Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


I want to call attention to a cookbook after my own heart, a cookbook that seeks to encourage and teach the few fundamental ideas on which all cooking is based. It’s called Twelve Recipes by Chez Panisse chef Cal Peternell, and it came into being out of the love of a father for his sons.

Peternell, on returning from a family trip to Europe, wondered why more cooking wasn’t done at home, notably and especially by his fellow chefs. He understands: fatigue, time, the desire to see new restaurants. But he also knew this:

“The ancient acts of gathering foods, cooking them, and then coming together to eat are as profound as any that we do, and as pleasurable.… I consider cooking and eating with my family my best skill.”

Yet he’d failed to teach his kids to cook. And so he wrote this book, and it’s excellent.

Sam Sifton said it best in his NYTimes review: “Rare is the cookbook that acknowledges the simple truth that there aren’t really all that many recipes in the world. There is just technique, and practice, and joy and love, and at the end of it something simple and delicious on the plate, something that the reader may not have considered making before cracking the spine of the book.”

As Sifton notes, the recipes here are narratives, as the best recipes are. A really good recipe is a story. And of course Peternell includes not just twelve but rather numerous recipes, and variations on those recipes, but his title emphasizes, as I tried to in Twenty, that all of cooking rests on a small but powerful base.

The first chapter is called “Toast,” the second “Eggs,” the third “Beans.” One is called “Roasted Chicken,” from which so much can be learned. I love his “Three Sauces” chapter, which describes the underappreciated-at-home Béchamel, as well as Salsa Verde and Mayonnaise.

The book is beautifully designed, with homey photography (everything seems to be rustic these days!) and lovely watercolor illustrations.

And it’s thoughtfully, honestly, eccentrically written. Meaning we get a full sense of the chef’s personality as well as his personal cooking convictions. In the “Pasta with Tomato” chapter, he describes a marinara variation called “Arrabbiata.” Though the term typically translates as “angry,” Peternell writes, “I prefer ‘enraged.’” And so in the list of ingredients is “Enough red pepper flakes to enrage and not engulf.” I love that. I love that he wants his kids to know how to make a cake. Everyone should know how to make a cake.

I love this whole book—even though he does tell his kids to put vinegar in the egg-poaching water (Kids! Don’t tell your dad I said this but it’s a bad idea!). And I want to give one away because it’s so damn good. I want to spread its exuberance about cooking food and sharing it with the people we care about, one of the most important and profound acts of humanity.

To win a copy of this book, write in the comments below a dish or technique that teaches more than the dish or technique alone by Thursday (comments will close at midnight).

Happy cooking!


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© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.



298 Wonderful responses to “Twelve Recipes & Giveaway”

  • Emily kendall

    I want to buy this book for every high school senior who will be graduating from our youth group this (and every year). What a great teaching tool.

  • Michelle

    Bolognese! It teaches how to layer flavors, manage heat and know when to stop.

  • KGMom

    Making stock teaches many lessons. Knife skills, deglazing, defatting, foam removal. All useful skills and things to do.

  • Alex

    Temperature. I am a novice in the kitchen and I wish I could find a good book or site about how to work with heat and temperature when cooking food. Knowing this would really help me cook things correctly in the kitchen.

  • Jessica Meter

    I love the technique of confit. It is so versatile, and though you frequently see it with duck, it really can be applied to anything including vegetables. One of my favorite things to do is put a bunch of garlic, herbs and spices into any confit, then use the flavorful garlic to make a compound butter. Or, just make garlic confit – or tomato! I confit food all the time and incorporate it into a variety of recipes, from using a garlic, onion and calabrian chili confit paste as a base for salsa verde, to making confit tomatoes for a pizza topping. It is so fun and delicious, and always impresses people.

  • Tom

    I find the making of a simple flour, water, yeast and salt bread to be lessons in patience, texture, adaptability, timing, hope and enjoyment.

  • Rich Sturgill

    Omelette! So many different ways to to make it your own. However, I believe the omelette on its own serves as a great reminder that it’s the simple things that keep life in perspective!

