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!


Other links you may like:

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



298 Wonderful responses to “Twelve Recipes & Giveaway”

  • Courtney Grant

    Our 4-year-old is just wild about chicken noodle soup. So we make it together from the ground up: roasting a whole chicken the night before, turning the carcass into stock overnight, sautéing the veggies, and salting salting salting along the way. He stands on his little red stool to ask a million questions. I feel like if I can give him the tools to make that soup, he can take them and run.

  • Brandon

    The cuban. Teaches bread making, roasting, pickling, and how to not eat.the tips of your fingers off when it’s great.

  • Melissa

    Making a grilled cheese sandwich: the choice of cheese, the bread, anything else inside, cooking it so that the cheese melts and the bread toasts but does not burn, and that isn’t even getting into the tomato soup to accompany it!

  • Sharon Miro

    Bread. Flour & water. Let it sit for 3 days. Treat it and feed it, and you can have bread. Imagination and a little salt and magic results. You can eat and be full.

  • Jennifer

    Anything with eggs. Leads to so much more, poaching, frying, baking…sweet and savory

  • Jared

    I’m from the south and the recipe I’m wanting my boys to learn is chicken fried steak and cream gravy. While it sounds basic it’s a dish that has been passed down in many southern families for generations. I’m wanting them to learn their familial history and to be proud of their heritage.

  • elainepill

    i think soups help you figure out how to make flavors go together…and how flavors change when you treat the ingredient differently before adding (saute, parboil, fresh, etc…)

  • Kathleen

    Spaghetti – bring water to a boil, bring ENOUGH water to a boil. the importance of the salt in the water, the importance of watching for when it is done – and there are so many things that can be cooked by boiling

  • Ryan

    A hearty broth made using your own brown stock.
    – I think it teaches the fundamentals like knife cuts and layering flavor as well as the role that stock plays in making classical food. But it also shows additional flavor that comes from roasting meat and cooking it on the bone. And you end up with a delicious finished product rather than just stock which though essential is not all that compelling on it’s own.

  • Chuck McLean

    I taught both of my girls that if you have some kind of pasta, a can of good tomatoes, and some good cheese, you can make an infinite number of good meals and keep from wasting the leftovers. Each in their turn would help me figure out what from the fridge to put in, how much of it to put in, which spices and herbs would be best, etc. The best thing one learns from this – buy the best ingredients you can find, and let THAT dictate what you cook.

  • Shelley butler

    Roasting a chicken teaches many skills, and gives dividends for more such as repurposing, and stock making

  • Renato

    Making an omelet teaches you heat control, timing, simplicity, flavor, and even texture.

  • Kristina

    Chicken stock made from roasting the bones. There’s so much which can come from this simple blending of bones and water (soups, stews, sauces, etc).

  • Rebecca @ Bring Back Delicious

    Roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving teaches people to come together in the kitchen to collaborate and put together a fulfilling meal..and to actually talk for more than 5 minutes at the dinner table. It provides a vehicle for passing recipes and memories on through the generations.

  • Chris

    Grilling a steak over a charcoal fire. Cooking the perfect steak is both art and science. To do it right, you learn far more than just throwing a piece of meat over the coals. You learn:

    >Meat selection – what cut is most appropriate for what I’m making? Grass fed vs. grain fed?

    >Seasoning – what flavor profile to use on the meat? Salt and Pepper or a more complex rub?

    >Fire placement and control – how hot a fire? Where should the fire be in the grill?

    >Cooking method – direct, indirect (or both)?

    >Timing – how long (if at all) should the meat be over the coals. How long should it be off the coals? What is the exact amount of time needed to bring the meat up to the desired temperature?

    >Doneness – What is the optimal internal temperature I desire?

    So many lessons from something that seems so simple. I have spent many years working to perfect cooking a steak. And understanding the methods isn’t the same as executing it consistently every time you cook.

  • Catherine N

    Bread. Some form of bread is a staple in so many cultures throughout the world. Understanding the basic ingredients required for making bread and how they work together, along with learning the technique of bread making, opens up endless possibilities.

  • Carrie Mc W

    we favor the Sunday roast chicken. I’ve taught my kids the easiness of the process-you can’t really go wrong. They enjoy knowing their way around the kitchen and knowing a few tricks gives them a license to explore and learn even more! And that chicken goes on to become tacos, or in pasta or salad and the carcass become broth….all in all, many lessons for everyone.

