After spending two years writing Le Kitchen Cookbook: a workbook and the thrill of publishing and putting the book out into the world has passed. The book, in a way, becomes another book on the shelf—no longer my main focus.
Don’t get me wrong; I use the book all the time; it is my main resource in the kitchen. But that is different than actually reading the text. So it was a surprise when I dove in after some time to find that I was reading something new—a book I couldn’t experience when I was writing it.
Yet another surprise in the writing process that I didn’t expect.
Excerpted from Le Kitchen Cookbook: a Workbook pp. 7-9
WHY DID I WRITE A COOKBOOK?
When I was learning to cook, I looked for a book that would explain procedures in a way that allowed me to learn to do more than just follow a recipe. What I wanted was to understand basic techniques and what made some dishes exceptionally good and others not so much.
I didn’t find the book I was looking for. There were plenty of cookbooks that explained techniques but no book that explained what made food flavorful, how to create sauces, or how to change the ingredients in a dish to what I actually had in the refrigerator. I didn’t just want recipes; I wanted to learn how to cook.
When our children started to ask questions about how to make the recipes, they had grown up eating, I decided it was the right time to write the book I wished I'd had when I was learning how to cook. As it turns out, it is also the book I’m glad I have access to when I’m cooking now.
WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK DIFFERENT?
To begin, the way the book is divided and what is included is different than other cookbooks. It is not just filled with good recipes, but with how these recipes are made.
Instead of being divided by ingredient—chicken, beef, fish, etcetera—the chapters are divided by cooking techniques such as baking, grilling, or roasting. The beginning of each chapter explains the technique and all the steps and ingredients necessary to make the dish. Recipes follow, demonstrating that method of cooking so you can experience how it is done as well as taste the flavor possibilities.
THE BOOK CONTAINS A SECTION THAT EXPLAINS WHAT I CALL
The power of the five basic flavor categories: salt, sweet, bitter, acid, and umami and how they play against each other to build levels of interest for your pallet. The importance of thickeners for transforming liquids into sauces that stay on the food instead of sliding off.
What herbs and spices are used to develop the tastes we like so much—including lists of the spice combinations necessary to build up the seasonings used in recipes from different countries, such as Italy, France, Mexico, India, or China. The different types of ingredients such as dairy and the many different ways it is used in creating recipes.
Other sections are dedicated to setting up your kitchen—explaining what you need as opposed to all the items that are tempting but not necessary. What is in a working pantry? A working pantry is one that has what you need when you need it. There's a section on what all those cooking terms really mean and a section where you will have access to all the charts you’ll need to understand measurements used in your recipes, what temperature meat needs to be cooked at, or how to tell if your meat is well done or rare by touch.
THIS BOOK ISN’T THE ONLY RECIPE BOOK YOU WILL EVER NEED.
But it is a good place to start. Why? Because you’ll learn the basic techniques and components you need to know to cook and not just how to follow a recipe.
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS:
Including fats, vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
All the ingredients used to add different flavors to food. Herbs, spices, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, onions, peppers, shallots, tomatoes.
The science that alters the ingredients through heat energy. Baking, braising, grilling, roasting, searing, steaming, stewing.
THE POWER OF SAUCES
How sauces can transform ordinary dishes into spectacular ones. It is often said that a good cook is defined by the sauces they make. Once you learn how they are made you'll realize they're not hard but the impact they have is huge.
DO YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO COOK?
You don’t, but you do have to eat so why not learn?
Cooking isn’t hard once you understand the basics. I don’t mean just learning how to follow a recipe. Though that is important and a good place to start, that doesn’t really teach you how to cook or give you the freedom or ease to cook on your own.
When you are learning a new skill, you first need to master the basic techniques. For instance, when you learn to ski, you start with the basics: how to stop, turn, use your edges and your poles. And then you practice over and over again until you’ve mastered those skills. Then you challenge yourself by moving from the beginner slope to harder trails and mountains. Before you know it, your skills are second nature and you’ve forgotten to think about all the steps you needed to learn to get to that point.
The goal of this book is to teach you to cook the same way: one step at a time. Remembering that, like everything else, it takes time and practice.
The fun happens when, like skiing, you no longer focus only on technique and begin to have fun and play with the flavor, texture, and ingredients.
“Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness.”
THIS BOOK IS MORE THAN A COOKBOOK; IT IS A WORKBOOK.
A place for you to record what you’ve learned, what worked and what didn’t work. It is intended to be a book that records your cooking experience. There is a section of the book that is blank. Because more than anything, this book is a place for you to record your cooking experience.
I hope that it will be the type of book you will pass on to your children so they will have access to all the gems you have fed them and taken the time to write down in your own hand. My intention is that you will create a book that is a gift truly worth passing on.
"The Book / Workbook is awesome, very well organized and just the right level and count of recipes. As someone that learned to cook reading Jaques Pepin's "La Technique" your book offers readers an update and perhaps more user-friendly recipe guide. Congratulations!"
—Chef Peter X. Kelly
X20 Xaviars on the Hudson
Le Kitchen Cookbook
Everything you need to know to be a good cook.
by Adeline M. Olmer