  • David Foc

    Making Stock and subsequently turning it into Demi-Glace
    So many lessons including:
    – Knife skills
    -Allowing ingredients to provide their own flavor with minimal spices.
    -Patience in the kitchen, because you can’t rush stock. Ever.
    -How to make something you can use to make many things.

  • Cathy

    I agree with the comment about making stock, it teaches a variety of things, but most important it teaches patience. You can’t rush a stock and in the end you realize that good things do come to those who wait!

  • Jamie

    Curing: the process of preserving by salt. It teaches me patience, precision, and promises future gratification!

  • Monique Potel

    makind a mayonnaise by hand in a bowl with a woo den spoon and watch all the ingredients combine and become more than the sum of its parts Magique Sensual

  • Natalie B

    Braised short ribs. Braising can be used for so many proteins. And learning to brown your meat, deglaze your pan…utilize cooking on top of the stove and then transferring to an oven.

    Or making a pan sauce. Browning & deglazing once again. But finishing a sauce, emulsifying with cold butter. Making something flavorful with every aspect of the protein you cooked with.

  • Kevin

    Roux – especially for young kids to start making their own mac and cheese.

  • David Vos

    ¡Tostones! – twice fried green plantains. You slice them, fry them, smash them and fry them again; Peel green plantains (hard green, not yellowed or ripe ones) best to slice lengthwise along ridges then peel back the hard skin. Cut into 1 1/2″ chunks and fry in vegetable or canola oil. Once nice and golden (5-7 minutes) remove from oil with tongs or a slotted spoon and lay on a cutting board. Now the smashing, if you don’t have the hinged gadget a “Tostonera”, simply use the base of a tuna fish can. Smash down slowly and flatten. Once all are flattened, back in to the oil they go for 2-3 minutes until golden and sun-like. Dry on paper towels and serve with salt and hot sauce. Now….for the oil, do NOT throw out; cool it and pour it back into the bottle through a coffee filter in a funnel. As slong as you’re not frying fish, or other flavored items you can reuse the oil many times this way.

  • Ron

    Mac-n-Cheese…teaches how to make a basic béchamel, baking and salt management.

  • Suzan Robertson

    This book sounds great. I second the idea of stock. I make it once a week. Also, the basic “mother sauces” are something I return to often. I’ve gone grain-free so I’m trying to modify the sauces while retaining the right textures – and it’s great fun, actually. I think that stocks and sauces, plus flavor layering with herbs, fats, and spices are the basic techniques that I use to cook my food all the time.

  • ashley

    Braising definitely is my favorite technique to teach. It utilizes underappreciated cuts of meat, layers on the flavor, and doesn’t need to be babysat.

  • Ben Ostrander

    Sausage making. Rarely does one “recipe” teach us to respect our food, make it entirely ourselves, and give us the opportunity for helpers in the kitchen. It requires patience, creativity, and is simple. So simple it can be complex. It’s a favorite for me and my son to make together and then cook together.

  • Erica C. Barnett

    Making soup by sauteeing aromatics, adding stock, other vegetables, and spices, and (optionally) stirring in cream and pureeing is a fridge-clearing technique that works with almost any ingredients.

  • S Brammell

    A simple fried egg. It teaches proper use of fats, temperature control and correct tool selection and use. Taught my son just the other day!

  • Andrea

    Roasting a chicken teaches us about the deliciousness of simplicity. A good chicken. Salt. A hot oven. Time. Simple. Delicious.

  • Elaine

    Gumbo! You’ve got the roux-building, the chopping/sauteing, the simmering, and the eventual discovery that this, like nearly everything else in the world, is made better by being served with a dollop of buttery, peppery grits.

  • Jeff Dubois

    Making a big pot of tomato sauce (sunday sauce). It’s so simple yet so versatile: you can braise meatballs, chicken, pork ribs, braciola – any meat really – in it. You can toss it over noodles and make a delicious pasta. You can use it as a condiment on bread. Throw a little over eggs. There’s a reason why our baba’s slaved over a big cauldron of it every Sunday!! Its magic!