  • andy

    I guess the obvious answer would be soup, where every little step adds a layer of flavor and an opportunity to use judgement.

  • Julie Z

    Homemade Pasta. Absolutely. Pasta is as important as the sauce (if not more), and it’s a shame the method isn’t practiced more often. I myself have fond memories as a child with my mother and brother measuring, feeding dough into and extruding machine and watching in awe as noodles oozed out. Since then I’ve adopted a good old-fashioned hand crank. The process was, and still is, extremely rewarding.
    The ingredients are as humble as the final product: flour, eggs, salt and oil. Pasta demands time, commitment, patience and (unless you have a third arm) teamwork. In a world where attention spans are on the decline and technology gears us towards a more instantaneous lifestyle, something as simple as homemade noodles can remind us to slow down. Or to be reverent of even the smallest or simplest of things. To take pride in ourselves and our work. Connect with others.
    Besides, who doesn’t love pasta? It’s universally pleasing. It’s a wonderful technique that can take on many different forms and set the groundwork for countless varieties of meals.

  • Liz P.

    I learned almost everything I know from making scrambled eggs the slow, patient, creamy way. And my sons are learning about the physics of food by making popovers: a few simple ingredients + heat + structure = dramatic outcome.

  • Barbara Potter

    Perfectly steamed or sauteed fresh-from-the-garden vegetables. Not under or over cooked. A variety of them, not just the inevitable squash and zucchini served so often in restaurants. I would like my boys to be able to cook with the same skill and care they show a steak on the grill.

  • Abby

    It’s almost any dish, if you know how to break it down to teach it. You are working on knife skills, preparation skills, cleaning skills and the art of cleaning as you cook, or even the basic necessity of following a recipe. (Which surprisingly most folks don’t know how to do…) I like to make casseroles that will build up on all of those skills. One of my favorite is a chicken and broccoli casserole with brown rice. I bake the brown rice, blanch the broccoli, and make the sauce the binds it all together.

  • Christina

    The almighty braise! Beef, pork, lamb, poultry or seafood, it doesn’t matter. Times, liquids,ingredients and flavor profiles very dramatically, but the technique remains the same. Stews, gumbos, chowders, pot roasts, shanks, cassolet…all essentially braises. Aromatics, proteins, liquids & time. My favorite technique of all!

  • Allyson H.

    I think learning how to use my spice cabinet has really elevated my cooking skills. Considering the meat, veg or fruit flavors. Also learning how to use different spices together or create your own spice blends. Letting my taste-buds and nose lead me. Its thinking with your senses in a different way. It can also take the traditional roast chicken and make it something very unique.

  • Ryan Griffith

    Braising. Braising teaches you how to be economical by stretching your ingredients into a dish that can provide several meals. It teaches the transformative powers of cooking by turning tough cuts of meat and vegetables into a rich and tender dish. And it teaches patience, since at the end of the cooking, those several hours of low and slow heat teach you that it was well worth the wait.

  • Pam M

    Baking – part science, part art. My oldest grandson and I made a lemon roll buche de noel for Christmas. There’s a ton of technique involved in making a great genoise and a bright tangy lemon curd.

  • Chris R.

    Searing meats to keep in the juices and flavor is a hard to master technique, but once you’ve got it down……amazing things happen!

  • Alice

    Stock, in particular, chicken. The learning process is figuring out what parts give the best body and flavor. I like feet and backs. Makes good use of under used parts and the feet give it an incredibly gelatinous body. Then, of course more is learned when you figure out all the ways you can use the stock- sauces, soups, cooking grains, etc.

  • Chris S.

    -Egg-Based (i.e. Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Aioli)
    -À la minute pan sauces

    It’s a delicate dance, balancing acid, fat, water, temperature. Once mastered, the options are endless.

  • josh

    jewish deli classics are my favorite – its my soul food and through it i connect to family history, the migration of Jews to NYC and the intermixing of all sort of immigrant cultures in late 1800’s Lower East NYC that make up America todAY….

  • David G.

    I make bread with my 10-month old daughter. Not only is she learning how to make and enjoy the bread, but she is learning the values patience and the rewards that it brings. 🙂

  • Judy

    A mirepoix is useful for so many dishes. We almost always start a soup with one.

  • Eddie C.

    Making popcorn on the stovetop taught me what a ripoff the convenience foods like microwave can be.

  • William Hansen, Ph.D.

