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Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I’m meeting with my editor from Little, Brown at the end of the week to run through ideas for the next cookbook (which I claimed I wouldn’t write … so sue me; perhaps it’s an illness). But I honestly don’t know what to explore. So I’m coming here for ideas. Of course, I always have teaching in mind when I write a cookbook, teaching myself, first and foremost. But I’d like to put the question out to home cooks and chefs alike. What book is most necessary, what cookbook doesn’t yet exist?

Sous vide is ever on my mind, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. Also, there are now several good books out there on the subject from people who have more experience than I. Modernist Cuisine Made Easy, sous vide from the professional vantage, which I helped to write, Under Pressure, not to mention Kenji Lopéz-Alt‘s extraordinary tome The Food Lab, which addresses the subject (and so much else).

So, what then? I have a few of my own ideas but would love to hear from readers. As an enticement, I’d love to give away a signed copy of my latest book, out October 6th, In Short Measures, three novellas not about food, but rather about love, marriage, fidelity, infidelity, and the seemingly impossible perfection of young love, and that love’s loss.

Any and all suggestions welcome. If you add a comment (and live in the continental US), you’ll be entered for the book giveaway. Thank you!

****************

And coming off yesterday’s wonderful Brooklyn Book Festival where I was on a panel of debut fiction writers, I need to add that my wonderful Skyhorse editor Nicole Frail has asked me to suggest that people who want the new book to pre-order it on Amazon here. It really does help the book. Again, thank you all, generous readers.

 

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

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101 Wonderful responses to “The Next Cookbook?”

  • Allie

    One of the things I struggle with are weekly plans for meals. I end up scouring the internet for ideas and then end up cutting and pasting recipes to fit the week. It would be brilliant to have a cookbook that had, say, 52 weeks of dinner menus (in a dream world with shopping lists attached). I don’t know if it is feasible or even something you are interested in writing, but a book that makes home cooking tasty, healthy, attractive, and organized would be a perfect book for me.

    • Nicole

      This exactly. Weekly menu planning is my achilles heel. I end up choosing one or two dishes, plus leftovers and a night of takeout or soup from the co-op, then spare ingredients languish in the refrigerator. Home cooking that’s organized, achievable and perhaps doesn’t have 19 ingredients?

    • MattW

      Great idea. There’s a classic cookbook from Spain 1080 Recetas (that has been translated) that gives weekly menus based on the recipes in the book. I don’t think that there are 52 complete menus, though, just maybe 4-5 for each season.

    • Josh

      I want to second (fourth?) this. I could get a lot of mileage from a book that matches diverse meal plans with specific grocery lists in a way that everything gets used.

    • Sheila

      A 52 week seasonal cookbook with shopping lists has already been written ” The Kitchen Revoloution ” (Sykes, Russell , Heron pub Ebury Press 2009). Each week has a big meal from scratch, 2 meals using leftovers from the big meal (cutting down on time spent in the kitchen), a seasonal supper, a larder feast and 2 for 1 i.e half goes in the freezer for a night when you’re pushed for time) and 4 seasonal puddings for the month- brilliant concept but does tend to have long lists of ingredients and my children werren’t keen on some of the ingredients esp chicory (Feb, wk 2)….

    • Kathy

      This looks like a need to learn improvisational cooking. What’s in the refrigerator and pantry? Go from there!

  • Cheryl K.

    With preserving and canning becoming so popular, I’d love to see your take on it as well as Donna’s pictures.

    • Brogie62

      I agree. The vegetable and fruit side of preserving for winter. Canning, pickling, etc.

  • Nina

    One of my first cookbooks was the Woman’s Day cookbook, which was a functional and beautiful tome for that stage in my life.

    There were two small sections in the back on “cook once/eat twice” and another on holiday meal planning that I think could really make their own book, or even two books. It’s really hard when you are a home cook to suddenly figure out how to plan for a holiday meal – how much turkey to order per person, how to expand every day recipes into those that can serve a larger group. And the cook once/eat twice is a meal planning concept that many, many busy people could use, from single people to DINKS to families, with a dedicated “cooking/shopping” day and then an easier week ahead where you simply reheat the great food you made earlier in the week, freeing your life up weeknights for homework, working out, reading books, or whatever other enjoyable task instead of going to the damned grocery or driving through a fast food restaurant.

  • John

    Taking a cue from Symon, how about barbecue, from selecting cuts of meat to dry v wet rubs to smoking and wood choice?

  • Marc David Johnson

    Michael,

    There are tons of books out there on meal preparation, or technique or ratios (yours included).

    One area I think is under-served is the appetizer, tapas, banchan market.

