Theory and Practice of Good Cooking by James Beard
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1977. Signed by James Beard. Second Printing. Hardcover. 465 pages ; 23 cm. $12.95 dust jacket with 2 tears along the back of the dust jacket edges. Pages are unmarked. Binding is firm.
From the time you first sit down to browse through this book—even before you make any of the more than 300 delicious recipes and variations—you will feel that you are on the way to becoming a more knowing, more sensitive cook. James Beard's incomparable flair for transmitting his knowledge, for showing us how and why, shines through these pages, making it obvious why his famous cooking classes are the most sought after in this country, and why he is considered the dean of American cooking.
Beard is neither bemused by the "trendy" nor constricted by rigid traditionalism. His whole approach to the joys of the table reflects the true glory of the American kitchen: its openness to the creations of many national cuisines. Out of many different culinary strains he has blended his own richly diversified style. What he teaches is simply good cooking. He shows us how to master an American classic: precisely how long to broil how big a steak how far from the flame to get succulent results. He concocts, from the Japanese cuisine, a simple (and simply wonderful) teriyaki marinade for chicken. He makes us expert with French crepes (and their fillings). He rediscovers for us the aromatic New England boiled dinner....
HOW THIS BOOK WORKS
Beard has put into it, for the first time, all his ideas about good cooking, all his specific answers to the myriad questions his students have asked over the years. Each chapter deals with one basic technique—a relaxed and informative introduction flowing into a series of beautifully conceived recipes that put theory into practice.
For example: In the chapter on Boiling, he shows the right ways to boil an egg, poach a chicken, simmer a stew, skim a stock, clarify soup, blanch beans, syrup-bathe a peach • How to boil in order to seal in juices... to release juices ... to tenderize ... to solidify ... to intensify flavor... to reduce flavor. When to boil in salted water... When to boil covered or uncovered ... When to use an aromatic liquid... When to let something simmer in its own juices . . . How long to poach fish His own tricks with rice and pasta And there are more than forty recipes in this section alone (from a basic French pot-au-feu to pears in red wine) which demonstrate the various principles of boiling.
Each of the ensuing chapters—Roasting, Broiling and Grilling, Braising, Saut£ing, Frying, Baking, Thickeners and Liaisons, Noncooking (preparing raw foods), Chilling and Freezing—is treated with the same thoroughness, and contains equally delicious and illuminating recipes.
Since, as Beard points out, good cooking starts with good buying, he has provided an extensive Concordance at the back of this book. It lists alphabetically and annotates everything from apples to zucchini, telling you how to select them, explaining meat cuts (with the help of drawings), sorting out the herbs and spices and grains, helping you to build a menu in your head using what is available to best advantage—and leading you back into the heart of the book, the recipes.
In sum, a complete cooking course for the beginner, an invaluable reference for even the most expert cook. This is a book you will turn to again and again, for the very last word on everything from carving the Sunday roast (there are illustrated instructions) or cleaning an inky squid, to a great trick with chicken Kiev or Beard's own secret of a "light hand" with a cake.
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