Monday, June 13, 2011

The Cook's Book by Jill Norman, Editor-in-Chief

The Cook's Book features "techniques and tips from the world's master chefs". With over 600 recipes and many, many photographs, this book covers a wide variety of food items as well as many professional techniques adapted for home applications. There are also several chapters on popular ethnic cuisines.

This is such a great book. It's definitely another one of those books that you could get lost in...sometimes for an entire afternoon. I swear time flies by so quickly when I open it. The information in this book is invaluable to those, like me, wishing to improve their culinary skills or for those who are merely curious about the culinary arts.

The introduction includes a section on the chefs who wrote the various chapters. These chefs have different specialities and come from all over the world...from 4 different continents. I love that a variety of chef have contributed to the different chapters. For example, Rick Bayless, an expert on Mexican food, wrote the chapter featuring that ethic cuisine. I love getting advice or tips directly from the experts.

The contents of the book are quite varied. They include chapters on different food categories such as: eggs and diary, fish and shellfish, poultry and game birds, meat, vegetables, grains and beans, fruit and nuts. There are also chapters are different preparations: sauces and dressings, foams, stocks and soups, flavourings, bread and batters. The ethnic cuisines include: Latin American, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern. I especially love the menus and tips for each of the different cuisines.

As with lots of books published by DK, the photographs in the book are plentiful and gorgeous. These photographs feature various techniques as well as finished dishes. The recipes are nicely formatted, which makes them easily accessible to the reader/cook. Tips and techniques are followed by featured recipes which allow the reader/home cook and put the technique information to good use. Many of the recipes feature step-by-step photographs and explanations as well as additional tips to successfully completing the dish.

Even though I'll probably won't do some of this stuff myself, I like knowing how it's done. The sections on butchering is a really good example of this. While I found it was very interesting, it's just so much easier to get the guy at the grocery store to do it.

With so many recipes to try, it's hard to know where to start. I'll definitely be trying the Yorkshire Pudding on page 482-483. The last time I attempted to make it, it flopped. I can use all of the help I can get. I'm also going to try several of the recipes in the Indian Cooking section, including the Onion Bhajis. Yum.

My one complaint is the arranging of the chapters. It seems to be a bit haphazard with little rhyme or reason to the order. Maybe there's some sort of order that a professionally trained chef would recognize, but probably not the average home cook. If that's the case, an explanation with regards to the chapter arrangement would have been appreciated. Otherwise, I would liked to have seen the ethnic cuisines grouped together in a section rather than scattered throughout the book. The other chapters could have used a little reorganization as well.

The table of contents is extensive. It not only features the titles of the chapters and their authors, there's also a description of each of the chapters. It's awesome. The glossary features many cooking terms from procedures to equipment to ingredients and offers clear concise descriptions of these items. The index is also quite extensive and should aid the cook in finding items in the book.

Highly recommended. If you ever wished you were a better cook, this book is for you. If you ever watch Food Network (or any other cooking channel or show) and wonder how they do that or why they do that or what it is they are doing, this book is for you.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

The Cook's Book by Jill Norman (Editor-in-Chief), Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2005. ISBN 0756613027(Hardcover), 648p.

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