    A book with a large number of quick and simple recipes people could choose from for entertaining or serving as classic appetizers.

    Just an area of thought,
    Marc

  • Bill

    How about disrupting with the new media? Similar to what you did with Ratio:

    Interactive cookbook (tablet format) – allow ratios to automatically change and adjust.

    Similar to cocktail recipes that tell you the way to substitute alcohol in drinks (Old Fashioned/Rob Roy), you could do similar if someone wanted a recipe to adapt from red meat to white (and changes in seasonings that may reflect that) or ways to make a savory dish sweet if that is your preference

    “dinner builder” similar to what another commenter mentioned, but perhaps entering in a few ingredients you have – Protein: “chicken breast”, vegetable: “brussels sprouts”, Style: “italian” and come up with some variants based on that.

    or along with a recipe suggested paired foods – if it’s a prepared main dish, a list of good paired vegetables or grains. If it’s a vegetable dish, the reverse (good protein)

    Changing white rice to brown rice or noodles is a very different flavor profile – how could the recipe adapt to best take advantage of your changes?

    If the steak you have is a “less good” cut or if you just have bland chicken, make that a starting point where you can get a variety of inspirational ideas to make the most of those circumstances.

    I’ve always thought it would be fun to adapt something from a “pantry roulette” with ingredients most people end up having in their pantry – canned legumes, canned tomatoes, a rarely-used spice, frozen peas, etc… and building something from that.

    Just some random ideas for ya…

  • Carri

    It seems like it’s time for a new “Basics” cookbook that embraces new techniques (such as sous vide) and updated pantry items (like the myriad of butters there are to choose from these days) kind of like Twenty but more broad.
    Also a good party book with tips from the pros.
    So ready for a good party! 😉

  • Elliott

    Native food around the US. There are so many cuisines are native to the United States, and pre US, that need to be explored. The chefs in the south have the best grasp on this now, but there are other regions that deserve as much attention.

  • Amy

    Why not pair the Friday Cocktail with food; a book of happy hour pairings for everyone, from the single Manhattanite living in a loft wearing super hip designer denim with access to amazing specialty grocers to the parents living in suburbia who’ve been driving their school-aged kids to various sports and activities whilst working and adulting all week who only have access to their local mega-mart.

  • Tags

    How about a Cleveland cookbook with peoples’ family recipes? What’s your photography budget?

  • Joachim

    I’m close to experiencing cookbook overload. I just received J. Kenji’s The Food Lab in the mail and I have every book in your photo at the top of the page, plus probably a hundred or more scattered around the house. I get my grilling and smoking recipes and techniques from AmazingRibs dot com and a lot of good info from America’s Test Kitchen, especially their slow cooker books. I’m always looking for quick, easy, and tasty sides. How ’bout recalibrating the best recipes from the CIA text for the home cook? Like Allie above, I also find day by day by week planning a challenge. Sometimes, as in the case of too many cookbooks, there are too many possibilities and so I resort to favorite standby’s. Some techniques are simply too daunting, like the live fire guy in Patagonia, although I love looking at his book. And with top notch ingredients getting more and more expensive, I’d like to find more recipes for less popular ingredients (offal, liver, kidneys, heart, tongue, etc), something like ‘The Time and Money Consciousness Good Eating Guide.’ Or cook one big meal a couple of times a week and what to do with the leftovers. Your charcuterie book is staring at me on the sidebar so I may have to get that one as well. Often I love the idea of something and the reality of doing it are overwhelming. I plan on reading J. Kenji’s book as a novel; most everything I’ve made from his columns at Serious Eats have turned out excellent. BTW, thanks for all your work in your books and your blog. Good stuff.

  • Tony

    A few ideas:

    – Practical home sous vide cooking
    – BBQ/Grilling
    – Cocktails & food pairings
    – A book on what I will call “Setting up your kitchen for easy and efficient cooking”. I’ve always thought that many of the pro kitchen techniques would work in the home. My favorite example is that we purchase the large box professional plastic wrap for use at home. Using that style is so much easier than wrestling with the small boxes from the grocery store (and much less expensive in the long run).

  • Kathleen

    If I had the talent, I would name a cookbook “Rustic”. A collection of stories and recipies that embrace the origins of certain foods/dishes and tries to emulate the original flavors and preparation methods instead of trying to constantly make the food more fancy and out of reach. “Peasant” cuisine has been some of the most amazing food that has crossed my plate and I am constantly amazed how chefs try to make said food more unattainable or over adulterated.

  • Stephanie Henson

    I would like to see a cookbook on sauces, how to build on a mother sauce, and recipes that then utilize those sauces.