  • Anne C.

    I’ll put in a word for pasta, since it’s on my mind (a FB friend described the disaster of their teenage child trying to make homemade pasta). Attention to the texture and feel of the pasta as it forms from eggs, water, and flour teaches you about trusting your senses and acknowledging the power of atmospheric humidity. That, of course, also applies to cookies, bread, and a number of other dishes.

    And it helps develop patience, if you have trouble with the other two concepts. 😉

  • Matt C.

    Building soup/sauce bases with soffritto or battuto . How the finely chopped vegetables slowly saluted really make the foundation for great flavor in nearly every soup and sauce.

  • Matt T

    Risotto- there are so many ways to build and expand on flavors or how it can be used as a base for something much more elaborate that highlights its rich texture and complimentary flavors.

  • Keith Cirka

    A simple roast chicken. Learned skills:

    1) Poultry anatomy and dispatch: I butterfly mine out and trim well so I always have wingtips, keel bone, feet and other “parts” for…

    2) Stock/broth-making: “juicy and gelatinous goodness”

    3) Seasoning: under the skin to get the flavor in, oil/butter on the skin to promote crispiness… roasted atop…

    4) Veg cleaning and prep: bird is roasted atop root veg that collect some of the meaty goodness

    5) Deglaze and gravy makin’ – methods for using the fond/pan juices

    6) Resting… all proteins need a moment

    7) Carving the critter… then plating

    8) Give thanks and chow down!

    9) and lastly, but not leastly, how to wash dishes and pots.

    • Keith Cirka

      …and giving the animal respect by utility of any and all pieces/parts

  • Andy G.

    To me, the quintessential dish that teaches more than just the recipe is a bolognese ragu. I began making this primarily for my girlfriend, who studied in Italy and lamented what passes for meat sauce most places in Cleveland/Ohio/The U.S. I am an early-30s home cook, and this ragu taught me many things about cooking:

    – Quality ingredients make all the difference. I can whip up this sauce with grocery store “meatloaf mix,” or, preferably, I can go to a butcher and get mortadella, pancetta, and fresh-ground beef/pork/veal. It’s good with the grocery store stuff, but It’s AMAZING when I take the time to get what it needs. Same goes for garden carrots and garlic, and for pairing this with fresh pasta vs. dried. Same cook, same technique, vastly different results.

    – Even with the best ingredients, preparation matters. People always say things are “made with love,” and I never knew what that meant until I took the time to dice the vegetables in this sauce as fine as possible after being disappointed with chunky carrots in an early batch. I recently bought a mandoline, which makes the job easier, but even before that, I would put in the work to make sure the textural elements were right — that is cooking with love.

    – The burned bits are gold. I believe you’ve covered this quite nicely in your recent fond post.

  • Brenda

    Making a bechamel or veloute sauce — figuring out the basic process of making a roux, then adding liquid to create a sauce is such an instructive process in itself, and once you’ve learned to do it, it’s a ticket to understanding so much more. Like making a quick pan sauce or gravy (I didn’t really understand gravy until I learned to make veloute), or making casseroles from scratch.

  • Kailani DeLorenzo

    A proper omelette! There’s quite a bit that goes into making a great omelette, starting with the beating of the eggs down to the motion in the pan as to avoid browning and ruining the consistency of the albumin.

  • Angela Alaimo

    Beef stew. I have this oldish cookbook that has a fool proof stew recipe. One day it dawned on me how many techniques, etc were there to be learned in that one recipe, even if it didn’t say what they were. That would have been too scary for the home cook back in those days.

  • Bob C.

    An omelette. Like you said in Egg, it’s what so many restaurants will use as a test for technique and attention to detail. It shows heat control, pan control, knowing when to stir the eggs and when to let them rest and form around the curds, etc.

    I think most importantly of all, though, and this should apply to ALL cooking, is that you take the best ingredients you can and then do as little to them as possible. The ingredients will create amazing food as long as the chef has the attention to detail to do just barely enough to let that shine through.

