Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Elements of Cooking, culinary school in a book

Michael Ruhlman's two previous books The Making of a Chef and The Soul of a Chef have helped many a chef find the passion to cook. If you're watching "The Next Iron Chef" on Food TV you may recognize him as one of the judges.

Ruhlman's latest book, inspired by Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style, is The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen. Organized in dictionary format, the book offers short definitions of culinary terms most likely to be encountered in a Continental restaurant kitchen: à la ficelle, jus lie, lardo, mise en place, oblique cut, oignon pique, rondeau, roulade. Entries for ladle, rolling pin and other common implements seem almost superfluous, while international items such as wok, tandoor, udon and cardamom are nowhere to be found (though to be fair, nam pla, kimchi and umami are included). An opening eight-page section announces, with finger wagging, that veal stock is the essential and discourses on eggs, salt and kitchen tools.

On his blog Ruhlman claims that he wrote this book for:
Every home cook who cares about getting better and every soul who is in or about to attend culinary school. I want all the young cooks who never went to culinary school and have always been nagged by the not-knowing-what-they-missed (probably not as much as they imagine) to buy it. I want every chef to buy it for his or her line cooks. And maybe most of all, beginners -- I can't imagine a better starting reference for cooking terms to go along with other food books. I want every professional cook to buy it for the people who cook for them when they're not at work. In short I want everyone who cares about cooking to buy this book
It's not something I'd normally pair with Crockpot cooking, but I do think it will help make all your cooking better. With positive reviews from Alton Brown, Paul Kahan, Eric Ripert, and Jacques Pépin, this sounds like a book that should be in every kitchen. Right now Amazon has it for $14.40, or 40% off, so that's a lot more likely. Either way it's a great Christmas gift for that chef in your life.

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