Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Method of Procedure

On the back of the book, Method of Procedure, there is an explanation of author Thomas Gosney's reason for writing the book. It says (all quotes typed exactly, including errors):
Throughout his career people were always contacting him for recipes and advice on cooking. As he analyzed the problems they were having, he realized most of the issues were in the "method of procedure". This is the step-by-step process in preparing them. 
That sounds great, but I think Gosney might be a little too far removed from beginning cooks to realize what sort of written instructions they need.

For example, in a recipe for Tortilla Soup, ingredients include (in order) chicken stock, tomatoes, onion, chiles, olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, fresh corn tortillas, corn, and chicken breast. The instructions begin:
Season liberally with garlic salt and fresh pepper. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. of cumin ...
Do you see what's going on here? He's giving instructions for seasoning the chicken, but the instructions aren't explicit about that. Given that most books these days list the ingredients in the order used, a new cook might season the stock rather that the chicken breasts. And yes, the instructions call for garlic salt while the ingredient list has fresh garlic but no salt or pepper at all.

The instructions continue with mixing the spices with the chicken, so if someone reads that far ahead, they'll be fine. That's a big if. A lot of new cooks take it one sentence at a time. And while an experienced cook could estimate the right amount of salt and pepper, a new cook might want exact measurements. Other recipes do indicate amount for salt and pepper, by the way.

Gosney also has a tendency to use cheffy terms without really explaining what he means. In a recipe for Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts, he begins with:
Blanch brussel sprouts in boiling salted water until fork tender.
But he doesn't explain what he means by "blanch" so that could cause confusion.

In a recipe for chocolate mousse, after the mousse is finished, he says:
Once the chocolate is cooled properly (but not solidified) slowly temper into martini glasses, top with a dollop of whipped cream.
If he was standing next to you, he could tell you what "cooled properly" means, but a beginning cook would likely need a better description. As far as tempering it into glasses, I know what tempering chocolate is, if we're talking about warm chocolate, but I have no idea what procedure he envisions for tempering a finished mousse into a glass.

The other bit of instruction that in the mousse recipe that baffled me was to "Chill mixing bowl and whip in the freezer for 10 minutes." The first three times I read that, I thought he was instructing to put the bowl containing the melted chocolate in the freezer and whip it in the freezer, which I could do if I had a walk-in freezer, but not really likely in my home freezer.

On the fourth reading, I realized he meant that a new empty mixing bowl and a whip (which I would have called a whisk) should be put in the freezer.

back cover
In the salad dressing section, another clue that Gosney is used to restaurant kitchens is his recipe for blue cheese dressing. A quick stroll through the ingredient list tells me that it's going to yield about 6 cups of dressing (1 1/2 quarts). While that's probably a reasonable restaurant amount, that's a lot of dressing for a normal family.

Those are just a few examples of why this book isn't aimed squarely at beginning home cooks. Suffice it to say that you need cooking experience to navigate your way through this book.

I have to say that I'm personally bothered that the ingredients aren't listed in order of use. A chef who sets up mise en place beforehand might not be as concerned about the order of ingredients in the list, but home cooks are less likely to set out and measure absolutely everything before they begin. So they might be flummoxed when they have to search the whole list to find the amounts.

Aside from the cheffy-quirks, the recipes look decent. There's a tomato soup that's very similar to one I make (except that I don't use V-8). There's a salad dressing with sherry that sounds interesting; I might cut that down to a more petite size for my own use. The tandoori chicken sounds like a winner, and I'm probably going to try the peach cream pie, too.

Whether this is the right book for you is going to depend on whether you can get past the quirkiness of the instructions. But I don't suggest giving it to a beginning cook; I they'd find it too difficult to follow.

I received Method of Procedure from the publisher for the purpose of a review at no cost to me.

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