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The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them

The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them

by Justin Warner

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Foreword by Alton Brown.

The Laws of Cooking . . . and How to Break Them encourages improvisation and play, while explaining Justin Warner's unique ideas about "flavor theory"-like color theory, but for your tongue. By introducing eleven laws based on familiar foods (e.g., "The Law of Peanut Butter and Jelly"; "The Law of Coffee, Cream, and Sugar"), the book will teach you why certain flavors combine brilliantly, and then show how these combinations work in 110 more complex and inventive recipes (Tomato Soup with "Grilled Cheese" Ravioli; Scallops with Black Sesame and Cherry). At the end of every recipe, Justin "breaks the law" by adding a seemingly discordant flavor that takes the combination to a new level.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250065148
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: 10/13/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 863,438
File size: 39 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

JUSTIN WARNER is the winner of the eighth season of Food Network Star and is the chef/co-owner of Michelin-rated Do or Dine restaurant in Bed-Stuy, New York. His first Food Network appearance was on 24 Hour Restaurant Battle in 2010, which he also won. He continues to be a frequent guest on Food Network and hosts Foodie Call, a new Food Network web series. Warner was a waiter at Danny Meyer's acclaimed restaurant The Modern prior to starting his own career as a chef.

Read an Excerpt

The Laws of Cooking and How to Break Them

By Justin Warner, Daniel Krieger

Flatiron Books

Copyright © 2015 Justin Warner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-06514-8



fat meets fruit

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is one of the first dishes many Americans learn to "cook." I think we take for granted just how complex the play is between its simple components. Jelly, jam, or preserves are generally made from foods that contain seeds (fruits!), so most jams and jellies are sweet and fruity. Peanut butter is salty and rich due to the lipids (fats) in the nuts. Fats and sugars contain the most caloric bang for the buck, and our taste buds have evolved to help us find them. Consider also that wild nuts and berries were probably what we ate before we developed tools to kill animals. The bread serves as a vessel, but I like to call it a canvas. We enjoy peanut butter and jelly more on a canvas because its flavor is spread out, essentially diluting it to make it a more pleasant, if not prolonged, eating experience. Pizza, with its fruit sauce, cheese, fat, and crusty canvas, would fall under the law of PB&J, but because all of the components of pizza must be cooked, I believe the PB&J to be a more primal articulation of the law. The subsequent ten recipes are proof that fruit, fat, and a canvas are all you need for a composed dish.

hazelnut butter toasts with bacon 'n jam


Elvis has touched many lives with his music, but it was his contribution to gastronomy that touched me. My grandfather first served me the King's combo of peanut butter, banana, and bacon when I was in the second grade. He rolled it up in a flour tortilla, which I had never previously experienced independently from its role in a microwavable burrito. My grandfather is a master teller of tall tales, legally blind, and not generally known for his culinary prowess. For these reasons, I was legitimately nervous about the combination, and feared it was retribution for the hair brush I snuck into his bed every night. But I took a bite and was blown away. Until I realized that this was Elvis's combo, Gramps might as well have been Brillat-Savarin. The combo of nuts, bacon, and fruit is always a smash.

YIELD Makes about 1 cup hazelnut butter; enough for about 60 bite-size toasts

PREP TIME 10 minutes

COOK TIME 30 minutes

sheet pan
large skillet
food processor

1 pound bacon

6 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound raw hazelnuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 loaf sourdough bread, sliced
8 ounces raspberry jam (see here), for every single recipe of nut butter

Cook the bacon. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lay the bacon, without overlapping, on a sheet pan. Cook it until crispy, 15 to 30 minutes, checking periodically after the 15-minute mark, and using tongs to transfer the individual strips to a paper towel–covered plate as they crisp.

Make the hazelnut butter. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the hazelnuts in a single layer. Toast the nuts, tossing or stirring often, until they are audibly hissing, golden brown, and giving off a nutty smell, 4 to 6 minutes.