    Michael, This is a lovely challenge, and I appreciate your writing, particularly your focus on food.

    Risotto would be my suggestion to you. Warm, inviting, delicious, remarkably versatile, it can accommodate Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall.

    One can dress it up with white truffles, or dress it down with left over veggies.

    The nature of the stock will change the essence, the addition of herbs and other flavorings will influence the outcome.

    Less straight forward than “Pasta”, Risotto allows me to feel like I am really cooking when I’m stirring and stirring and adding and adding.

    Just a suggestion.

  • Jarrod

    Scalloped Potatoes and Ham. This is the first thing my parents taught me how to cook. You definitely don’t need a recipe. Just layer sliced potatoes, sliced leftover ham, half moon onions, flour, salt, pepper and butter in a roasting pan. Then fill it 3/4 full with milk and roast for about an hour until the potatoes are done. Remove the top at the end to brown. This is the comfort food that sustained me through college and my bachelor years. Varying the root veggie and substituting bacon make this technique versatile.

  • Melinda

    Scrambled eggs teaches you to temper your food (eggs) and how much heat to use. And patience. But I think it also allows for a learning curve because instead of being a helpless bystander you can take your eggs off the heat if they’re cooking too quickly.

  • ohiofarmgirl

    bacon. it teaches you patience, the value of the cooking something at the correct temperature, and frugality – that you should keep an use the drippings.

  • Joe Lovell

    Learn your herbs and seasonings. You can take a culinary trip around the world with 4 or 5 ingredients just by changing up the herbs and spices. Maybe not exactly, but evocative of a region. Ground turkey, onions, carrots, and celery, for example. Some coriander, cinnamon, and cumin, a few cut up dried apricots or other dried fruit, and you have Moroccan-esque flavors. Replace the coriander and cinnamon with chili powder, exchange the dried fruit for some hominy and peppers and you end up with an American Southwest/Tex-Mex dish.

    When you drain the meat, don’t throw out the juices! Put them into a tall glass, wait a few minutes. skim off the fat, then pour the jus back into the meat and let it reduce. If you throw it out, you are throwing out a lot of flavor.

  • Adele K

    I am in the process of teaching friends how to make fresh pasta by hand, since I grew up watching my Grandmother do it for lunch each day. No machines just boards and rolling pins and strong arms to knead. But not only to learn this wonderful art but to show all the varieties of cuts and dishes you can make with pasta and then the sauces that elevate each dish.
    Thanks Michael for a wonderful site.

  • Karen M

    Roasting of a chicken, then turning into stock, then using that stock in soups, sauces and many other things.

  • billiegirltoo

    my only ‘technique’ is to taste and taste and taste and use butter often

  • Chris Shores

    Any kind of curing is something that teaches us how to preserve our own food for future consumption. If one can buy their meat from a local farm the whole world can rejoice and the small farm can take little piece back from big brother.

  • Gail

    As a professional baker, I’ve learned to rely on my hearing to tell me that the buttercream whipping on mixer is finished when it goes from a higher pitched ‘blurp blurp blurp’ sound to a dense, low ‘thwack thwack thwack’ sound.

  • Christopher R.

    The technique of reduction – taking a larger quantity of something that is not so flavorful (like a stock) and reducing it into something concentrated and ultra flavorful (sauce). A very good lesson in this country where most people judge the quality of a meal by the portion size.

  • Ryan Merck

    A dish or technique that teaches more than the dish or technique can? That’s easy. Pot roast, because the dish is centered around such an important technique: the braise. The entire dish, (properly done) done in 1 dutch oven, teaches simplicity, efficiency and taste complexities. The searing of a seasoned roast fills the home with the familiar fragrances of toasted salts, peppers, and other spices, bringing us all back to our childhood when we had it militantly on a certain day of the week, or that special occasion when our grandparents would visit. But more importantly is the technique to allow such efficiency. The ability to take less desirable, tender cuts with more gristle and break them down in a moist heat for tender succulency is priceless, but best exhibited with a pot roast.

  • Nina Drewis

    I would love a copy of this book! I’m a self taught home cook, with experience in professional kitchens. I love the simplicity of food and have been cooking since I was old enough to reach the stove. My parents lovingly nicknamed me ‘Betty Crocker’ as a child. When I was five, my mom had a stroke after giving birth to my baby sister and my dad was hospitalized for colitis and had major surgery. I was the parent when our family needed help- and made food from a very young age. It doesn’t matter your age or resources. If you want to eat healthy and tasty food- it really isn’t that difficult. I’m now in my thirties and still cook most meals from scratch. I love food and love to teach my students and parents that all cooking takes is time and a few ingredients. Thank you for sharing this giveaway!


