Monday, May 31, 2010

Our Summer "Cooking School": Momofuku, Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking, Zuni Cafe Cookbook and Thomas Keller Galore

I love my day job as a middle school teacher. I do. But truth be told, if I was given a scholarship and a way to support my family for a year while I interned at a great restaurant like Hugo's in Portland, Craigie on Main or Salts in Cambridge, or Seven Stars Bakery in Providence, I would go. In a heart beat. But no one has yet made the offer.

Luckily, though, I have found a friend who gets this dream. And it is a friend who is a teacher, meaning we both have the summer off. And while neither of us are big fans of a certain blogger who cooked her way through cookbooks, we both got the idea that certain cookbooks are culinary schools of sorts. So, after some debating, we deciding that we wanted to spend the summer improving our skills, particularly of French techniques and Chinese cooking. I had recently bought Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin Lei-Fo, which was precisely the kind of book we wanted to find. Set up as a cooking course, it is a complex and rich book, full of Yin Lei-Fo's directives.

Kiersten, my co-cook, had just bought the Momofuku cookbook. As soon as I started reading it I was in love with David Chang's tongue in cheek writing, as well his sophisticated and savvy sense of food. So, that quickly became our second book.

We struggled more with the French side. We are both huge fans of Molly Wizenberg of the blog Orangette, and her book, A Homemade Life. She often refers to Judy Rogers's Zuni Cafe Cookbook, so we knew that had to be another choice. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook offers precise, time consuming recipes that are perfect with a summer off, but many of her ingredients are expensive so we knew that we couldn't lean on it too heavily. Kiersten owns Thomas Keller's books, so we added them as well. And sure, the obvious choice is Julia, but her books didn't quite get us where we wanted to be.

Our goal is not to cook all the recipes. We aren't going for an award or blog style. It is simply to become better cooks, to learn more about the rich world of cooking, to have fun and of course, to eat well.

So, over the next few months, you will see and read about our attempts. My hope is that by including photographs, especially of the ingredients, their recipes will be that much less intimidating. Feel free to chime in with other books or recipes to try. And in the meantime, friends-make sure and be hungry when you stop by!


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