Once the nuts are toasted, carefully add them to a food processor and blend on high until pasty, scraping down the sides every few minutes, about 5 minutes. With the food processor running, gradually add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil and the salt and continue blending until combined. (The texture will be a bit looser than commercial nut butters, but this will show that you made it yourself.)

Make the toasts. Preheat the broiler. Cut off the crusts of your bread slices. Cut the bread into smaller, bite-size pieces.

HOLD IT? Keep your nut butters and jams, covered, in the fridge for up to a month. Cooked bacon can be wrapped in paper towels and then in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for 2 days, but make sure it returns to room temperature before serving. The prepared bread can be held, untoasted and covered, for up to 6 hours.

Place the breads in a single layer on a sheet pan. Put the pan under the broiler and, keeping a constant eye on it, broil for 3 to 5 minutes, flipping once, until both sides are golden brown and toasty. (Don't do this after even one cocktail.) If you mix types of bread, don't toast on the same sheet pan because different breads cook at different speeds; toast in batches if needed.

PLATE IT! Cut the room-temperature bacon into 1-inch pieces. With the bread still on the warm sheet pan, smear a bit of the hazelnut butter and the jam on each piece of toast. Add a strip of bacon on top. Transfer the warm toasts to a platter and serve.

BREAK IT: Instead of bacon, top these with bonito flakes and seaweed! The fresh fruity flavors in the jam will balance the funky fishy flavors.

Step your game up

If you have disposable pastry bags, you can put the jam in those to allow for laser accuracy. You might want more or less jam depending on your preference. You can also use the pastry bags or corner-snipped zip-top bags to scribble a letter or symbol on each toast.

For even more visual appeal, when cutting up your bread for party toast, cut the bread into different shapes — diamonds, circles, or whatever you like — or use cookie cutters. Birthday party for Susan? Cut out some S's and make her day. Bon voyage? I have a sweet palm tree cookie cutter. With a very small amount of effort, this simple setup can make you into a human Pinterest board at any shindig.

alternative nut butters and jams

I created this recipe to be flexible, so you could serve a few friends or a crowd. Make one nut butter, or make a few and present your guests with a bunch of combinations. Once you factor in the jam and bread options (for the jam, try tomato, gooseberry, cloudberry, lingonberry, orange- elderflower, guava, or mango; for the bread, consider rye, pumpernickel, focaccia, or ciabatta), you have endless possibilities for toasts. Jams generally offer the most fruit flavor and the most appealing texture, so I avoid jellies and preserves. Here are some of my favorite combinations, but be sure to experiment on your own as well:

• Mixed nut butter with grape jam and bacon on white toast (instantly conjures images of PB&J, but one taste reveals much more)

• Pistachio butter with hot pepper jelly and bacon on rye toast

• Pecan butter with apple jam and bacon on wheat toast

• Cashew butter with passion-fruit jam and bacon on pumpernickel toast

½ pound roasted, salted mixed nuts
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil, for toasting, plus an additional 3 tablespoons
½ pound raw shelled pistachios
1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil, for toasting, plus an additional 1 tablespoon
½ pound raw pecans
½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil, for toasting, plus an additional 2 tablespoons
½ pound raw cashews
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the specified amount of toasting oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the nuts in a single layer. (Skip this step for the already roasted mixed nuts.) Toast the nuts, tossing or stirring often, until they are audibly hissing, golden brown, and giving off a nutty smell, 2 to 8 minutes depending on the nut. Continue to make the nut butter per the main recipe here.

Adjust the recipe's directions to accommodate your bread, jam, and bacon.

arugula salad with pan-roasted duck breast and figs

(Cold app)

Is this something you'd find at a fancy French joint? Yes. Does it require an entire brigade of French chefs to make? Non! In fact, this meal masquerading as salad is prepared entirely à la minute, so you can really impress with your ability to go from raw ingredients to plated dish in just 20 minutes. The key to understanding how duck breasts cook is to imagine a chicken breast with bacon glued onto one side. The meat itself is very lean, so you don't want to overcook it (in fact, duck breast should be eaten medium rare), but you do want to crisp up that baconlike skin by rendering out a lot of the fat over a medium-low flame, then finish the cooking in the oven. Arugula makes one of my favorite salads of all time because it doesn't need a fancy-pants dressing — you can just add a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil. Although the arugula is the canvas for the plate, its bite and freshness balance the rich duck (fat) and sweet figs (fruit). Pair this dish with a candle, some red wine, and someone you are trying to woo.

