Why can you stick your hand into a 450-degree oven but not into 212-degree boiling water without burning it? Why does fish taste different from meat? Why do you cook pork differently from beef? Why should you always start cooking dried beans in cold water, not warm? Why should you never cook a Vidalia onion? What's the only kind of marinade that’s really an effective tenderizer? Why is strawberry-rhubarb a good combination, scientifically speaking? And why don’t potatoes fried in fresh oil ever brown completely, no matter how long they're cooked?
“Cooking is full of questions that science can help you answer, questions that can make you a better cook,” writes the award-winning Los Angeles Times food editor, Russ Parsons. In this entertaining book packed with fascinating tidbits, Parsons explores the science behind such basic cooking methods as chopping, mixing, frying, roasting, boiling, and baking. You’ll learn why soaking beans can’t offset their gaseous effects, why green vegetables shouldn’t be cooked under a lid for long, which fruits you can buy unripe and which you should buy fully ripened, which thickener to choose for your turkey gravy, and which piecrust is foolproof for a beginner.
Along the way, Parsons slips in hundreds of cooking tips, provocative trivia, and touches of wit that make his scientific explanations go down smoothly. He also includes more than a hundred recipes that deliciously exemplify the principles he describes, from Tuscan Potato Chips and Crisp-Skinned Salmon on Creamy Leeks and Cabbage to Chocolate Pots de Creme and Ultimate Strawberry Shortcake.
In this unique book, Los Angeles Times food editor Parsons combines complex science (rendered accessible to lay readers), workable cooking techniques, and excellent recipes. Each chapter addresses a specific culinary-scientific process (e.g., deep-frying, the secret post-harvest life of fruits and vegetables), provides a list of rules to follow therein, then offers a range of recipes that use the technique in question. In a chapter titled "From a Pebble to a Pillow," for example, Parsons explains the various ways in which grains, beans and other starches cook. He clears up myths about cooking beans and explains what makes an apple "mealy" (it's the pectin). The chapter ties up with some guidelines for preparing starch-thickened sauces, pasta, etc. Recipes include Smoky Cream of Corn Soup, a flour-thickened concoction, and a Gratin of Sweet Potatoes and Bourbon. The recipes are never gimmicky but are genuinely appealing, for instance Smoked Tuna Salad in Tomatoes and Lavender Fig Tart, and they are evidence of how a handful of techniques can turn out diverse results. Scientific information is handled in a light tone with plenty of examples. With his analyses of frying, roasting, and other processes, Parsons proves that the unexamined dish is far less rewarding than the meal we understand. (May 9)Forecasts:A truly valuable resource for the serious cook, with excellent recipes to boot, this deserves a wide audience, but its vague title may perplex potential readers.