  • Mike

    I’m also in the Gumbo fan club. The mise en place of having all the aromatics chopped (evenly!) first, the patience of stirring the roux until the perfect color appears, and the knee-buckling wonder that is the aroma of aromatics hitting the hot roux. It is my pinnacle dish to make.

  • Gregory R

    Mayonnaise! This basic emulsion teaches a technique that is used in dressings and even Hollandaise, but also leads the way (at least in my opinion) to more advanced skills like liaison, custards, etc. I would consider this a fundamental skill that can lead to so many other, more elevated techniques.

  • Chad

    Mayonnaise – I felt like I did a magic trick the first time it came together.

  • Hector

    A basic broth can be a great teacher about how slow and easy can develop amazing flavors that can enhance any meal

  • Sean Turner

    Pan Fried hamburgers. A simple meal, but one that both teaches proper sanitation and temperature control. Understanding both are essential!

  • Sanchit

    Roasted vegetables: knife skills, oven heat/time management, applicability to multiple dishes or several meals from one cooking session, balanced seasoning, healthy eating

  • Andrew

    Fried chicken! First you make the brine for the bird, then the butchering of the chicken into parts, the frying itself, and then, if you make it ahead of time, the continued warming, tenderizing, and maintenance of crispiness in a low oven (preferably convection). Even the eating of it requires some careful technique if you don’t want to make a mess of yourself!

  • maureen sanchez

    Stock – teaches layering flavors – teaches respect of animals/vegetables used by using every part of the ingredients grown or purchased – teaches patience – teaches how one product (stock) can be prepared so many ways – and have such a wide impact on so many others – everything from boiling potatoes to making sauce to boiling pasta in it – it’s a great foundation for everything else!

  • Wade

    I had recently read the NYT review of this book and definitely saw that was a kindred to Twenty. Maybe the most useful thing I came away with from Twenty was the pan roasted pork tenderloin with garlic, thyme and coriander. I’ve made that specific recipe many times, but the technique it teaches can be used for all sorts of things, and I’ve substituted/added to the ingredients with great success using fish and chicken and even Brussels sprouts. I recently cooked up a pan roasted chicken breast with bourbon, maple, butter pecan sauce which was born out of the pan roasted pork recipe. If there are just 12 recipes, I’m sure one of them is essentially this technique.

  • Karlen Kane

    Cooking an egg dish – it can be accomplished in so many ways. I love them poached, soft-boiled, fried, scrambled, baked – it is hard to imagine a way in which an egg couldn’t be cooked — and not only is this ingredient versatile, but mastering the many proper techniques of cooking an egg will stand anyone in excellent stead their entire life.

  • Tom

    Barbecue: Taking those tougher cuts and rendering them infinitely tender through brining, rubbing and cooking low and slow

  • Jen

    As a beginner in this area, making classic French stew allowed me to see how many layers of flavor you can get with each step. Also, baking bread is also a huge educator on patience and experimentation!

  • Jason Stitt

    Preparing Coq Au Vin (I was inspired watching Top Chef the other night) teaches proper braising technique and the development of rich flavors, which also allowing the few ingredients to create a deep and wonderful dish.

  • Dean

    Making a basic loaf of bread taught me as much about cooking as almost anything else. I’d been told and read that the big difference between “baking” and “cooking” was that the former required strict adherence to the rules (hydration formulas, proofing times, etc.) while the latter was far less restrictive. What I learned from many mediocre results of breadmaking attempts was that the rules matter, but being alert and thinking matter more. Paying attention to the reality of what was happening to the dough was more important than adherence to a recipe. By persistently working at making a decent loaf of bread, I learned how to use the recipe as a guide, and to focus on what was actually in my hands.

  • Laura Gever

    Bread- no matter the recipe, you still need to really look, smell, feel, taste (hear as well since some people thump on the bottom of loaf to test doneness) at every stage of process. And it can come out slightly different each time due to weather, variations in grain, etc. It’s a great intro to trusting instinct in the kitchen.

