Our cookbook of the week is
Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes to Review
by Molly Baz. To try a recipe from the book, check out:
Marinated lentils with seasoned walnuts and lots of basil
Caesar-ish potato salad with radishes and dill
seasoned, grilled and wrapped chicken legs with the works
Adding a cup of salt to the potato cooking water may seem like a lot. But in
Cook this book
(Clarkson Potter, 2021), food editor and recipe developer Molly Baz asks for our trust: “Promise they won’t be too salty!” After carefully following their instructions, I was rewarded with perfect baby potatoes that got even better by I was crushed, toasted and coated with Baz’s Salt ‘n’ Vinegar Sour Cream.
Along with more than 100 others in her debut cookbook, Baz’s recipes don’t just deliver fun, tasty food – they teach. Whether it’s your first time learning to cook yourself or looking for ways to improve your game, their lessons will help you get there. She conceived the book as a kind of crash course: reading aloud, cooking and repeating the recipes corresponds to an education.
âThere’s a lot to learn and manage and juggle and learn about cooking when you’re just starting out. And I think most of the recipes leave out a lot, âsays Baz. âAnd that’s really stressful for a househusband who questions everything and tries to fight his way through a recipe. So these recipes in this book take a different approach, namely: answer all the questions, give them all the information they might need, and more. ”
Baz honed her cooking skills at stake. Admittedly, during her restaurant days, she didn’t have a great deal of respect for recipes. (“I figured recipes are only for people who can’t cook.”) When she first started working in the food media – first as a recipe tester for Epicurious, then as Senior Food Editor at Bon AppÃ©tit – her perspective changed. She now sees them as valuable tools.
Developing and testing recipes presents a unique challenge: identifying the moments that could trip someone; and refine them so that even the most inexperienced chef can succeed. The difference between a mediocre recipe and a great recipe lies in these details, says Baz. Penetrating the minds of home cooks, predicting obstacles and flashes of uncertainty became their new way of thinking.
âI think about the people around me and the kind of questions they asked me. Like my brother and my best friend Sophie, who are both novice cooks. I try to anticipate the things that I think you would ask me and then answer them in the recipes, âsays Baz. “When I work, I’m basically on someone else’s head all day.”
Baz believes that people should cook a lot of different recipes before they start improvising. Even as a professional, she still uses them and appreciates the window into someone else’s process. There are so many different ways to cook, she adds; there is always something new to learn.
One of Baz’s golden rules is to repeat each recipe at least once (“unless you hated it the first time”). When you first make a recipe, you absorb new information, she says. Depending on your level of knowledge, you could be completely preoccupied with making it to the end. The second time, however, you will feel more comfortable. You know what to expect and have the mental bandwidth to pay attention to the subtleties.
“It’s hard to judge a recipe the first time you cook it, but rather the second time your brain has had a second to synthesize everything in it,” says Baz. “(Then) you can really focus on some of the subtleties that make a dish really great.”
She may have prepared more complex dishes in restaurants than she developed for the book, but her experience as a chef continues. Especially in the way she systematizes recipes and emphasizes the importance of mise en place, clean work and timing.
“These are all things I learned in restaurants by being on the line and right in the line of fire,” says Baz. “Line cooking is about not making any additional physical movements, because every second that you move your body is a second that you lose in order to get the food out of the window in time.”
Efficiency was critical, which can be seen in the way she structures ingredient lists and uses QR codes to illustrate techniques
Cook this book
Usually listed in the order they appear in a recipe, Baz organizes their ingredients by “department” instead. Whether you’re shopping for groceries or browsing your kitchen, pantry items, produce, and dairy will likely all be in one place, she says. Focusing on the way you put your ingredients together allows you to think about other parts of a recipe whose concepts may be more difficult to understand.
With millions of views and a devoted audience, Baz was a fixture
YouTube channel (e.g.
). In August 2020, she announced that she would no longer appear in the brand’s videos after colleagues Sohla El-Waylly, Priya Krishna and Rick Martinez left after failed contract negotiations.
Since most of her viewers know her from YouTube, it only made sense to expand her work as a video host to her cookbook, says Baz. Readers can access short video tutorials with QR codes on techniques like whole chicken carving that seemed more intuitive than writing long step-by-step instructions.
“(Readers) shouldn’t be fumbling around paragraph by paragraph figuring out how to dice an onion when I could just show them how to do it in a video and they’ll be on their way to cooking the recipe in no time,” says Baz. âI look forward to taking it further and further exploring how to use multimedia in cookbooks as I consider writing more books. Because it opens up a whole new world. ”
One of Baz’s hopes with
Cook this book
is for people to take note of the title and cook their way through it – gradually building on the techniques they have honed in the recipes and learning how to create flavor by reading the title. (At least one group of âMolly Baz Enthusiastsâ do just that, and publish their progress as a Cooking This Book
“If you can understand the taste side of things and the technology based on the recipes, you are now really well equipped to be successful in the kitchen,” says Baz. âThis is cooking. And then all that’s missing is love and care and appreciation for what you do. ”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021