dishes to your taste.

It's a FABULOUS book, & is still in print & available. In fact, I saw several copies at Borders Books just the other day. My copy is in tatters, & I almost considered buying myself a new edition - lol. That's how much I love this book.

It also contains the most fabulous recipe for a terrific Xmas Roast Goose - one that I've been using for YEARS now & have no plans for deviating from. Really - you can't go wrong with this book if you're looking for a cookbook that encourages you to branch out on your own.
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by k_young221 View Post
As it happens, I just returned "I'm Just Here for the Food" to the bookstore this morning. I was so excited when I found it, but... I tried the first recipe last night, for steaks. Let me just say, it bombed, and I followed the instructions to a "T." According to my husband (whose opinion I trust more than Alton Brown's, as Alton's not the one eating my cooking), the recipe was absolutely wrong. Should have cooked on low heat, not high; should have marinaded, not just salt and pepper, the cut of beef wasn't suited to that method of cooking, etc. So... I dunno... =\
Huh? What cut of meat did you use. Its pretty much standard procedure to cook a good cut of steak on high heat (to sear) with basic seasonings so that the flavor of the steak shines.

Low and slow cooking is usually only done with less expensive and tougher cuts of meat. Ive never seen it suggested that a good ribeye, strip, or filet be cooked on low heat.

What cut of steak were you using?
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:27 PM   #8
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Andy: Yes, that's the recipe to which I was referring. Did I mess up because it's a bad recipe, or because I'm a bad cook? lol

I'll take a look at How to Cook Everything. Basically, I want to be able to take a look at the ingredients I have on hand and "whip something up." Maybe that's a lofty goal for a beginning cook, but my family and I are all picky eaters, so I'm constantly having to alter recipes anyway.
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:29 PM   #9
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Keltin- It was a less expensive cut. I think Brown even mentioned in the recipe that it's not that great a cut. B/c what you said is what I thought- good cuts can be cooked quickly, while cheaper cuts are better for stews and stuff.
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:31 PM   #10
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Keltin- It was a less expensive cut. I think Brown even mentioned in the recipe that it's not that great a cut. B/c what you said is what I thought- good cuts can be cooked quickly, while cheaper cuts are better for stews and stuff.
Agreed. It sounds like your hubby was spot on then!
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