Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cooking For Geeks, Cookbook Review

By: Jeff Potter
Publication Date: August 3, 2010

Pros: a lot of extremely detailed information about cooking methods, equipment, reactions, etc., interviews with people who cook creatively

Cons: not many recipes, some information is well beyond what most cooks will use/need

This is an interesting cookbook. I would consider the first 5 chapters worth reading if you plan to do any cooking and want a better understanding of what's happening or if you like experimenting.

If you REALLY like experimenting the last 2 chapters will be perfect for you. If you don't feel like buying lots of chemicals to try new (and not necessarily edible) things, they're not as

The cookbook was written specifically for computer geeks who are afraid of doing things in a kitchen. The opening chapter has a lot of references to thinking of cooking techniques with regards to computing. If you don't know computer programming, you might consider this chapter skippable, but you'd miss out on some hidden gems of information, like the difference between all purpose and baking flour (gluten content).

Chapter 2 is an overview of cookware, a chapter I'd normally not find interesting. Here again, there were interesting tid bits of information, like what to look for in knives, how they get teflon to stick to the pan, and the 1-2-3 crepe recipe I posted about recently.

Chapter 3 is where the experiments start. This is not so much a recipe book as it is an experimentation guide. Mr. Potter explains the theory behind something and then gives you a recipe with which to test that theory out. Often there are two recipes to compare and contrast. It's here I found the watermelon feta salad recipe, as an example of how you experience taste. I tried it, and it was very surprising. I would never have expected raw red onions (soaked in water to take the sting out) to work well with
watermelon. And the saltiness of the feta added something that the watermelon alone couldn't do. In the end, it was a great experiment and I learned a few things about taste combinations.

Also from this chapter, I tried the white bean and garlic soup. It was different (a thick, almost gravy consistency) but worth trying again.

Cooking times, heat and food safety are dealt with in chapter 4, followed by the necessity of air in baking. If you're like my friends, though you've used them often you probably don't know the difference between baking soda and baking powder. This book will teach you. It will also tell you what gluten does, and how to use different kinds of yeast.

Finally, the two chapters that require a lot more specific ingredients and equipment. Chapter 6 deals with chemicals in cooking (notably food additives, which is interesting even if you don't do any of the experiments - I wanted to try the s'mores ice cream, but couldn't find liquid smoke anywhere). Chapter 7 explains the principles of sous vide cooking and other specialized techniques.

I highly recommend the book for anyone serious about cooking. The tips and tricks it teaches are useful for everyone. And if you're adventurous, some of the experiments sound like a lot of fun.

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