Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients
by The Editors at America’s Test Kitchen and Guy Crosby, PhD
Facts: Penguin Random House Publisher Services, 504 pages, $40.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $20.00, Kindle $39.99)
Photos: Some black and white photos but numerous illustrations
Recipes: Too many to count
By now, you are probably aware that Christopher Kimball left America’s Test Kitchen at the end of 2015. There are/were articles here and there about the split being contentious; a lawsuit arose when Cook’s Illustrated sued Kimball, his wife, and two others claiming that new magazine/competing venture, Milk Street, was the result of “stolen company resources.”
More information is at your fingertips if you google the whole mess.
But, I’m here to tell you about the newest publication from America’s Test Kitchen: Cook’s Science. This is, simply put, an excellent book with chops. Recipes are inspiring. In each is an execution — a lesson learned, i.e., why this recipe works, and what the authors did that didn’t work.
Each recipe has a section dubbed “Practical Science,” which covers the pluses and minuses of an ingredient of the recipe. For example, you can study such things as “soaking brown rice” (should you?), or a “fix for fishy” seafood,” or “why animal fats taste so good.”
Each chapter begins with “How the Science Works,” which is the nitty gritty geek-speak about a specific ingredient. Chapter 25 is “Kale,” where you learn why “The unique flavor of kale exists only after it is chopped, massaged, or chewed.” I learned more about the cells in kale than I think there are cells in kale. There were a lot of “Well, I’ll be …” and “Huh?” and sometimes “Oh, I get it now.” The information presented truly is fascinating — if you are a food lover, like me.
The recipes work and have a beautiful balance of ingredients. You will learn a new technique, or how to perfect a technique you currently employ. Even if you don’t give a hoot about the science, you may be surprised to learn how to correct something you’ve been unhappy about for a long time. This is a book for cooks.