  • Margaret

    During some cooking classes in Italy, I learned “catena” or chain – to make new food from what you had left from the previous day’s meal. Great concept especially if you make it a mindset.
    We waste so much in this country. Things mold in the fridge. Plans change. We pitch things before we get to use them.
    I started using things for antipasti/snacks or accumulating bits and pieces in the freezer until I had enough for soup or a new meal.
    You could do so much with creative uses of just about anything to make soups, spreads, sauces, desserts, etc. that could make entire lovely meals out of what so many of us throw away.

  • B. Baker

    Another hot summer and nothing more primal than cooking outdoors. I am exploring BBQ (not just grilling) and the variety of wood-fired outdoor cooking methods and techniques. I am also collecting info on constructing smokers, plancha’s, etc., in order to build a that could accommodate a few of theses methods. I would love a book (with the detail of your prior works) exploring methods in different cuisines. Selecting, preparing, and seasoning various cuts for best results with each cooking surface and technique.

  • Natalie B

    You know what I would like to see? A cookbook that isn’t about “how fast can I get dinner on the table”. There are so many books out there that concentrate on fast and easy, which of course has its place but I’d like a book of “weekend cooking” so to speak. Old school, long, slow flavor development….Recipes with some passion and love behind them.

  • Shawn

    My wife and I recently found ourselves in a temporary living situation where most of our possessions were in storage, and we only had access to what fit into her two-door coupe. She packed only her chef’s knife and a 12″ skillet (stainless with copper bottom, metal/oven safe handle, and stainless lid). Being a baker, I packed my scale. We had access to a range top and an oven, a cutting board, a few bowls, some spoons, a whisk, and a sheet pan. Utilizing only this equipment, we ate like rock stars for months. This experience has given us both a whole new outlook on how we cook, as well as a how we react to specialty cooking stores filled with kitchen gadgets and trinkets. Don’t get me wrong – its nice to have access to things like a stand mixer, a food processor, etc. But it is amazing how little you need to make really good food.

  • Paul

    A cookbook author, a forager and a gardener walk into a bar…think ‘a melange of square foot gardens, fat of the land, omnivores dilemma and charcuterie’. What i love about your cookbook Charcuterie is that it gets us back in touch with where our food comes from and how we learned to store/preserve calories. I’d love to see your take on the intersection of garden, kitchen and naturally available ingredients.

  • melissa

    Two thought: one the meal planning I echo but I would love to approach it through a local CSA delivery perspective. And yes to the canning and preserving as well! I would say another idea would be the family meal. Dreamy Sunday dinners, Saturday night entertaining…Thanks!

  • Juli

    Pressure cooker, how to and recipes. I am terrified to use one but I want to. My colleague users hers for canning so maybe some about that as well. I am so tired of smears on plates and frou frou crap. I want hearty meals made of real food that you need a knife and fork and maybe even a spoon to eat.

  • Gregory Berg

    How about a book on Herbs. It could be combined with a great educational overview of the use of salt for seasoning and the difference between seasoning and flavoring. How to combine herbs. How in some cultures the herbs are toasted or fried in oil before addition to a sauce or braise.

  • Pamela Kincheloe

    There is no cookbook in existence that is written in ASL for Deaf people!!

    • J.C.

      There are no books period written in ASL. ASL is not a written language. No books CAN be written in ASL.

  • Rachel

    I think you are at your best when you are arguing that good, whole, homemade food is more important and closer at hand than North Americans tend to realize.

    Sous vide is great, but it’s not that accessible in a home kitchen. Even as a dedicated home cook, I just don’t have room in my 800 square foot condo for another machine.

    What I want to work on in my kitchen these days is paring down, minimizing. I would be interested in help with putting homemade food on the table every single night. There are a thousand blog posts about how to turn one roast chicken into a week’s worth of meals (for people who don’t just devout all the meat the first night like we do), but what are the other “mother recipes” we can do that with so that every bit gets used up and repurposed?

    In strict defiance of the sous vide idea, I’d also be interested in looking at really low-tech cooking. What can I make in my tiny kitchen if all I have to work with is a chef’s knife, a pot and a wooden spoon? The answer should be: almost anything, but I still find myself thumbing past half of the recipes in favourite cookbooks that call for specialized equipment. It would be of use to anyone starting a new kitchen or living in a small space (students, recently divorced middle agers, travellers in air b&b apartments, folks who’ve just moved cross-country, New Yorkers etc.)