  • Paula Jacobson

    Chicken Pot Pie teaches making stock, prepping vegetables, making a roux, poaching chicken, the art of creating flaky pastry, and the importance of patience. Most of all, it’s such a comfort food from my childhood, it teaches love.

  • Tasha

    Wrong time of year to be thinking about it, but… grilled ribs. Teaches about long cooking with indirect heat and the wonder of melting connective tissue, sauce reduction, potentially about how smoke can add flavor, and of course it helps teach about the wonder and beauty that is pork. Mmmm, ribs….

  • Kim Foster

    Hi Michael! My youngest daughter, Edie, who is eight, really has an affinity for cooking and baking. She loves it and is good at it and we spend a lot of time together in the kitchen. She asked me to teach her to cook more complicated things, so I’ve been using your books as a tool. She hates math, so I’ve been teaching her ratios, and how to cook with them, and then from Twenty, techniques.

    I see just from teaching her, that teaching the technique not the recipe, is the thing that is going to go with her throughout her life. The recipes you forget but the techniques stick.

    Anyway, this book sounds great and perfect for us right now, Am excited to read it and cook from it with Edie. Thanks, Michael.

  • Tony

    Butter sauce.

    As a new cook – with no formal training – I was in charge of making brown butter sauce ever day for 6 months. That particular task turned into the most stressful time of my day. During that time I learned to make, break and fix any emulsified sauce – from vinaigrette to aïolis. I couldn’t be more pleased with the skill one recipe taught me.

  • Jacqueline

    I often use poached chicken as an introductory class for Kitchen Confidence clients. It’s an old technique that’s well over-due for a renaissance. It teaches us how to cook with many senses, how to nourish ourselves with healthy, delicious food (even the lowly boneless, skinless breast, if you must). It also teaches the cook once – eat twice lesson. You get beautiful protein that can be used in sandwiches, salads, potpies, soups. You get an tasty poaching liquid that can be used to enrich soups, sauces, stews.

    It’s also a method that flies in the face of “cooking is too hard” “cooking takes too much time” mentality.

    If I don’t win this book, I’m buying it. Sounds like a keeper.

  • Eric

    pan roasting anything. If you can learn to sear something in a pan and follow it up with aromatics, veg and spices and finish it in the oven there’s no limit to the number of recipes you can create

  • Dennis

    I would love a copy of this book for some guidance in teaching my two boys to cook! I do it all, and they do not ask any questions or show any interest,

  • Debbie

    I guess I’d pick making a pan sauce. If you can throw a pan sauce together it elevates any protein in your dish. There are so many ways to flavor one and are really quite simple.

  • Billy Kozuch

    Soups and Stews! Both are a great way to learn how to use leftovers, as well as using the crock pot. The use of the slow cooker is the best way to make a hearty, one-pot dish without degrading the use of fresh foods and prep skills. It also keeps up with the demands of a modern lifestyle when there is no time out every to cook. I learned this from my mother and I am teachinging it to my family now! Keep Calm and Cook On!

  • nell

    Bread, it teaches
    Patience while waiting thru the rising
    Getting your hands into your work with kneading
    Details and chemistry having the right ingredients, amounts, temps to get the reaction you need
    Love of the simple things, nothing is better than creating and sharing a simple loaf of bread

  • TimL

    Mayonnaise, simple and pure. Teaches how to handle eggs, and whisking. Also teaches the importance of quality ingredients.

  • Rebecca

    This book and Twenty would make a great companion set.
    I think a basic Chicken Noodle Soup is a great way to teach a wide variety of skills – knife work with celery, carrots, and onions (mirepoix or chunky style), working with garlic or shallots, poaching/roasting chicken, making a stock, the use of salt (and/or vinegar) to season, and how to boil, season, and shock noodles to keep them from going squishy in a soup. Really ambitious cooks can even make homemade noodles. Chicken soup is also a great place to experiment with herbs, or even learn where you can sneak in a shortcut or two when time is tight. Finally, it’s an easy recipe to adjust by switching up the pasta for grains, transforming it into a cream soup, or adding in different veg.

