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Tuesday, April 8, 2014


DONE; a cook's guide to knowing when food is perfectly cooked (Chronicle Books, 2014; distr. Raincoast, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-1963-2, $27.50 US hard covers) is by James Peterson, the prolific award-winning food writer and former restaurant chef. He's authored 15 books and has won seven Beards. And, of course, a great food reference book almost always trumps a cookbook in the category FOOF BOOK OF THE MONTH. Here, Peterson tells you how to know – by sound, smell, look and/or feel – when more than 85 vexatious cooked foods are really cooked to their standard. You can check out too-firm artichokes, rubbery shellfish (e.g. calamari), uncooked (in the middle) fish or chicken, runny pies, limp bacon, dry poultry, gray yolked eggs – and more. There are three alone for asparagus: boiled, steamed, roasted. Great photography of the finished products keyed to the text, so you can see what it "should" look like. He opens with a small section on how to determine "doneness", for sauteing, glazing, braising, frying, roasting, poaching, grilling, broiling, smoking, and barbecuing. Then he goes on to cover the elements of sauces, the prep work for eggs, and then the other foods of veggies, seafood, meats, and desserts. Lots of hand tests and visualizations. Terrific for beginners and an aide-memoire for the unsure. No real recipes (just narratives) but what there is have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, with no table of equivalents. Be aware that there are no fixes if you screwed up – just ways to prevent it from happening again. Quality/price rating: 91.


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