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How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know… (2000)

by Pam Anderson

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455738,593 (4.19)7
Pam Anderson grew up watching her parents and grandparents make dinner every night by simply taking the ingredients on hand and cooking them with the techniques they knew. Times have changed. Today we have an overwhelming array of ingredients and a fraction of the cooking time, but Anderson believes the secret to getting dinner on the table lies in the past. After a long day, who has the energy to look up a recipe and search for the right ingredients before ever starting to cook? To make dinner night after night, Anderson believes the first two steps--looking for a recipe, then scrambling for the exact ingredients--must be eliminated.nbsp;nbsp;Understanding that most recipes are simply "variations on a theme," she innovatively teaches technique, ultimately eliminating the need for recipes. Once the technique or formula is mastered, Anderson encourages inexperienced as well as veteran cooks to spread their culinary wings.nbsp;nbsp;For example, after learning to sear a steak, it's understood that the same method works for scallops, tuna, hamburger, swordfish, salmon, pork tenderloin, and more. You never need to look at a recipe again. Vary the look and flavor of these dishes with interchangeable pan sauces, salsas, relishes, and butters. Best of all, these recipes rise above the mundane Monday-through-Friday fare.nbsp;nbsp;Imagine homemade ravioli and lasagna for weeknight supper, or from-scratch tomato sauce before the pasta water has even boiled.nbsp;nbsp;Last-minute guests? Dress up simple tomato sauce with capers and olives or shrimp and red pepper flakes. Drizzle sautéed chicken breasts with a balsamic vinegar pan sauce. Anderson teaches you how to do it--without a recipe. Don't buy exotic ingredients and follow tedious instructions for making hors d'oeuvres. Forage through the pantry and refrigerator for quick appetizers. The ingredients are all there; the method is in your head. Master four simple potato dishes--a bake, a cake, a mash, and a roast--compatible with many meals. Learn how to make the five-minute dinner salad, easily changing its look and flavor depending on the season and occasion. Tuck a few dessert techniques in your back pocket and effortlessly turn any meal into a special occasion. There's real rhyme and reason to Pam's method at the beginning of every chapter: To dress greens, "Drizzle salad with oil, salt, and pepper, then toss until just slick. Sprinkle in some vinegar to give it a little kick." To make a frittata, "Cook eggs without stirring until set around the edges. Bake until puffy, then cut it into wedges." Each chapter also contains a helpful at-a-glance chart that highlights the key points of every technique, and a master recipe with enough variations to keep you going until you've learned how to cook without a book.… (more)
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» See also 7 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Filled with tips, techniques and suggestions, this book is a great reference when you're experimenting with new recipes and ingredients. Whether you're a by-the-book recipe follower or a make-it-up-as-you-go-along home cook like me, the recipes work well whether you're coloring inside the lines or freestyling it. I refer to the book for shellfish, pasta sauce or chicken techniques at least once a week and it has made me a better cook -- and much better at improvising.
I'd love to have a book like this for desserts and baking! ( )
  ATFMCara | Sep 28, 2017 |
My mom got me a copy of this when I moved into my first apartment; it's definitely a good gift book for those who don't have a lot of cooking experience. There are some recipes, with lots of suggestions for variations, but the focus is on techniques (what's sauteeing?), and there are good tips about grocery shopping and kitchen equipment too. ( )
  JennyArch | Oct 5, 2015 |
The concept of this book intrigued, and the author's background with Cook's magazine seemed a good recommendation. I've been doing this kind of cooking my whole life, so I wondered what I would learn. I learned a lot, actually.

I liked the author's writing style and her emphasis on methods that bring together a good, classic meal in less than an hour (though I think my all-gas stove may have different temperature ranges and some of the time/temp notes were off-- pork chops cut from the loin as she specified needed 5-6 minutes per side rather than 3).

In particular, I learned a better way to 'saute' and 'sear' meats... but I admit my kitchen's puny fan doesn't really have the oomph to cope with the smoke from her searing method. I like her steam/saute vegetable method, though I found it worked better with greens than broccoli-- but her suggested add-ins were great. We tried her butterflied roast chicken, and again had a smoke problem, but the chicken itself was outstanding and a 6 pound chicken cooked in 60-70 minutes. Her suggestion for marinating stir fry meat, even if only briefly, in a soy-based marinade made a huge difference in my stir fry; and her instructions for making a classic pan sauce raised my technique several notches while giving me scope for my 'what have we got in the cupboard and what goes well together' fun.

Some of her choices seemed incongruous-- using spaghetti for pad thai because you can't depend on getting rice noodles? And yet expecting that the reader will have access to unfried papadums? (The papadums in particular seemed a wierd throw-in to round out one of her sample menus.) But I look forward to trying her pad thai recipe, and using the various add-in and sauce suggestions. Warning: thi is not a diet book: there's plenty of fats and carbs in her dishes, though there are also salads and near-plain veggies. ( )
  bunnyjadwiga | Feb 25, 2014 |
a good resource but results depend on the effort invested--currently none on my part ( )
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
This is another book that is a great starting point for the beginning cook. Each dish starts with the basic dish and then adds different flavor ideas to change it up. ( )
  mlake | Oct 8, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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To Gabrielle and Melissa, who sassed up this book and spiced up my life.
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