  • Jacob

    Brown sauce (Espagnole): There’s the mire poix, bouquet garni, sachet of the stock. The reduction. The clarification. Then making the sauce itself, often times finishing a la minute monter au beurre. You could go a step further and say Braised Short Ribs…

  • Mitch

    Go fishing. With luck catch a fish. Clean, scale, and gut it. Season, then pan fry or broil. Garnish if desired. Life and culinary skills merge here.

  • Jim McAllister

    Basic stock , it needs to be made with care but when done right it enhances every dish it’s used in .

  • Mitch

    My reserve for “Twelve Recipes” is 43rd in line for 15 copies in my local public library resource sharing system.

  • kaela

    The simplest instruction – “brown meat” requires so much knowledge and technique. How hot to heat the pan, which type of pan to use, to dry the meat or not, to season or not, to not crowd the pan, to let it sit without fussing until it sears, lest you tear delicate skin, to not let it sit so long that it burns beyond repair…. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve taught the simple trick of not over-crowding the pan so your meat browns and doesn’t steam. Every time they say “Why don’t recipes TELL you that??” Indeed.

  • Gregory Berg

    Interestingly enough I have been trying to teach my daughter how to cook. She has left home, completed college and now living with a boy friend…sigh! She often will call with a general question like “Dad, how do I cook chicken”? Over Christmas we went to visit and I showed her how how to make Mac and Cheese. There are so many instructional opportunities for this dish. Making the Bechemel provides the opportunity to talk about the 5 mother sauces and how you transform a Bechemel sause to Alfredo. Then there is the selection of cheese, the selection of the pasta and finally accents. You can add ham, bacon, pulled pork or jalepeno pepper. Anyway…my vote is Mac and Cheese. It is a great family meal or a terrific side dish.

  • Matt

    My 15 year old son lives on the other coast from me and I usually only see him once a year on holidays. Since his mom doesn’t cook often and I believe cooking is a skill everyone should have, I always have him help me prepare at least one meal which I try to use to teach him broad principles.

    In 2013, he helped with Thanksgiving. I quartered the turkey and roasted the white meat and braised the dark. This allowed me to show him some basic butchery as well as to explain the basics of both roasting and braising. I had him chop the veggies and aromatics for both, during which I taught him some basic knife skills. He also made the dressing, including baking the cornbread from scratch, during which I taught him that you can eyeball ingredients while cooking, but that you had to be precise when baking.

    In 2014, he helped make chile verde, which brought us to braising and knife skills again, as well as how to rehydrate chiles and the importance of salt and acid in making things taste good.

    • Matt

      I almost forgot. I also taught him how to make stock using the Thanksgiving turkey carcass.

  • Elizabeth Smith

    Any recipe that you teach a child is more than just that dish. It is touching the food, learning where the food comes from, learning to take care of oneself, a sense of accomplishment, and maybe a pretty tasty meal.

  • Mark Bernstein


    Home-made bread is showy and fancy and a big deal, but it’s also very, very simple. Five parts flour, 3 parts water, some salt, and some yeast. Maybe throw a little bit of sugar in there too, or some honey if you like. Not too much. Maybe take out two oz of water and add an egg.

    That’s the first lesson: this isn’t rocket science. Flour, water, salt, yeast, and what you will.

    And that’s the second lesson, too: you can push recipes in interesting ways by adding a little extra flavor.

    And small lessons along the way: use a scale. Another lesson: the flour-water ratio matters; the rest is an implementation detail.

    And yet another lesson, from the wonderful Allegra Goodman’s _The Cookbook Collector_: “Don’t doctor recipes. Sugar will only get you so far, and more than enough is too much.”

    Now, mix it up in your Kitchen-Aid, if you have one, or with your hands if you don’t. At first it’s a gooey, gloppy mess. After a few minutes of mixing, somehow it’s no longer cold and wet and repulsive: it’s springy and just slightly damp. It’s *alive*. A little more time and it’s like a wonderful stress ball. Dump it into an oiled bowl, cover it. Let it sit a while, it’ll double in size. Biology is fun.