  • Ryan Gilletly

    Sous vide, with all of the available and now affordable sous vide machines for the home cook a book less intimidating than Under Pressure. Or Indian cuisines

  • Tom Abella

    Work your way through related, but separate dishes, using each one to illustrate a technique and how it can be applied to different dishes. Start by teaching someone how to properly cook and sear a steak, then how to do the same with a bigger cut for a braise–do the first in a smaller pan than the second so they can learn how to make the necessary adjustments, maybe include something about how heating elements affect differently-sized/thickness pans of various materials differently. Maybe they don’t have a big enough pan for an entire chuck roast (or whatever), so tell them the best way to cut it up and sear it quickly with a smaller pan, which segues perfectly to the third recipe: cutting up a chuck roast and browning it quickly in a heavy roasting pan before browning the onions and deglazing for a beef stew (double segue from the braised beef recipe).

    Do the same with baking–start with a pie/tart crust and then transition to scones or shortbread, showing how the small change in butter amounts (I forget the specifics, but you wrote “Ratio” so you don’t need me telling you the specifics) has a different effect on the final product.

    Call it “Transitions”, and co-author it with Alton Brown so he can throw in a bunch of diagrams about food molecules and heat dissipation makes food different.

  • Kathleen

    It seems preservation seems to be a popular theme – given your propensity for dramatic titles, it could be something like “Stash (or Stockpile or Cache) : Preservation Techniques for the Home Kitchen”

    You could go into canning, confit (en confit) , salting, freezing, etc… give home cooks the ability to control the season’s bounty and lessen their reliance on processed/manufactured food or high carbon footprint off-season foods!

  • Jason Logsdon

    Michael, thanks so much for the mention of my book, it really means a lot coming from you, since your “…Of a Chef” series is what inspired me to really approach cooking seriously and to focus on basics before the flash. Thanks again, and I’d read a cookbook from you on just about anything!

  • Judith

    Lunches – I’m always at a loss for tasty, healthy (ish) lunches to bring to work. I’m just not a cold cut sandwich kind of person. Perhaps something that combines turning the dinners you cook into lunches (and not just straight up leftovers). For example, the one I do over an over is coconut rice. I make it for dinner with some fish. A couple of days later I turn it into fried rice for lunch.

  • Rita Connelly

    Meals for two. Then if a reader wanted to they could double or triple the ingredients.

    We always have to divide recipes. it’s much easier tp multiply ingredients.

    Then do menus for whole meals,including simple night or elaborate feasts.

    • Carole

      I second this idea – “The proportion of Americans who live alone has grown steadily since the 1920s, increasing from roughly 5 percent then to 27 percent in 2013, according to the latest Current Population Survey from the Census Bureau.” That’s a lot of folks who don’t need recipes that make 4-8 servings. Yes, you can always have leftovers, but a cookbook with recipes that make just enough for 1 or 2 people would be grand – perhaps 3 or 4 recipes that use the same ingredients (so there is no waste) and serves 1 or 2, instead of one recipe that serves 6, much of which may get forgotten in the back of the fridge.

      Another way of doing this would be recipes with the ingredients adjusted for 1, 2 or 4 servings. It would be another way to incorporate all the work you put in the Ratio cookbook.

  • Chuck Grimmett

    Preservation: Drying, Fermenting, Canning, and Curing.

    This could include the best recipes from Charcuterie and piece them into a framework of other types of preservation and how you make use them in everyday life.

    • Tam

      Yes to this and I’d add cheese making as well. It doesn’t need to be overly complex cheese making but starting with the basics (creme fraiche, butters, mozzarella, ricotta, queso fresco and then moving upwards into more complex cheeses that require some aging). It would complement Charcuterie very well, especially in the context of preserving, canning, fermenting, etc.

  • Scott

    Recipes requiring no heat source?

    Kitchen organization/layout is another one I noticed above that seems interesting

  • Claudia

    pizza book
    the perfect pizza dough for:
    neapolitan high temp
    neapolitan home oven
    neapolitan on a bbq
    grandma style
    nyc style
    chicago style
    roma style

    etc…

    focus mostly on doughs and technique

    toppings are the least of it but that’s fun too. thing is, if the dough isn’t right, no matter what you slather on it, it’ll be mediocre!

    EVERYBODY loves pizza…

    • Gregory Berg

      Hi Claudia, here is a pizza dough recipe that makes a great neapolitan style pizza.

      ingredients (dough):
      1 1/2 cups of warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
      1 tablespoon sugar
      2 teaspoons of dry yeast
      2 teaspoons salt
      2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat bowl.
      500 grams Tipo “00” flour from Napoli or Barilla (you can find in Italian markets)
      30 grams Semolina flour

      Ingredients (pizza sauce)
      1 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
      2 tablespoons olive oil
      1 teaspoon oregano
      Salt and Pepper to taste

      Directions (Dough):
      Stir sugar and yeast into the warm water. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should begin to foam across the surface. If it does not foam, begin again. When the foam appears on the surface stir in the salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
      Weigh 500 grams of the flour and 30 grams of semolina and place in bowl of Kitchen Aid. Add the yeast mixture and using the dough hook mix on low for 2 minutes then increase the speed to medium and continue mixing for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes of mixing on medium, lower the speed to low and mix for a final 2 minutes.

