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Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto Format Kindle
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I'm such a huge fan of Ratio I decided to give Twenty a chance. It's a big beautiful cookbook and the first thing I noticed was the pictures! Beautiful, in focus, of the food, and the techniques being described. For example, there is a recipe for candied orange peel, the recipe is on one page, and on the facing page are pictures showing the four stages and how it should look at each stage. For someone like me who prefers visual learning this is amazingly helpful. Making mayo? there are two pages showing the emulsifying steps using a hand whisk or an immersion blender ( a trick I actually found in Ratio, and went from broken mayonnaise to beautiful lush mayo just using his technique and recipe)
At first I felt a little cheated, The first chapter is "thinking" Really? thinking as a technique? But then I read what he had to say. In 30 years of cooking I cannot tell you how many times I've boiled over milk while getting it to boil for a recipe, and never once did it occur to me that I had just changed the liquid ratio by how much I lost in the boil over- and then blamed the recipe for it not turning out right. Maybe it's intuitive to other people, but that really drove home why he had a chapter on thinking, and I got over the eye rolling first impulse I had "be one with the sauce, visualize the roasted chicken" and realized this is good stuff.
A lot of the recipes will become staples, and while he gives great techniques nothing here is especially frou frou, this is not only a book that can teach, but it's one that after you learn the technique the recipes are delicious and great for cooking from again and again.
There is a lot to learn, it's really not all been said or done before, or maybe it's just how Ruhlman presents the information, so clear and easy to understand.. The candied orange peel was delicious! As was the roasted cauliflower with brown butter, Halibut poached in olive oil, and the to die for French onion soup. I can't wait to make more recipes and I have pictures and well laid out recipes to help me learn something new, even after 30 years of cooking
So it is no surprise that I stayed up late one night to read TWENTY and then immediately started in on the recipes. The book is nothing short of brilliant.
And let me tell you why you should pay attention to my review.
I know the fundamentals of cooking. I went to culinary school and graduated at the top of my class.
And I know recipes. I actually wrote recipes for chefs for 14 years in my work as a restaurant publicist for 14 years. Most chefs, you see, can't write a recipe so I would have to get the ideas from them and then write up the actual process. Once, I got a "recipe" from a rather famous chef that was written on a bevnap. It said, "take veal, make ragu." I had to translate that into something for the NYT. I did, I sent it in, and the Food Editor wrote back to tell me that the recipe "from the chef" was the best recipe he made all year.
So, I have some cooking cred.
And yet, I am learning from TWENTY. A lot.
I am not sure if this is an awesome book for absolute beginners. Though there is enough instruction in there that a smart person who pays attention could, in fact, use this as a 101 book. But I do know it is *essential* for anyone who thinks they are a competent cook and is confident in their kitchen abilities.
Buy it. Now.
The pizza was brilliant, even though I managed to overcook it a bit at all possible stages. I am hankering to make it again. Both the pizza itself and the crust are dead easy, and taste wonderful! The crust is crisp, but not at all like a cracker; I have some in the fridge to make tomorrow, because as written, it only takes 3 hours- that's great! but doesn't leave time for the dough to ferment. It'll be interesting to taste how it is after fermenting for a couple of days in the fridge. For the pizza as a whole, the balance of cheese, bacon, and eggs is just perfect and very crave-able.
The lemon confit was really easy to make, too. I can't use it yet because it requires 3 months curing, but it worked well. I've done 2 jars: one is conventional lemons, and the other is Meyer lemons. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of salt and one of sugar for 5 lemons; that seems excessive, since mine are going well with 9-10 lemons and 3/8ths the amount of sugar, salt and water.
The roasted shallots are like candy; I could eat them all day, but heroically refrained because I need some for the coq au vin, which we just ate and which is rich and flavorful and amazing. It did take me closer to 2 hours than 1 hour to make it, but it's so worth it; it's the best coq au vin I've ever made.
But- I didn't buy this just for the recipes. I really love Ruhlman's thoughtful approach to cooking, and the text parts are what I am valuing as I'm reading this. It is not a book of recipes; it's a considered approach about HOW to cook. If you like Cook's Illustrated, Ruhlman is definitely someone to read.
My only quibble: more and more, ambitious cookbooks seem to be vying for coffee-table-book status: they are getting huge and heavy and unwieldy. This makes them harder to read- and this one needs to be read- and harder to cook from. I do not care for this trend.
Still- I'm about a third of the way through reading it (albeit with difficulty), and have learned a lot from the text- and the recipes I've tried have been spot-on, and I want to make them all again soon.
Edited to add: This book is a game-changer. I have been a really competent and skillful home cook for years now. These recipes rev it up at least an order of magnitude. While most restaurants cannot out-cook me at my previous level- I really doubt that much of ANYONE could outcook these. Totally BRILLIANT.
Another addition: I have just made the French onion soup. WOW. It is delicious and brilliant, though i wish he'd warned me that caramelizing 8+ pounds of onions would take not just "hours" but 10 or so hours! It's very worth it, though; I adore caramelized onions, and this soup emphasizes them. I do recommend adding the optional wine vinegar at the end; the brightness accents the sweetness of the onions.
I look forward to trying more recipes from this! Both the recipes and the text are making me a more thoughtful and knowlegable cook.
Addendum: Several months after writing this, it has become one of my favorite cookbooks. The pizza with bacon and eggs is one of my favorite recipes ever- and the pizza crust is excellent for a basic NY-style pizza as well (Ruhlman also has an excellent simple tomato sauce that works great for this, as well as for a simple pasta).
My husband and I just enjoyed the simple Coq au Vin for probably the third time- it's pretty easy, and tastes gorgeous. The sauteed mushrooms are simple but utterly perfect. I've only made a smattering of the recipes, but every single one of them has been perfect! and the text is thoughtful and helpful when one wants to understand coking, and not just follow recipes.
This is the only book that i bought not only in dead-tree, but also for my Kindle-and I don't regret that redundancy.
VERY recommended for a thoughtful or ambitious cook.