    Preheat your oven to *pretty hot*. 400F will do. While you’re waiting, slice a couple of onions and brown them in a skillet.

    Coat the bottom of your Dutch Oven with a bit of olive oil. Dump the bread in. Strew the top with those onions. Have some fresh rosemary? That’s nice on top. Or a little coarse salt. Or sesame seeds. Or just leave it be — maybe brushing it with a beaten egg mixed with a bit of water because that looks nice.

    Put the top on the Dutch oven, stick it in your stove, bake it for half an hour. Uncover, let it go another ten or fifteen minutes. (No Dutch Oven? A cookie sheet will do. Or whatever you can put into your oven.)

    Now, does it look done? If you’re not sure, stick your instant-read thermometer in the bread: it ought to be 200°F. (That’s another two lessons: (a) instant-read thermometers are cheap and handy, and (b) measure twice, cut once.)

    Take the bread out, and smell it. Don’t stint. Also, don’t eat it yet: let it cool a bit. Enjoy it. Make it whenever you like. It’s not a big deal (lesson!) for special occasions. Throw the dough into a bowl before kickoff, into the oven at half-time; you’ll have tasty fresh focaccia all sliced and ready for the tense drive at the end of the game.

  • skillet

    I agree that bread baking is a technique that teaches much more than bread. It teaches the importance of weights vs volume in baking. That time and temperature are ingredients that affect the taste of the final product. That cooking can be like alchemy when 4 simple ingredients turn into a delicious loaf of bread.

  • Linda Becker

    Making a vinaigrette. My son loves to experiment with the ratio of vinegar to oil, and to try things other than oil as an emulsifier. Usually, they’re great. Some times, not so much

  • Laura H

    The thing I think that I’ve taught my children that is one of the most useful is the ability to cook a meal with what is on hand. To improvise. To create without being bound by what someone says “should” be done. To invent new things!

  • Jay

    My “dish” is brewing beer. Many beers state that beer is just “water, malt, hops and yeast.” While this is definitely a fact, it seems brewing these days many home brewers and breweries are losing the simplicity of the 4 ingredients fact. If you love brewing or drinking craft beer, try a “smash beer.” Single malt, single hop variety, single yeast strain and water. You can brew a world of different tastes and flavors by starting here first and then branching out to more complex recipes. And you get more of a sense of how each ingredient tastes and smells.

  • Steve Cross

    I have been teaching my 6 and 4 year olds how to smoke different proteins, . How different brines, wood, liquids and type of smoker from an electrick to green eff, to kettle can make the same protein taste so different. They have been able to learn how low and slow can make juicy, or jerky style meat. My next course that starts this weekend is vinegar and how you can get really concentrated favors from different juices. The girls do not realize they are learning how to cook, they just enjoy eating the finished product

  • Joanie

    What come to my mind is matzoh ball soup. It is more than technique or a recipe–it teaches family history and cultural tradition. It’s all there: the roasting of the chicken for the stock, the chopping of the vegetables for the soup (“Bubbe used parsnips, but Nana only uses carrots and celery”), to the science of the matzoh balls (“floaters” or “sinkers”? Sephardic or Ashkenazic seasonings?). This soup heals the sick, and helps our family usher in the peace of Shabbat-warming us both physically and emotionally. I’m going to finish up the prep for a batch right now…

  • Michelle

    Bread. Baking one loaf using a basic recipe has whetted our appetite to experimenting with different ingredients and styles.

  • Alice

    Hummus! Teaches bean cooking and improvisation! (Also, I’ve read some excerpts from the book and I’m very impressed.)

  • Mike

    a simple omelet. The pan seems to warm up a bit differently every time, eggs don’t have the same viscoscity or volume. Trying to consistently make a good omelet takes a small number of ingredients but teaches watching what is going on and thinking about why.

  • Ann V

    Meatloaf. Beef, turkey or pork. It’s all about the additions. Panko crumbs are my new favorite to use.

  • t

    banh mi–you can make the bread, learn quick pickling, make your own mayo, etc.

  • Ashley Pardo

    SOUPS! (Vinaigrette a close second)

    I think it’s essential to know how to make a soup. It’s like a hug in a bowl, and can be made with anything. If someone gets a hold the technique their possibilities are limitless and delicious.

  • Lana

    The most important thing in my freezer is broth. And the best broth in my freezer is smoked turkey or smoked chicken broth. We smoke our own birds and save and freeze the meat. The smoked carcass + wings make the most delicious and rich broth. Smoked bones make the best broth – try it!