      While mixing, coat a bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Place in a warm spot for 11/2 to 2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.

      Punch down the dough and the form into three equal pieces. If you have a scale, each piece should weigh about 280 grams. Form into three balls and let rest for 45 minutes. Form into pizza with about 14 inch diameter.

      Directions (pizza sauce)
      Drain tomatoes and chop coarsely in a processor or blender. Add the oil and oregano and mix. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.

      • Claudia

        thank you for this! very thoughtful of you!

        we actually are opening a pizzeria next month and our pizzaiolo’s dough is a phenom. his is simply 00 flour, water, salt and some starter that originally came from naples but by now it definitely has it’s citizenship 🙂

        and the tomatoes! just fine canned tomatoes with some salt and fresh basil, carefully blended to avoid bursting too many seeds!

        gregory – here’s the thing… that pizza you mention? i’ll bet it’s really good. but pizza is a funny thing. in the right moment (although never my preference) even a slice of poppa johns will do!

        • Gregory Berg

          I agree Claudia…Glad you are opening your own pizzeria. I love making pizza. Friday night is pizza night at our house so I am getting more and more practice. I bet that starter adds a lot of great flavor. Wishing you a lot of success with your pizzeria….I too think it would be a great book from MR but I like all of books.

  • Chris

    You could apply many of the concepts above from the weeks planning and prep to what to do with leftovers. You’ve done the roasted chicken and saving carcass for stock, now you can add what to do with leftover meat, such as pull it apart and put it in a wrap with hot sauce and bleu cheese for lunch the next day.

  • James O

    “Till It Be Enough” — Historical cooking.

    Working with historical documents — before cookbooks (as we know them, at least) were developed, and cooking and baking were taught by word-of-mouth and by example — much of what was recorded simply assumed the reader/cook already knew how to cook.

    You’ll see instructions like “take a goodly measure of flour” or “mix with eggs to make a fine bowl,” and “cook the usual way”. Oh, and my favorite: add enough of whatever “Till It Be Enough”.

    Seriously; WTF? “Till it be enough?”

    And this happened in all the documentation: Old & Middle English, Old German, French — it’s all like that: assuming the reader knows what the writer is talking about. After a while, and with experience, the modern reader can figure most of these recipes out, but still, it’s an interesting experience.

    Perhaps a comparison of some key dishes — then versus now, and how they are or were served: Everyday fare or Fancy (cf. Lobster), type of meal (break-fasts, or luncheons). That sort of thing.

    I’d find that kind of book interesting.

  • Tom

    I read “The Big Fast Surprise” by Nina Teicholz. I came across the title from your website. It changed the way my wife and I eat. We have personally experienced excellent results. Lost weight, better blood chemistry.

    I think high fat, low carb is the way of the future. It’s a fairly new idea to Americans who have been told by the establishment for decades that the exact opposite diet – low fat, high carb – is the way to go. Look around and you see everyone is fat and sick as the result of that failed experiment.

    But so many of the entrenched interests outlined in Teicholz’s book couldn’t change even if they wanted to.

    I don’t see any real good cookbooks applying the principles from her book. It could be pioneering, unique in the marketplace of cookbooks.

    Anyway, good luck!

    • Adrian

      I’d love to see a book about high fat low carbohydrate cooking, and especially options in baking where nobody seems to really understand how anything works, so recipes that one finds are all over the place, and often fail.

  • rob freytag

    Fish

    Whole fish roasting
    smoking, steaming, baking etc
    sauces
    what is in season and where
    wine pairings

    • J.C.

      Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page did this well in their “What to Drink With What You Eat.”

  • Alisha

    I’m seeing trends toward many of the classic, even old-fashioned techniques: cheese-making, drying, canning and preserving, fermenting & micro-brewing, etc. Would love to see a well-organized book with detailed instructions with all of this info in one place.

  • Manuela

    I am not eligible for a book – but nonetheless I want to make a suggestion:
    Harold McGee’s book on Chemistry and Cooking is a masterpiece, but sometimes hard to digest. What about an educational cookbook – talking about chemical reactions in “real” cooking – talk about the chemistry and give delicious recipes that will put this fundamental knowledge to the test ?
    I would buy it 🙂 –

      • J.C.

        Seconding “The Food Lab” as a bit more approachable but very grounded and scientific look at this type of stuff.

  • Roy Lambert

    I’d like to see a book which identifies and illustrates those techniques or ingredients which distinguish a brilliantly flavored restaurant dish from its equivalent cooked at home. I do understand that restaurant cooking is inherently different due to its reduced concern with time consuming techniques and prep. But I often have the feeling in eating a great restaurant dish that I could do this if only I knew the ingredient or trick which elevates it above what a good home cook typically does. Recipes available on the web can be good, or even very good, but they are not often restaurant quality.

  • Alisa

    What about a collection of “grand slam” recipes? The best of the best. These would be the real gems, the rock stars, the legends, the life-changers….the ones that take on mythic proportions.

  • Mike Tremoulet

    “Prep: The Art Before The Fire”
    Part I – Planning
    * For the home: Reuse! (Planning meals to take advantage of multiple applications, such as buying a whole chicken, using the breasts on Monday, thighs on Tuesday, and soup from the stock on Wednesday)
    * For the party: Scale! (Just how much food DO I need? Courses, buffet, or family style?)

    Part II – Doing
    * The importance of prep lists in keeping track of everything
    * Organizing prep tasks for efficiency – sequence a master prep list from multiple recipes to leverage down time
    * What types of things can be done a week, a day, an hour ahead of time?

    Part III – Menus
    * (Sample menus and recipes showing the planning techniques above)

      • Jason Carter

        This was going to be my suggestion. I find this yearly foray fascinating and am frequently faced with the same challenge:

        Travel somewhere; cook for a crowd in a strange kitchen trying to procure local ingredients.
        What to bring? (Knives, accurate thermometers)
        What to build? (Fire pits etc.)
        What to buy? (What’s fresh? Local? In season?)

        Instructions and Menus ala Chez Panisse would be a load of fun.

  • Barbara Christensen

    What I am frustrated with is my inability to invent/create/innovate in the kitchen. The perfect example is Chopped on Food Network. I will even pause the show and give myself all the time I want and *still* can’t come up with a dish worthy of judging. What don’t I know? I am a good cook. I can beat the hell out of a recipe. I can modify successfully. I am experienced but I can’t figure out how to combine ingredients. I thought maybe it was the sweet, sour, spicey, acid thing, but I don’t think it’s just that. The cookbook that shows me how to do that…that cookbook will become my bible. Love the title suggestion above, “Til It Be Enough.”

  • Kiara

    I think Natalie’s idea is great. Long, slow meals prepared with the best ingredient – time!

  • Sheri

    Ok, this isn’t exactly a cookbook but it does feel timely to me. How about exploring nutrient dense food?

    How to find it, grow it, what to eat that would be the most nutrient dense.

    How different methods of preparation make a dish more or less nutrient dense. How nutrient density affects flavor (or does it?).

    I’m a gardener who follows the work of Dr. Elaine Ingham (of the Soil Food Web). As I understand it, nutrients from the plants actually come from the microbes in the soil. If you don’t have a balanced soil food web, the plant really isn’t healthy which means all that NPK is just life support. The plant can’t produce the nutrients and micronutrients that it normally would. USDA has interesting facts on how much less nutrients are in our food today versus 50 years ago.

    We wonder why we are having problems with weight? No nutrients even in the foods we are supposed to be eating. Can we get nutrients into our food? Yes, pretty easily if you really understand the basics of soil science / compost, etc.

    I know of someone who started growing more nutrient dense food for their dairy cattle. Cattle started eating 1/2 as much food but producing 2 times as much milk. Owners were panicked at first at the amount of food the cattle stopped eating until they realized why and that the cattle were healthier.

    Anyway, I wish someone would explore this subject.

    Michael, you would make this subject fascinating with how great of a writer you are.

  • Darlene Marshall

    You know that guy who drives a Porsche but has no clue about engines? Someone who rides a $10,000 bicycle and owns all the gear, yet wouldn’t know how to change a flat tire? That is my husband talking. He loves good food, and he likes to cook, but says “tell Ruhlman to write a book called “The Incompetent Chef”. I write this realizing that it sounds like a gimmicky concept. Yet, tonight, in a rush to help our son make it to his piano lesson, he threw together some pasta and a few basic ingredients and made something wonderful. He does not have a big repertoire but knows there must be more things he can with ease and some good feel for ingredients. There you are, food for thought. Or, thought for a possible cookbook. Good luck and have fun writing your new cookbook, whatever its theme. Soul of a Chef will always rule…

  • Alonna Smith

    There are a lot of great ideas here. My thought, apropos of your focus on teaching, is there is a gap between the recipe and the final product. So many times I eat a home cooked meal and it is disappointing. If the cook was somehow coached to taste at least for salt and acid, it would transform their food. Even adventurous cooks don’t seem to understand these basics. They can follow a recipe, but not get the final adjustments made. Can something like this be taught via a book, as opposed to working with someone side by side? I don’t know the answer, but if anyone can do it, you can!

    • Lisa D

      Alonna,
      This is a good idea. Bourdain said years ago that what separates restaurant-tasting food from home-tasting food is the lavish application of butter, shallots, and salt.
      Since Michael’s been to culinary school, perhaps he has some insights for those of us who wish we went but didn’t.
      Michael, I think sous vide, while interesting and applicable to restaurants, is really out of reach for most home cooks. Even lots of my (self-proclaimed) foodie friends don’t have excellent knives or large mixing bowls. There’s no way they’re going to go sous vide for the home kitchen.

  • Maria

    I’d love some “what to do with X” recipes. Eg, you had your Schmaltz book of a ton of things to do with schmaltz once you’ve made some. What about “tons of things to do with veal stock” or “what to do with flavored oils” or any other base ingredients that every chef swears by, but every at-home experimenter wants to make and then not know how to use? 🙂

  • Skip

    Please do the Sous Vide cookbook. There are so many (often excellent) cookbooks on most techniques, yet there’s no practical sous vide book. And more and more people have the equipment now. Pretty please…

  • Tara Coen

    FRIDAY NIGHT COCKTAILS.
    Subjects to include:
    Making your own bitters
    Making your own liquors
    Ideas for simple syrups
    Perhaps even infusing your own booze (safely?)
    Pretty please? With a vermouth-soaked cherry on top of my perfect manhattan?

  • Cynthia

    We’d love a book of ideas about repurposing a main recipe. The new Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday has a few of these, and it reminds me to think outside the box and reinvent. It’s creative and a great way to roll during the week,when I need to make lunches and dinners while getting home pretty late, but still want it to be something I want to do. It would be totally fabulous to have a whole book of ideas! I’m sure you would have all sorts of amazing concepts. I would be happy with reinventing dinners but reinventing for lunch too would be my dream cookbook.

  • Gayle Holmes

    I find that cooking good food “daily” requires a well stocked pantry. A book about stocking a pantry and the why of it would benefit all.

  • Mike

    I want to add another vote for 2 of the ideas mentioned above. The first is how to get a sense of ingredients that combine well together. I know people that can poke their head in their fridge, think for a minute, and then put together a great meal. Is this a skill that can be explained or practiced? The second, on somewhat of a related note, is about how to properly season food. I don’t know if its something you can learn by reading about it, but I’m never sure what to look for when adding salt or an acid such as lemon juice. If something gets too salty I know I’ve gone too far, but is the right balance something that can be learned without doing it at the side of a skilled cook?

    One other idea I have, not a book-length idea but something that I haven’t seen addressed, is how to prepare a meal with several items. I’ve read over and over about the importance of prep and so I try to have my ingredients ready to go, but even so I often end up with the vegetables cold before the pan sauce is ready (to give an example) while I’m reducing the sauce away. A chapter or two about how the home cook can develop the proper timing and/or hold food already cooked warm without turning it to much or drying it out would be useful. Many recipes go into good detail about the specific dish and then add something like “serve with …” and the cook is supposed to figure out the proper order and timing to get it all on the table at the right time.

  • Doug Hallett

    Hi Michael,

    I am a 49 year old guy, who has learned to cook much better in the last 5 to 10 years. Prior to I suppose the Food Network, I thought of cooking as making the occasional chili, a decent bolognese, or grilling. I was pretty good at griling.

    When I was learning to evolve beyond the grill, I read books such as yours (I love The Making of a Chef), Alton Brown’s “…Here for the Food 2.0”, Marcela Hazan, Lidia Bastianich, etc. I got better. Now, I am very interested in growing my skills and knowledge at a higher rate. I have The Fat Duck Cookbook, Modernist Cuisine at Home, and can’t wait for Kenji’s book to show up in my mail slot in the coming days. Having said that, what I feel I am missing is that intermediate book. The one that takes me from the traditional straight forward books like Brown’s and Bastianich’s to something where I actually start to think like a cook. Your Twenty does this to an extent – it is built around processes and helps you understand the different techniques, but I want something that helps me understand how to think. Of all things, the one book that I have that does this to an extent is the Momofuku book by Meehan and Chang, I see how they think the recipes through, how they use the products in more than one recipe, thus maximizing the product through varying expressions. I found this to be huge for me, I can make pork shoulder for recipe X, and then use it later for recipe Y. In fact, if I froze it, I could use it again later when I had product Q available to make dish Z. This is what I am missing – that link between technique (I can sear, braise, stew, poach, etc) and actually THINKING like a real cook. You touch on in in your books, the think that I am trying to explain. Your quest for understanding of brown roux is a perfect example. You wanted to understand it. You wanted to change your thought process, you already had the technique down.

