Book Review- Ratio

My only objection to the book is that the cover is yellow, but the spine is pink, so it is hard to find on the shelf. A small quibble.

I’ve mentioned this book before, and as I break it out to use to make cream puffs for my friend’s Oscar party on Sunday, I figured I’d write a full-blown review.
This isn’t like other cookbooks: it explains the why of cooking as much as the how. It does have recipes in it, but they are very simple ones, almost foundation recipes, and then you can vary them from there.

The chapter on roux has transformed (transformed, I say!) my relationship to gravy. And soup. The chapter on cakes has finally taught me the difference between sponge cake and pound cake, and the girl and I are now able to whip together a perfect little 2-layer-easy-bake-oven cake. It still takes forever to bake, because of the whole “cooking with a lightbulb” thing, but we can whip it up pretty fast.
There is a whole chapter on sausage making, which I can’t see myself ever delving into. Also, it’s fairly Eurocentric- no salsa, no rice, no stir-fries.  On the other hand, the 5 pages on making mayonaise is one of the reasons I asked for a stick blender for Christmas.

Michael Ruhlman is the author, I haven’t read his previous books, but this one is readable- he is a journalist who wanted to learn how to cook, rather than a chef who was hired to write a cookbook. One kooky detail is the blurb on the back,  by Alton Brown. It identifies him as author of “I’m Just Here for the Food.”  I didn’t realize he was an author, I thought he was a TV personality.

So, the recipes I’ll be using for Sunday are the pate a choux, which is a cream puff dough, and creme patisserie, from the chapter entitled “The Custard Continuum.” I love this book.

edited to add: the cream puffs were amazing- we brought about 30 to the Oscar party, and they disappeared instantly.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Felecia
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 00:20:37

    Woman, you must be reading my mind! I have been reading Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain an he has a chapter where he waxes poetic about how every human should be required to amass basic cooking skills before being considered an “adult.” – Knife skills, stock making, basic vegetable prep, how to roast a chicken, how to braise a tough cut of meat, how to clean and filet a fish, etc…I love his thoughts and went looking for a basics cookbook…I cook, but honestly, he brought up a number of things that I’ve never even attempted…I wanted to learn a few things…this sounds like a great place to get started!


    • katsmama
      Mar 01, 2011 @ 06:13:22

      Felecia- my friend Candace has recommended “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman- you might want to compare and contrast. I think it has lots more of the techniques, and variations on recipes. It’s on my list, and Candace says it’s the only cookbook she uses now.


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