Learn to cook one thing exceptionally well and you open the door to a multitude of possibilities, with no need for special equipment or fussy techniques. That’s the premise of this book.
Ned Baldwin, a home cook who taught himself to be an excellent chef, sees no reason why anyone else can’t do the same. By showcasing one ingredient per method, Baldwin introduces all the skills a cook will ever need to prepare endless pleasurable meals. Get a big, beefy hit from a hanger steak by cooking it in the oven; master salad-making with leafy greens; grill fillets of sea bass for crispy skin and moist flesh; roast an explosively juicy chicken (the secret is to cook it on the floor of the oven); bake leeks to soft perfection; and more.
Each dish is elaborated on in different ways to expand the technique into unlikely, inventive recipes that are jumping-off points for endless creativity.
In this chatty everyman's guide, Kaminsky (coauthor, Mallmann on Fire) and Baldwin, "a home cook who became a restaurant chef who remains a home cook at heart," lay out master recipes, then riff on them with variations. The basics are, for the most part, familiar: roast chicken, fish fillets with crispy skin, and eggplant cooked to the point of collapse though braised beef tongue is one distinctive exception. Most of the combinations slant toward comfort food: roasted pork shoulder is cut into chunks and served with clams and mint, and a whole sea bass is wreathed in sweet peppers and cherries. The only sweet master recipe is for chocolate ganache that is then transformed into hot chocolate or drizzled over cheese and charred pieces of baguette for dessert. Cast in colloquial prose (accompanied by winsome hand-drawn illustrations), Baldwin's recipes feels eminently doable, but sometimes so much so that readers may wonder whether they need recipes for four variations on hard-boiled eggs with toppings or for three different vegetables (carrots, leeks, and beets) cooked using the same "covered-pot" method. Simplicity works as both pro and con in this encouraging but not groundbreaking guide.