YIELD Makes 2 servings

PREP TIME 5 minutes

COOK TIME 15 minutes

very sharp knife (see Tip)
cast-iron skillet
probe thermometer (optional)
mixing bowl


One 8-ounce duck breast
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 ounces fresh figs, halved (about 4)
½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 handfuls (about 2 ounces) washed arugula
½ lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

According to Confucius

Confucius liked chopsticks because he thought knives had no place at an honorable table. Sometimes it is nice to slice meats in the kitchen.


When scoring the skin of the duck breasts, using a never-used-for-anything-other-than-cooking adjustable X-Acto knife is even better than a chef's knife. Set on the shortest blade length, it will ensure that you don't cut into the flesh beneath the skin.

Cook the duck breast. Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Score the skin of the duck breast in a ¼-inch crosshatch pattern, being careful not cut through to the flesh of the duck. Liberally season both sides of the duck breast with salt and pepper.

Place the breast, skin side down, in a cast-iron skillet, then place the cold pan over medium-low heat. Let the fat render out of the skin until it's pooling all around, looking like underdone bacon, 6 to 7 minutes. Increase the heat to high, and immediately flip the duck breast. Sear the flesh side for 2 minutes. Then flip the duck again to skin side down and transfer the entire skillet to the oven for 5 to 7 minutes until the duck is cooked just to medium rare. Use my nifty doneness chart (see below) or use a thermometer; for me, 130° to 135°F does nicely. (Bear in mind that the folks at the USDA don't think you should eat medium-rare duck, and specify 165°F.) Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the duck breast, skin side up, to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. (It's important that the duck rests skin side up so as not to steam the crisp skin.) Set the skillet aside.

Make the figs. While the skillet from the duck breast is still hot, carefully add the vinegar and, using a wooden spoon, scrape the magic delicious bits from the bottom. Add the halved figs and salt, and toss gently. The residual heat in the skillet will warm up the figs, and also shellac them with a nice duck-fat sheen.

Dress the arugula. Put the arugula in a mixing bowl, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and toss. Add a drizzle of oil, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Using your clean hands, swirl this around to coat the arugula. Give it a taste, and doctor the ratio of lemon, oil, salt, and pepper to what tastes good to you.

PLATE IT! Flip the rested duck breast skin side down onto the cutting board and, using a sharp knife, slice as thinly as possible.

Take half of the slices of duck and fan them out on each plate, skin side up. When fanning things, it's nice to have the piece closest to the front of the plate as the top piece of the fan.

Add the figs to the arugula and, using your clean hands, gently toss them around, then place a handful at the base of the fanned duck breast on each plate.

BREAK IT: Get herbaceous with some sage. The deep flavor of the figs and duck will be put in check by sage's piney astringency.

jalapeño poppers with blueberry dippin' sauce

(Hot app)

Before my GF was my GF, we bonded as friends over a road trip from Fort Collins, Colorado (where I was slinging sushi to college kids), to her hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota. Whoever was driving controlled the playlist. She was blasting Modest Mouse, the Misfits, and Murder City Devils. I was bumping Young Jeezy, Kanye West, and Lupe Fiasco. While we couldn't agree on music, we found that we shared a love of road food. One of our favorite stops, Arby's, has a very addictive, rich, cream cheese–stuffed jalapeño popper, with "fruity" Bronco Berry sauce. As Bronco Berries are rarely in season, I developed the following with blueberries.

