Looking for cookbook with recipes to turn daily humdrum meals into flavor rich dishes

Discussion in 'Cookbook Reviews' started by rutledj, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. rutledj

    rutledj

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    Home Chef
    I find myself cooking a lot of the same meals every week, often with chicken as the main meat. I'd like to cookbook that can add some flavor to regular dishes. Maybe something that combines herb use with flavorful sauces. We eat mostly chicken or an occasional pasta dish or a steak. Rarely any pork (my wife doesn't like it) and rarely any fish (I only enjoy mild flavored fish but don't know how to cook it very well).  Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
     
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I Just Like Food
    Reading back through your posts, I think your bigger struggle will be with technique holding you back from the results you want more than a recipe that will take you there.

    A simple chicken cutlet seasoned with just salt and pepper and properly pan seared with a simple reduction sauce is great food with full complex flavor. But technique is king in making it great (assuming the chicken is of worthwhile quality in the first place).

    Boar_d_laze gives a worthwhile description of the basics here though that dish is a touch more complex than what I describe above. Look at how much of BDL's info is how, and not what.

    Now, from reading your posts, i think you'd enjoy Todd Wilbur's series of restaurant clone recipes, his various Top Secret Recipes books. His website is worthwhile too, www.topsecretrecipes.com  I enjoy my Todd Wilbur Books though I don't use them often.

    I think you'd also benefit from a technique oriented cookbook such as James Peterson's Essentials of Cooking.
     
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  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    The direct answer would be, 90% of the cookbooks published in the past five years, and about 80% of those published previous to that.

    On the other hand, Phil is correct. I've said it before, and will, no doubt, have to repeat it again: good cooking consists of applying good techniques to good ingredients. That's the whole secret. Of, to paraphrase Michael Symon, if you give a man a chicken recipe, he'll make one great dish. If you teach him how to cook chicken he'll be able to make hundreds.

    Along with learning techniques you need to learn how flavors work with each other. But that comes through time in grade. Until you know what, lets say oregano, tastes like you can't know how to use it. In that regard recipes can help. As you follow one, however, try and isolate how each ingredient contributes to the whole; and ask yourself, "what would happen if I increased/decreased this one, or even left it out, or substituted X?"

    An experiement I sometimes use with my students is to ring the changes on chicken breasts. Pound out the breast so it's of uniform thickness (technique). Set up a three-bowl station (technique) using plain flour, egg, and unseasoned breadcrumbs. Then pan fry it (technque). After that, start running changes. Try it with seasoned flour. Try it by adding hot sauce to the eggs. Try it with seasoned breadcrumbs. Then start changing the breading. Instead of regular breadcrumbs try Panko; or crushed potato chips; or crumbled corn flakes. What happens if you leave everything the same but use a different oil? What happens if you bake them instead of frying? Why did the sauce you choose work or not work with a particular version?

    Look at that. We've just cooked a dozen or more dishes, and not one of them used a formal recipe.

    Note, either mentally or actually writing down, how each change affects the final texture and flavor.

    After conducting such an experiment two things will happen. First, you'll probably be sick and tired of chicken breasts. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif  But, more imporantly, you'll be well on your way to understanding the technique called pan-frying, and how to use it to manipulate flavors.

    And the point is, all of cooking is precisely the same thing.
     
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