At Home With The CIA

6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I'm involved in a major project taking a look at the CIA's At-Home series.

I'd appreciate hearing your views about any of the five books current part of the At-Home group: pro or con, usefullness, etc.

Either post your responses here, or contact me off-line.

Thnx.
 
428
14
Joined Nov 5, 2009
I am so glad you are doing this. I am very attracted to their line of books and would like some validation.

I bought the gourmet in minutes CIA book and returned it. The only thing I made from that book was the Waldorf Salad.  It came out good but different than anything  I ever had before.   but, every time I go to the store, I am drawn to those books and resist buying them.

I respect everyone's opinion on this board and look forward to reading this thread's responses
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Keep in mind, Missy Jean, that we're discussing only the At Home series, of which there are five titles currently and more in the works:

1. Cooking At Home
2. Baking At Home
3. Hors d'Oeuvre At Home
4. Chocolates and Confections At Home
5. Artisan Breads At Home

So, what about these do you find attractive? And, given the attraction, what's stopped you from buying one or more of them? In other words, why the resistence?
 
172
11
Joined Feb 24, 2009
I havent seen these as yet so it is difficult to comment on them, but my first impressions are they would be a throttled down version of a good CIA student module.  I may be off base entirely but if I saw them on the shelf , because of my sometimes warped thinking, I probably wouldnt pick one up.

Are they strickly geared toward the novice??
 
428
14
Joined Nov 5, 2009
Keep in mind, Missy Jean, that we're discussing only the At Home series, of which there are five titles currently and more in the works:

1. Cooking At Home
2. Baking At Home
3. Hors d'Oeuvre At Home
4. Chocolates and Confections At Home
5. Artisan Breads At Home

So, what about these do you find attractive? And, given the attraction, what's stopped you from buying one or more of them? In other words, why the resistence?
i bought and subsequently returned Cooking At Home, Baking At Home and Gourmet In Minutes.

I think I am attracted to the books, or, at least, want them to work for me because of the respect I feel for the CIA. 

As someone new to cooking, I've been looking for the right books for me. I was going to collect all the CIA books to establish a cookbook library. 

I do feel I learned something from the books for the brief time I had them (Barnes & Nobel allows returns within 14 days); but, I felt insecure with the Waldorf Salad I made because nobody even commented on it. Also, I was looking for more detailed explanations and I feel CIA books skimmed the surface.

I have been buying and returning books for the past 6 months until I tried Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipes. Every recipe I make gets a WOW response.

However, I respect the opinion of everyone on this board and would be willing to try the CIA home collection again if you guys recommend it.

I started a thread about these books some months ago because I needed help. 
 
Last edited:

kcz

331
12
Joined Dec 14, 2006
I posted about the Hors D'Oeuvre book before.  http://www.cheftalk.com/forum/thread/58361/braiding-bread 

I recently bought the CIA's Breakfast and Brunches book (not part of their "At Home" series), and it is also a disappointment.  Are Refried Beans, Chicken Pot Pie, and an Asian Stir-Fry Scallop recipe really appropriate for brunch?  Can't the CIA come up with anything better?

The CIA won't be getting any more of my cookbook budget.
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I remember your comments, KCZ, and appreciate them. Was hoping to promote wider discussion to see if many members had used any of those books, and what they thought of them.

Can't the CIA come up with anything better?

You would hope so. If this is the best the preeminent culinary school in America can do, you really have to wonder.

But it may be that formal culinary education doesn't translate well to the printed word? So far I've been disappointed with the entire series; mostly in the choice of recipes and how they're presented (that is to say, badly).

Let me mitigate that by pointing out that the current Director of Publishing is aware of the problems, and has been working hard to correct them. Whether or not she's successful is the open question.
 
428
14
Joined Nov 5, 2009
Another issue I have with their recipes is that it is for too many servings. I don't think the average home cook wants to walk around with a calculator when they cook.

I do like their gear, though.

I love the measuring cups and measuring spoons and cooling grid
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Hmmmmmmm? Don't know if I share that objection, MissyJean. In the At-Home series, at least, recipes run 4-6 servings, which is pretty typical of consumer cookbooks.

In Cooking At Home the vast majority of the recipes are only four servings.

It's a little harder to make a determination in Baking At Home, cuz, after all, how many servings are there in a 9-inch pie or an 8-inch tart? But the predominating number seems to be six servings in that book. Again, fairly typical.

Have you, perhaps, picked up some of their professional titles instead?
 
