Mummy and Pop-pop got me Kenji’s book for Christmas (J. Kenji Lopez-Alt to YOU), and it’s incredibly exciting. I keep going to read particular sections, and then getting distracted en route, mid page-flip, by sections about when to add booze to sauces, how to get crispy chicken skin, and what exactly makes a hamburger a hamburger.
He’s been a hero of mine the past five years or so. My friend Charlie, who is smarter than everyone, was the first person to turn me on to The Food Lab blog.
“You won’t believe how in depth this guy gets.” Charlie told me.
In the interest of also being smarter than everyone, or at least as smart as Charlie, I checked out the blog, and was indeed blown away by how in depth this guy gets. If anything, just the amount of organized trial and error is what blows me away. I was continually going through trial & error with pie recipes, and it was always “wish-I-was-more-organized” chaos. He publishes articles with incredibly thorough results of his experiments, control groups and any variations on the recipe. Honestly, I think being organized and thorough is a much harder skill to learn than performing the actions of a recipe, and also harder than curating the creativity to come up with the recipe in the first place. Not to mention (except I’m obviously mentioning it), staying organized actually leaves you with a tangible and updated product in the end…
The Food Lab blog is invaluable, but I’m pretty excited to have a lot of his knowledge in book format. I absorb info better in a book, and he has a pretty inspirational intro about how he got into cooking and what makes him give such a huge shit (which maybe isn’t the best word choice for talking about food. or maybe it’s a great word choice, because what are we all talking about when we talk about food except Shit’s Tasty Prologue. anyway. enough of this parenthetical thought.) about food.
I’m at a point in my cooking life where I feel like I’m getting good at a lot of stuff, but I’m not particularly encouraged to ask questions. Questions take up a chef’s time, and sometimes makes a young cook sound insubordinate…it’s frustrating, but so it goes. Being able to read and experiment at home is as important, if not more important to me, than ever.
Here are some links to different recipes he’s published over the years that have changed my life:
The Rather Infamous Cook’s Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust Recipe (one of the first pie crust recipes I ever made)