  • Wendy Marson

    Growing your own tomatoes and peppers, and cooking them down for a sauce with homemade pasta.

  • Danielle K

    I’m torn between preparing eggs and making bechamel. Eggs are deceptively easy to make, yet difficult to master, and can be a meal unto themselves or the finishing touch.

    Once you’ve got a solid bechamel down, the possibilities are endless. Mastering (or, trying to master) bechamel has taken my home cooking to a new level.

  • Michael E.

    I taught my son to bake a whole chicken when he was 8. We didn’t put anything on it – just put it in the oven. He called it “blank chicken.”

    Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Works for most all recipes.

    He’s 28 now. Comfortable in the kitchen, and knows that things can get really screwed up if we over complicate them.

  • Michael DiSarno

    I remember learning to make homemade raviolis with my grandmother. You first had to sit and patiently watch before you were given access to pasta dough, cheese and a fork. My grandfather would make the dough, my grandmother would make the filling with ricotta cheese, eggs, parsley, black pepper and pecorino romano. The dough was light and cut with the top of a drinking glass in circles or a metal ravioli cutter my grandfather made in his tool and die shop. My dad and mom would cut the raviolis. My grandmother would fill them, then I would put the tops on and fork the sides until they were closed and poke the tops for good luck. It was an assembly line at its finest. It was loud, it was systematic, it was quick and it was fun. When my grandmother passed away my family picked up the assembly line tradition and I look forward to teaching the same system to my two little ones. The process was perfected through a love of food and a love of family and togetherness. No better lessons hace been taught in a loving warm kitchen. and dinner was always more enjoyable knowing the work and love that went into making it special.

  • Norma Reynolds

    One of the first dishes my mom taught me was her eggplant parm. In addition to being a yummy dish, it taught me FEB for breading and how to fry. It also taught me how to freeze dishes ahead and how to defrost them to cook later. 🙂

  • Erin

    Curry – balancing salty, sour, sweet, and spicy and watching the flavors synergize, evolve, and become more than the sum of their parts.

  • Faith Harper

    Any recipe is great for teaching fractions! I taught math to kids as a houseparent by giving them, say, a 1/4 measuring cup and saying “ok, how many of these for a cup and a half of cheese?”

    Their grades improved and they got nachos on a Friday night. Total win!

  • Marv

    I learned how to make stock by reading Ratios. Now I make stock whenever I can and have learned how to use it to enhance so many dishes that used to be blah.

  • Daniel Kreisberg

    Morning toast…going beyond butter and jam. Cream cheese layered with sliced gravlax and sprinkled with capers…colorful. A drizzle of olive oil, a couple bite-size tomatoes squeezed and spread, a pinch of your favorite herb, and a two-finger dusting of coarse kosher salt…savory. A spread of honey topped with crushed berries, blue or red…sweet!

  • jason

    Every time I make a pot of Louisiana gumbo, I get all of the mise en place and then begin the dark roux. I was taught to put an old penny by the pot to tell when the roux is ready. This usually takes about 45 minutes, which leaves plenty of time for story-telling and watching/smelling the many stages of roux.

  • Montie Moore

    Learning to cook a proper steak. Knowing how salt reacts with proteins to pull moisture out is valuable with regard to all meats.
    Also the Maillard Reaction. That magical process by which meat turns into meat candy with a proper char, whether it’s steak, or a roast, or chicken cutlets.
    And finally understanding carry over cooking, whereby a meat will continue to cook even when no longer in the oven, or on the grill, or in the pan.
    Master all this and no roast beast will ever be a well done, desert of sadness.

  • katrina

    Honestly, how to cook eggs – either as a homey egg pudding dish, which is just steamed scrabbled eggs mixed with chicken stock. But the hardest is the chinese style of scrambled eggs with shrimp.

  • Asfia

    Has to be candy making ! Sugar n water – two simple ingredients n technique of boiling…. What one can get at each stage is just amazing! Pure thrill for d candy maker n d kids 🙂

  • Matt Joppich

    Of course there are many, but Duck Confit. Butchering, seasoning, poaching, storing, frying and let’s not forget eating…

    Many thanks to you Michael for sitting across from me at The Black Star Farms Harvest dinner and encouraging me to go for it in the kitchen. I’ve taken your advice to heart and enjoy all the new discoveries and food. Truly.