Steve De Long
The Laws of Cooking - and how to break them.
Point of View:
This is a book that is designed to teach you a framework for creative cooking.
Like Architecture or Design there are "rules" and "patterns" to cooking that can be used to guide our choices so it's possible for a motivated home cook to invent delicious recipes of their own design or to "riff" off existing recipes and make them your own. It is simultaneously funny and serious and one of the coolest cookbooks I've ever read because it shows me a path to achieve my aspirations to be a better more creative home cook and to have fun along the way.
The framework Justin Warner uses to achieve this is his 11 Laws of Cooking. For example, the first law is called The Law of Peanut Butter and Jelly. This "law" translates into "FAT meets FRUIT". Justin has named each law after an iconic recipe that best represents how that law works and each chapter of the book covers one of the 11 laws.
This is a little meta but there are 11 example recipes per chapter to go with the 11 Laws of Cooking. The namesake "recipe" plus each chapter opens with a canapes recipe, ends with a dessert recipe, and contains eight additional courses in between to teach you the nuances of the rule.
Justin also provides convenient tips in sidebars he has named - Hold It! Plate It! Cheat It! Break It! "Hold It" explains if this can be made ahead and "held" and for how long. "Plate It" provides plating instructions. "Cheat It" tells about convenient short cuts or substitutions and "Break It' explores how a rule can be broken because, hey, that's what rules are for, right?
At the end of the book there are a number of helpful Appendices the most interesting of which is the one on Textures. The author is a very modern chef and is well versed in molecular gastronimic techniques like foams, gels, freeze drying and more. The important point to note that while Flavor leads Texture is a crucial component to a dish and one worthy of your attention.
Is It For You?
If you are up for an entertaining but educational intellectual challenge then this book is definitely for you. If you are just looking for an interesting recipe to cook for a date night there are a lot of easier options out there. This book, and the recipes prove it, was written by a culinary genius to help you on your journey to flavor mastery and along the way it teaches you so many other things as well - technique, how to build a cold smoker, how to make gravlax at home, and more along with unexpected and crazy sounding combinations like Black Sesame Seed Crusted Scallops with Cherries! I love it!
Get it from Amazon: The Laws of Cooking, the library, or your local bookseller.
Justin Warner, who has no formal culinary training, won the eight season of Food Network Star while being mentored by Alton Brown. He continues to appear on TV as both a Judge and Contestant and he is the host of Marvel's Eat the Universe show where he creates dishes inspired by Marvel Characters.
My Favorite Recipes:
Foie Gras Donuts. Dessert. Chapter 1: Law of Peanut Butter and Jelly
Other Key Features:
The Laws of Cooking
Favorite Quotes on Cooking:
"Taste everything that goes into a recipe; this way you'll know what it is that you don't like or what it is that you love for the next time. If something is too something there is always something to you can do to make that something shut up a little. Every basic taste sensation __ salty, sweet, sour, bitter and savory __ can be foiled by adjusting fats and acidity."