YIELD Makes about a dozen poppers

PREP TIME 20 minutes

COOK TIME 20 minutes

INACTIVE TIME 10 minutes

1-quart saucepan
paring knife
sheet pans lined with paper towels
3 shallow bowls
Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot
candy thermometer
slotted spoon or spider


1 pint blueberries
½ cup light-colored beer (I use a pilsner, or a lager, or a wheat beer for
extra fruitiness)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon onion powder

One 26- or 28-ounce can whole pickled jalapeño peppers

12 ounces cold cream cheese, cubed

¼ cup cornstarch
4 egg whites, lightly beaten
½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs
½ cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Vegetable oil, for frying


Before you do anything with hot peppers, put your latex gloves on.

Brine There, Done That

Pickling liquid, or brine, is amazing stuff and should never be discarded. Regardless of whether the pickled vegetables are fermented or not, the tangy, seasoned liquid can be the missing link in a chain of deliciousness. The liquid has three main components, all of which are vital to a good dish; acid (vinegar or lactic acid), herbs and spices (dill, coriander, etc.), and salt. Using this liquid to make a vinaigrette is always a good idea, and it can be used any time a recipe calls for vinegar or lemon or lime juice. It's also a hell of a chaser to a shot of whiskey — this is called a "pickleback."

Make the sauce. In a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine all of the ingredients for the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the blueberries have burst and the sauce is shiny, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Prep the peppers. Drain the peppers, saving the liquid because it is awesome. (More on that on the next page.) If you are lucky enough to find the kind of canned jalapeños that contain carrots, congrats — reserve the carrots for sandwiches or snacking.

Using a paring knife, lop off the tops of the peppers. Then use the skinny end of a chopstick to remove the seeds and membrane from the inside of the peppers. Generally a few circular scrapes will pop them right out. Rinse the peppers under water to remove any remaining seeds. Set the hollowed peppers upside down on paper towels, to dry off.

Using your fingers, stuff each pepper with the cubes of cream cheese.

Line a sheet pan with paper towels. Set up a dredging station: Place the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, the egg whites in a separate shallow bowl, and both bread crumbs and the salt in a third shallow bowl. Give the bread crumbs and salt a little mix with your fingers.

Dredge a stuffed pepper in the cornstarch, then in the egg white, then in the bread crumbs, then in the egg white again, and then bread crumbs again. (This double egg-white action seals the whole kit together nicely.) Make sure you don't miss the tops of the peppers! Place the breaded peppers on the lined sheet pan.

HOLD IT? Once assembled, and before frying, you could individually wrap the peppers in plastic wrap and freeze them for up to a week. You could also wrap the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate them in anticipation of your awesome party later that same day. The sauce can be made and refrigerated for a week, or frozen indefinitely; allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Either way, don't fry these peppers until you are ready to eat them.

Fry the peppers. Preheat the oven to 225°F. Fill a Dutch oven only halfway with oil, clip on a candy thermometer, and bring the oil to 375°F over medium-high heat. Line a sheet pan with paper towels.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower 2 or 3 of the breaded peppers into the oil. Keeping an eye on the thermometer, throttle up the heat to high to get that oil back up to 375°F but no higher. Fry the peppers until they are dark golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, fish them out, and transfer them to the lined sheet pan to drain; store the pan in the warm oven. Repeat the process until all of the peppers are fried and hanging out in the warm oven.

PLATE IT! You could pile all these guys on a plate and put the room-temperature sauce in a bowl on the side. You could put the sauce in a zip-top bag, snip a tiny corner off, and pipe the sauce all over the peppers. You could spoon swoosh (drop a spoonful and swoosh it with the back of a spoon) the sauce onto a plate, slice the peppers in half along their equator, and place the peppers over the sauce. This is ideal for individual plating.

BREAK IT: Add some smoke to this by mixing some chipotle adobo with the cream cheese. The acidity of the pickled jalapeños along with the richness and smoke of the cream will make these almost like little barbecue bombs.


Excerpted from The Laws of Cooking and How to Break Them by Justin Warner, Daniel Krieger. Copyright © 2015 Justin Warner. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Foreword by Alton Brown,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews