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Jesse
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Wow... until I wrote this, I really didn't understand what a hard question this is! Indeed, I agree that nearly any growing foodie finds their short-list of treasures being overwhelmed by piles of books that are either useless or just boring to them. I think a great "teaching cookbook" has to have at least three qualities: First, it must motivate you to seriously read it. Secondly, it must give you the desire to actually cook from it-- it must have the magic to actually get you into the kitchen. Finally, it needs to provide information of great explanatory power, otherwise it is just a recipe collection. Here are some books that came to mind while I thought about this: * "Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook" claims not to be a book that will teach you how to cook, but accomplishes the opposite. It was the book that started to give me real culinary tools to go beyond "follow the recipe". It was too fun to put down, got me in to the kitchen all the time, and (often slyly) taught me a lot. Another point about it that must not be underrated is that it provides so many starting points to branch out of, including a great bibliography that helps you go beyond it. Very rare, indeed. * "Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques" for me has a great balance between the serious and playful, and tons of information. It's also fun to cook from! * The CIA book is a bit too dry to read just for fun. Everything's restaurant scale. Useful? Absolutely. A great teaching cookbook? Not for me, because I almost never cook from it! * "Larousse Gastronomique". Not really a cookbook, but I sometimes read it for very long stretches of time. Teaching? Well, not really: I seldom cook from it. But, is it ever interesting! * Fergus Henderson's books are motivating to me. I cook from them frequently. The better I get, the better the results are. They get me in to the kitchen, and get me to cook new things. There's little on "teaching", but tons of magic! * I think I can add "Ratio" to my list, because it's the only book I have that describes all things dough and baking in a way that actually makes sense to me. Somehow, it's getting through my fear, and I'm actually making the stuff! Interesting + good info + actual cooking = good teaching cookbook!
Toggle Commented May 20, 2009 on Cookbooks That Teach at ruhlman.com
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