Originally Posted by impolyt_one
I liked the Japanese western-style cookbooks that all inevitably have recipes for things like stews, sautes, steak frites, chicken dishes, cooking vegetables, etc - they have pornographically detailed picture step by steps of all the important cooking techniques involved, and they usually cover the basic methods of cooking, knife cuts, etc, similar to as you would learn at a French-based culinary school. If you started knowing nothing, and then went through a good example of one of those books and mastered each of the techniques, you would have a really solid foundation, with dishes that would probably impress someone who cooks for a living, even.
I find James Peterson's Cooking
to be like this. It taught me a lot. Way more, in fact, than the CIA book The Professional Chef
that I purchased expressly to learn.
I have two other Peterson books Sauces
and Fish and Shellfish
that are extremely good resources, but only if you know what you're looking for.
The first cookbook I ever bought was How to Grill
by Steven Raichlen. I was 18-19 years old, my parents were out of town for a few weeks, I got sick of take out and needed to feed myself, and grilling seemed to be the most approachable way to start cooking. The first thing I ever cooked out of it was a butterflied pork loin, layered with an olive tapinade, rolled up, tied with butchers twine, and grilled. Looked something like this:
I'm sure it was overcooked and looked like shit, but it was sort of an epiphany, like "If I can cook this super fancy dish, I can make anything." A buddy and I worked our way through that book, making the different recipes, trying the different sauces, making a lot of stuff that was disappointing, but sometimes made something great.
Then there was a Food Network kick for a while, where I watched a lot of the shows and bought the chef's cookbooks. Nice to make dishes from, from time to time, but didn't teach me much other than learning from my mistakes.
Then I took Pepin's Fast Food My Way
from my parent's house, and that opened my eyes to more traditional cooking. So I got The Joy of Cooking
and Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking
and like those when I want something traditional.