    I hope this helps.

  • Benjamin Atkinson

    Michael,

    You’re writing on the history of foods is captivating. Your piece on Duck Confit is case-in-point.

    As alluded to above, I think an exploration of ancient and medieval preparation/preservation techniques would be fascinating…

    …and very practical, if the zombie apocalypse really does come to pass.

    Thanks for your work.

    Ben

  • Marc Barringer

    Cooking for teenagers. You’ve been doing it for a while on your own, but tap into some of the CIA folks, and educational pro or two (and then we can all lament the lack of domestic science education together). Tell kids off to college, or even thinking of living on their own, they can cook and cook really well without busting the bank.

  • Bruce Roberts

    How about a culinary diary? Did you ever read “Mythology and Meatballs” by Daniel Spoerri? Just select a period of time, and write about every meal you cook and share with family and friends during that time.

  • Bob

    What about a modern/contemporary approach to garde manger? It could include making stock, preserving, etc. – but also a re-examination of how we shop / fill our shelves. Admittedly, one man’s idea of organization is different than another’s, but it’s about changing our thinking, a kind of ‘wipe down your station and start over’ moment.

  • Steven Pelloni

    I like to see and learn more about owning a restaurant from beginning to end and any tips and hints. That would be awesome Chef!!

  • Rich

    Big Bold Flavors – How To Take Your Home Cooking To The Next Level

    Photography by Donna

  • Gayle

    First there was Egg. Now we need Chicken.
    I’m serious. I love everything about that damn ebook, and that’s coming from a paper person. Or former paper person, I guess. Another flow chart, more interactive, all with a new ingredient. I say chicken because I honestly think it’s possibly the most diverse and least intimidating protein for the American home cook, not to mention the need for people to get beyond the whole boneless, skinless breast thing. Video and/or step-by-step photos of breaking down a raw chicken, breaking down a cooked chicken, trussing, etc, would be a nice bonus. Riff on broths and stocks, ATK style. And getting people to buy whole chickens and knowing what to do with the whole thing would be an added cultural bonus. Plus what to do with all that fat and skin? Here’s a link to buy Schmaltz, of course (you can tell your editor you came up with that, it’s cool). Tell us what to do with the rest of the chicken. That’s another (electronic) cookbook I would buy.

  • Bestdaddyo

    Michael, MUST it be a cookbook? I still think House: A Memoir was your most enthralling book. You’re an excellent writer who shouldn’t be pigeon-holed. What would you really like to say?

    • Bestdaddyo

      Actually, duh! My apologies. What a dumb comment I’ve made here. Had I not been distracted by the action in tonight’s Indian’s game, I would have finished reading your post and known that your upcoming book release is not a cookbook. I guess you really HAVE said what you want to say. Good for you Michael. And on a subject that could use some illumination. Despite the Ashley Madison jokes, life and love are really complicated, serious and important issues.

  • witloof

    I so loved your “Chef” books. Would you consider doing some more profiles, like you did of Michael Symon and Thomas Keller, and highlight their cooking styles, outlining their unique techniques and recipes?

  • christine lopes

    spice blends and how to use them
    Spices you can make yourself and save.
    Garam Masala, Curry, Harrisa etc.

    Take them beyond the regular ideas, get creative and let us make them ourselves to have them on hand

  • Kathy

    How about the “diaspora” of ancestral food.
    Or sides and salads…
    Or what to do with leftovers… But not the original meal that is over the top. Like a rotisserie chicken or two.. (most families buy two at a time) good for three days or a ham that lasts a week. Or batch of taco Texmex mix frozen in sizes good for many quick additions to omelets or salad topping or baked potato topping nite…or cook up batch of different gourmet sausages that can be quick meals like baked beans and sausages and peppers and sausages etc

    Just a few things off top if my head

  • Emilia

    Thank you for all of your fantastic ideas and comments. Congrats to freytag, who was chosen as the winner.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1.  Duck Confit for One | Michael Ruhlman
  2.  New Cookbook Ideas: The Results | Michael Ruhlman
  3.  E-Twenty | Michael Ruhlman