boil it down to basics

I am a huge fan of cookbooks. I love to collect them and page through them, even if the recipes are so complicated and time-consuming that I would never have the patience to follow them. But the latest cookbook I looked through is the opposite. It is a simple, step-by-step, vividly photographed footpath from true beginner to successful home cook. 

If you live in Manhattan, you can take the class yourself. It's Home Cooking New York's most popular class. But for the rest of us, author and founder of Home Cooking New York Jennifer Clair has put into words and photos the content of the class, so we can learn anywhere. 

She starts with the most basic--knife skills. But even before that, she helps you pick out a good, solid chef's knife, the kind you can keep and cook with for a lifetime. She goes over basic chopping and dicing skills, spending extra time on ingredients that require special attention or are used often, onion and garlic. And to practice these new-found chopping and dicing skills, there is a recipe for The Best Vegetable Soup You'll Ever Make. 

The chapter on preparing meat takes readers step-by-step through heating meat, browning it, resting it, and making sure that it's done just how you want it. There are extra tips on choosing the right high-heat oil to use, and even on the right salt for cooking. And for thicker cuts of meat and those with a bone, there are instructions for finishing it in the oven. 

From there, you can learn to make an easy pan sauce, either a reduction (a glazed sauce) or a gravy, with the simplest of techniques. Clair teaches you how to make a simple reduction, deglaze the pan, make a roux for gravy, thicken and season the sauce, and to finish with butter. She shares how to choose a wine for the sauce as well as non-alcoholic options to add flavor. Recipes for meats and sauces include Steak with a Classic Red Wine Sauce, Pan-Roasted Lemon-Rosemary Chicken, and Pork Tenderloin with Bacon-Apple Cider Gravy. 

She then goes on to vegetables, taking time to teach how to roast vegetables, including ideas on what to roast together and herbs and spices to add for the best flavor. For green vegetables, she shows how to blanch them to retain color and vitality and then season with a combination of salt, acid, and fat. And for those leafy green vegetables that are so healthy, she teaches how to remove the stalks, clean those leaves, and cook them until they are tender. Recipes in these chapters include Smoky Sweet Potato Fries, Curry Roasted Delicata Squash, Garlicky Broccoli Rabe, String Beans with Lemon Gremolata, Tuscan Kale with Almonds and Raisins, and Escarole with Cannellini Beans. 

In addition to all this, Six Basic Cooking Techniques offers lists and photos of basic kitchen equipment that you need, so you don't feel like you need to go out and buy an entire kitchen store just to learn to make dinner for a Wednesday night. 

Six Basic Cooking Techniques has all the tools you need to get started in cooking. The instructions are easy to understand. The photographs are large and revealing, making it easy to figure out if you're on the right path. And the recipes are simple, offering extra ideas so that even beginning home cooks can experiment with different flavors to make the dishes that they will love the most. This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to learn to cook delicious homemade meals but has no idea where to start. And while the recipes seem easy, they also sound delicious. I'm already trying to decide which one to try out this week.


Galleys for Six Basic Cooking Techniques were provided by HCNY Press through NetGalley, with many thanks.