  • JR Prospal

    I have always found making gumbo from scratch encompasses many different techniques and skills that can be used in many dishes. I generally make a chicken and sausage gumbo with a black roux. The task begins with breaking down and deboning a whole chicken (1), then using the bones to make the stock (2), which simmers for a few hours. I follow a Prudhomme family recipe which calls for lightly breading (3) and frying the chicken (4); while that cools, knife skills are practiced on dicing up the vegetables (5). When all the ingredients are ready, making the roux (6) is the delicate part…I want it dark, dark brown, but not burnt. Then I brown (7) smoked sausage to pull out extra flavor; the veggies are then added and cooked in the roux; the chicken and sausage pieces added to the pot along with the stock, and the simmering begins. Meanwhile, I cook up a pot of rice (8) that will be served with the gumbo. So, 8 techniques are employed for the one dish. I suppose learning to mix herbs and spices, and when to add them, could also be another technique, as would making and smoking the sausage, if anyone wanted to go that route. All in all, gumbo is fun to make and the results are a feast.

  • Kevin Hunter

    Knife sharpening teaches patience, respect for the tools of the trade and a passion for perfection. All of which are the essential characteristics of a culinary craftsman.

  • Michael Bird

    A widely used cooking technique that covers so many different foods, fermentation. Adding those foods together would be a charcuterie plate masterpiece with plenty of refreshments to drink alongside.

  • Amanda

    Stock and soup…they teach patience, Preparation, and planning. They aren’t quick to make and if you don’t pre-plan you may end up missing a key component. Stocks also teach recycling…

  • Tom Abella

    Picadillo – – a Cuban peasant dish that consists (varyingly; peasants can’t be picky) of ground beef, onion, garlic, cumin, black pepper, chopped Olives and raisins (and maybe a splash of red wine vinegar). Usually served over rice. It teaches how balance and complexity can bring a dish to life, without being difficult to make or enjoy.

  • Jen

    Gluten free baking – it teaches the science of what property each gluten free flour brings to a baked good in order to properly find the best flour mix for each recipe.

  • Joel

    A hamburger: Buying & seasoning meat, controlling temp to balance crust & doneness, produce, seasoning & saucing (salt & mayo)

  • Katie

    Making risotto! The process of making risotto (if done all from scratch) teaches stock making skills, knife skills, patience (all that stirring and time), balancing flavor, seasoning, and also the skill of using the correct cooking temperature. Then it teaches you to use some restraint since you want to eat it all as one serving!

  • JillyG

    Soup. It’s an Art. It teaches the importance of texture, comfort, balance, soul, sass and restraint. If you can’t make good soup, you can’t call yourself a Cook.

  • Karen

    A white sauce was the first thing my mom taught me how to make (after I graduated from reading directions on boxes around age 9) and I was very impressed when she listed all the things I loved to eat that she said I would be able to make by knowing this. Plain sauce for vegetables, cheese sauce for vegetables, or macaroni and cheese, (using ANY cheese, wow!) gravy for fried chicken or other meat dishes, it wouldnt be white if you used the pan drippings but would be tasty. Surprisingly, it was needed for salmon croquettes, which I adored and the american style casseroles which regularly stretched leftovers with pasta and vegetables. She informed me, if a recipe had ‘cream of something’ soup, I could use white sauce instead and it would be nicer. Or if I wanted cream of anything soup, start with the white sauce. But no, I may not use the blender on my own.

    As a culinary student, I learned the slightly more elaborate béchamel, but as a 9 year old, my mom taught me about white sauce.

  • Marianna

    Stock, stock, stock. Even something as easy as a veg stock is so easy to do and so essential to increasing the quality of a home-cooked meal. Besides, instead of just throwing all your veg into the pot you can use the opportunity to practice your knife skills! Veg stock doesn’t need a perfectly diced carrot, but it sure looks purty when it has one!

  • Laurel Miltner

    Any kind of roast … first searing you learn about dry, high heat and the wonders of the maillard reaction, then a slow braise teaches how moist, low & slow heat breaks down the connective tissue to create something fork-tender out of an otherwise tough cut.

