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First Timer’s Cookbook

December 30, 2009

First Timer’s Cookbook

I just glanced over at my bookshelf. I think my cookbooks have collected more dust than my textbooks I couldn’t sell back from my freshman year in college.  I actually did open one cookbook recently; looking for a delicious butternut squash recipe I made a long time ago.  I couldn’t remember where I found that recipe but it turned out it wasn’t in the cookbook I thought it was in.  Stumped, I decided to wing it.  Shopping on Christmas Eve isn’t ideal but I did it because I was desperate to make this soup for the rendezvous with my family on Christmas day.

Long story short, I’m certainly not a chef, I didn’t follow a recipe, yet the soup was fantastic (my opinion as well as others)! Here’s the secret: I’ve been studying and training…kind of.  A couple months ago I acquired a copy of The First Timer’s Cookbook by Chef Shawn Bucher.  Unlike the books filled with recipes, this is a legitimate cookbook. The First Timer’s Cookbook teaches you how to cook, not what to cook.  The reason it’s called “First Timer’s” is because it’s filled with basics such as:

  • How to plan a Menu and Set a Table. “Most dining experiences will follow the order and format of appetizer, soup and/or salad, entrée, and dessert.”
  • How to safely and efficiently use a knife. “No matter what knife you use, knife skills are basically the same and come down to this-don’t cut yourself!”
  • The differences between Poach, Simmer, Boil, Steam, Braise, Grill, Broil, Roast, Bake, Sauté, Fry, and how to use each one to make a tasty meal. “It’s sometimes beneficial to use multiple cooking methods for just one item.”
  • How to cook different Meats; Fish, Poultry, Beef, Lamb, Pork. “The secret to cooking great meats is starting with a great product.  This goes for everything you cook but especially with meat.”
  • Preparing and cooking Vegetables. “Most vegetables are perfectly done when they are bright in color and still somewhat firm.”
  • How to cook Pasta, Potatoes, or Rice. “Homemade noodles cook in about half the time of packaged noodles, although you follow the same procedure.”
  • How to cook Soups and Sauces. “Soups and sauces require a certain amount of knowledge and skill, but they aren’t rocket science.”
  • How to use Spices. “It’s a good idea to know what the spices taste like before you start cooking.”

Remember, The First Timer’s Cookbook is not a book of recipes! This book is your in-home copy of Cooking 101.  This book has full-color photos, from cover to cover, to illustrate the process from start to “Dinner’s ready!”

The author, Chef Shawn Bucher, currently teaches at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute. He’s been working in the food service industry for more than 12 years.  He wrote this book because people ask him cooking questions all the time and he didn’t have something he could refer them to for a handy guide to cooking.  There wasn’t a legitimate cookbook on the market that Shawn felt comfortable telling his friends to go look at.  All the books on market were basically an elitist collection of esoteric concoctions and symbols the Free Masons would be impressed with.  Not to mention, these books were so enormous you could easily smash a housecat with them.

The First Timer’s Cookbook is simple, easy, and for beginners. It certainly helped me cook a delightful soup, without a recipe, for Christmas Day.

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