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From the PublisherSecrets of good cooking
It's called "Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks," and for people serious about cooking, it's the next best thing to plunking down several hundred dollars for a comprehensive course.
Linda Carucci has more than 20 years' experience as a professional cook and teacher in the Bay Area, and in this book she skillfully combines these two talents, giving her readers their money's worth and then some. Her editors and publisher did a fine job visually breaking up the book with many sidebars most prominently Recipe Secrets that avoid the tedium of feeling bombarded with too many facts, college-textbook style.
Carucci at one time dean of the California Culinary Academy and now the Julia Child curator for food arts at Copia, the American Center for Food, Wine & the Arts in Napa knows the key element of successful teaching: Don't just tell students what to do, but explain to them why they are asked to do it. This is especially useful when instructions seem to run counter to common wisdom.
Carucci, for instance, advocates salting meat, poultry and fish well in advance of cooking. But haven't we heard over and over that salt will draw out moisture, so chickens, steaks or burgers will be dry if salted in advance? That has been the prevailing opinion, she admits and it's dead wrong.
Without getting too technical, Carucci explains that initially, salt does draw out moisture. But after a while, reverse osmosis causes the meat to reabsorb the liquid. The result will be a finished dish that's more tender, moist and flavorful.
And you don't just have to take Carucci's word for this. She quotes two local culinary heavyweights for support. Both sausage maker par excellence Bruce Aidells and Zuni Cafe chef Judy Rodgers (famous for her stellar roast chicken) are devoted practitioners of early salting.
On the subject of salt, the book also tells what kind of salt to use for what purpose and of course why. It explains the benefit of trussing a roasting chicken and how to do it; how to seed, peel and chop fresh tomatoes; how to get every drop of a heavy sauce out of a food processor; why farmed fish is hardly the panacea it was once considered; and why and when to use wooden spoons for stirring sauces.
The amount of information presented in this medium-size paperback would be considered respectable in a volume twice its size.
And we haven't even talked about the recipes yet. There are more than 100, all tested by Carucci's veritable army of home cooks across the country who give her feedback, which, if critical, prompts rethinking and revising. So the recipes are rock-solid and interesting, yet sensible.
Some are indisputably easy; in others, the amount of time required for preparation depends largely on the competence of the cook.
For example, the roasted pineapple salsa served with honey-mustard glazed ham (a great savory variation on the hackneyed ham and pineapple theme) is a snap if you have good knife skills. If you don't, it can be time consuming.
Trying to stay the critic rather than a booster, I thought hard about how this book could be improved. Two things come to mind: The typeface is so small that cooks who don't have 20/20 vision may find it taxing. Plus, a few more of the black-and-white illustrations of techniques would be nice.
But, hey, this is not a coffee-table book, and it doesn't carry a coffee-table book price tag. It's a kitchen table book, and one of the best I have run across in quite a while. -San Francisco Chronicle
Small cookbook packs plenty
Every time I watch a chef chop an onion, I learn something about that person," Linda Carucci says.
She's an award-winning cooking teacher; the Julia Child Curator of Food Arts at Copia, the food museum in Napa, Calif., and, most recently, the author of a cookbook that's receiving raves online.
Carucci's chief delight, it seems, is learning and teaching. For her, it's a natura