428
14
Joined Nov 5, 2009
Sorry, I was referring to this one


I know it is not the home series but it is one in which I thought the recipes were too large. I believe the servings were for 8
 
428
14
Joined Nov 5, 2009
If, through your project,  you find these books to be good additions to a library, I will give them a second look. Thanks for looking into this subject
 
428
14
Joined Nov 5, 2009
Kyheirloomer, I just finished reading your review of Cooking At Home With The CIA. I have to applaud you. Your work is in depth and informative. 

From my experience with a few of the CIA books, I could not agree more. As soon as you open the book, you cannot help but learn something; however, the recipes did not wow me. As a novice, I would not recognize errors in type or ratio.

I was waiting for your review and was going to purchase a few of the books based on your review. 

Thank you so much!

I guess I'll wait for the revisions and give the books another try at that time
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Glad you found the review useful, MissyJean.

I was really conflicted, with that one, because the instructional text is so good I wanted to give the book five stars. But couldn't justify a glowing review given the quality of the recipes. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/frown.gif

So far the next one in the series is shaping up a little better. But I want to prepare at least a half-dozen recipes from it before deciding for sure.
 
428
14
Joined Nov 5, 2009
Are you going to review Professional Chef?  If you are a Barnes & Nobel member, you can get that book online for $44. The CIA home series is $28/book online.  Would it be more beneficial as well as more economic to buy Professional Chef if you are a novice home cook, like me?
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Hadn't planned on reviewing it this go around, MissyJean. As I mentioned above, this is a series taking a look at the At-Home Group.

I will say that in general I don't recommend CIA textbooks for people such as yourself. They are, like Cooking At Home, strongly techniques oriented, but less concerned with recipes as such. In fact, the recipes can be vague and unclear to the non-professional.

As originally envisioned, the At-Home books were supposed to be the professional texts adapted for use by the home cook.

All that aside, I think you've been taking the wrong approach. In several threads, now, you have stressed the desire for cookbooks with great recipes. And, in several threads, you've talked about how disappointing you find many of them.

I believe that is the point of the CIA books. Instead of worrying about recipes, you should be steeping yourself in techniques. The way you move from being a novice cook to a great cook is to realize that there is only one secret: Good cooking consists of applying good techniques to good ingredients. Once you've learned that, recipes become all but irrelevent.

Take that Waldorf Salad you found disappointing. Did you ever analyze why it lacked any sort of Wow! factor? And figure out how you could adapt it so that it both impressed those you served it to, and, in the process, became your recipe instead of somebody elses?

The way to advance as a cook is to use recipes strictly as guidelines, rather than something you slavishly follow. You read a recipe and it inspires you. Then you adapt and amend until it pleases you best. Doing that, of course, requires that----are you ready?----you are well versed in technique.

As a novice, I would not recognize errors in type or ratio.

Precisely my point. If a recipe doesn't work out you should understand why. Sometimes, to be sure, it's your fault. But more times than not, novices blame themselves when it was the recipe itself that was to blame.

Here's a precise example. In my review I mention how off the recipe for fried calamari is. Cooks who work with cephlopods (i.e., squid, octopus, cuttlefish) use all kinds of recipes. But they have one underlying technique: the 2/20 rule. That means that no matter what the recipe is, these critters are cooked either for less than two minutes or more than 20 minutes. Thus, as soon as I saw a recipe that said to cook them at high heat for four minutes I immediately recognized a problem.

The difference is: Let's say you decided to make that recipe. You'd have wound up with little breaded rings of rubber. But would you have known why? And how would the experience have effected you? Not knowing what the problem was, you likely would conclude that you don't like squid, and won't make it again. And thereby cut yourself off from a vast range of great dishes.

Another thing about becoming a techniques-oriented cook. You'll never find yourself intimidated by, or afraid to try, new ingredients. Then, if it turns out you don't care for it, you know it was actually the taste of the product, not because you mishandled it. Or you might conclude, this is OK, but it would be spectacular if I did such and such with it.
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
BTW, I just noticed that Amazon has copies of Cooking At Home at prices ranging from $9 & change upwards.

For ten or fifteen bucks I wouldn't hesitate to buy it, for the techniques stuff. Then you can ignore the recipes or not as you please.
 
25
11
Joined Mar 19, 2010
Could anyone tell me a little more about the chocolate and confections or baking books?  I'm an aspring pastry chef, and hope to be able to attend the CIA for a bachelors in baking and pastry arts in a few years when I graduate high school, so I thought I would try out these beforehand.  Thanks :]
 

Latest posts

Top Bottom