    • Elaine

      Yes, the maillard reaction! My boyfriend and I always talk about turning “America’s Test Kitchen” into a drinking game and taking a drink every time they reference this fantastic piece of kitchen science. (But we always end up watching it in the morning, and don’t want to go down that “drunk by 10am” road, so the game remains unplayed.)

  • Fran

    Braising meat. Not only does the final result end up so much more wonderful than the sum of the individual parts suggest, but there are so many techniques involved: chopping, proper searing, deglazing, temperature control, etc. And the flavors can be as simple and complex as you want them to be. I’d love to give this book to my sister-in-law who is just starting to learn to cook and needs some encouragement!

  • Darcie

    Hollandaise – it teaches how heat can affect an ingredient, how acid can brighten a dish, and a lot about the science of emulsion. Plus it transforms humble ingredients into a product that’s far more than the sum of its parts.

  • Sean Thomas

    Braise just about anything. Easy to do, but so much to understand to know how to make it the best it can be.

  • Jenn

    Norimake…not only do you need knife skills and the know how to cook the perfect rice but you learn to balance flavors and textures with the add-in ingredients. This was the 1st dish my grandma taught me to make as a child.

  • Gretchen

    Roasting. One can roast just about anything. It brings out the richness, and depth of flavors of a food, whether it be meat or vegetable. And, there’s the prep for roasting, using knives, oils, and seasonings, most especially salt. What a lovely book. My boys need to learn how to cook.

  • Janet Nelson

    Vinaigrette-you learn about emulsion, you make it every day, you save a TON of money making your own and you avoid the junk that is often used in bottled dressing.

  • Lora N Louisville

    Eggs, from scrambled to poached to how and why they are important in baked goods. All kids should learn to scramble or hard fry an egg.

  • Sandy

    A simple chicken soup can be translated to so many soup recipes so it’s a great building block. Starting with, of course, homemade stock – which is a whole other technique/recipe. Many people have mentioned roux/bechamel, for homemade mac/cheese or tuna casserole, also good and kid friendly placed to start. I love the roux for the obvious alchemy/magic involved, since it shows so well the potential of simple ingredients.

  • John

    I’ve got to say Chicken, chicken is such a versatile food. Young and old alike can learn about cooking chicken that can be used for so many different type of meals. A couple or a family could eat for most of a week on 1 good size bird.

  • Irene

    Poaching an egg. Once you can poach an egg perfectly, you can do half the things you need to learn in the kitchen.

  • Chris


    They teach you how to work something just enough — not too much — and that the most important ingredient in any dish is love.

  • Terri

    Soup. The way the humble ingredients you have on hand can be transformed into something nutritious, delicious, and filling. When our Korean mess hall cooks transformed leftover French fries, green beans and roast beef into a new meal I learned the value of not wasting food.

  • Li

    Making the perfect steak. I wanted to know how to do this, and I turned to David Chang’s recipe on how to cook a rib-eye. Everything I know about cooking meat is based on that one recipe. Salt it like a NYC sidewalk in the winter, sear – don’t touch!, oven to finish, baste with Butter and aromatics, beautiful.

  • Stephanie P.

    Roasting, once you learn to coat something in a little bit of fat, roast at higher heat until golden brown and delicious you can roast anything! Meats, vegetables, even fruits.

  • Tim Evans

    Smoking a pork butt. It teaches about life.

    There are no ways to hurry it up that don’t affect some part of the quality. That’s true of barbecue and life.

    Just as if in life, smoking a pork butt will have at least one stall. You come to a point where you just aren’t moving any close to your goal, even though you’re trying your best. All you can do is power through it.

    Finally, and this can be said for much of cooking as well as life, it goes to prove that “the old ways” are sometimes the best way. Yes you can cook it in a crock pot and you could use liquid smoke to get the right flavor, but it just won’t be as good as a butt that takes a long slow bath in fragrant smoke, slowly converting it’s tough connective tissues into moist delicious gelatin.