Synopses & Reviews
Why can you stick your hand into a 450-degree oven but not into 212-degree boiling water without burning it? Why does fish taste different from meat? Why do you cook pork differently from beef? Why should you always start cooking dried beans in cold water, not warm? Why should you never cook a Vidalia onion?
What's the only kind of marinade that's really an effective tenderizer? Why is strawberry-rhubarb a good combination, scientifically speaking? And why don't potatoes fried in fresh oil ever brown completely, no matter how long they're cooked?
"Cooking is full of questions that science can help you answer, questions that can make you a better cook," writes the award-winning Los Angeles Times
food editor, Russ Parsons.
In this entertaining book packed with fascinating tidbits, Parsons explores the science behind such basic cooking methods as chopping, mixing, frying, roasting, boiling, and baking. You'll learn why soaking beans can't offset their gaseous effects, why green vegetables shouldn't be cooked under a lid for long, which fruits you can buy unripe and which you should buy fully ripened, which thickener to choose for your turkey gravy, which piecrust is foolproof for a beginner.
Along the way, Parsons slips in hundreds of cooking tips, provocative trivia, and touches of wit that make his scientific explanations go down smoothly. He also includes more than a hundred recipes that deliciously exemplify the principles he describes, from Tuscan Potato Chips and Crisp-Skinned Salmon on Creamy Leeks and Cabbage to Chocolate Pots de Creme and Ultimate Strawberry Shortcake.
"In this unique book, Los Angeles Times food editor Parsons combines complex science (rendered accessible to lay readers), workable cooking techniques, and excellent recipes....A truly valuable resource for the serious cook, with excellent recipes to boot, this deserves a wide audience, but its vague title may perplex potential readers." Publishers Weekly
"Russ Parsons not only unravels some of the intrigue of the kitchen but, in entertainment fashion, shows us why this understanding matters. The great recipes are a bonus and make How to Read a French Fry invaluable." Mark Bittman, New York Times columnist and author of How to Cook Everything
"Mouthwatering recipes, fascinating information and charming commentary." Paula Wolfert, author of Mediterranean Grains and Greens
"Russ Parsons knows that the best cooking comes from a genuine understanding of basic techniques, and he illuminates them here with lively writing and smart recipes. This is an unlikely creation: a kitchen-science book that makes you hungry, and it's also a cookbook that teaches, from an authority on food and cooking." Thomas Keller, chef and owner of the French Laundry and author of The French Laundry Cookbook
"With passion and enthusiasm, Russ Parsons explains the science behind kitchen common sense, then illustrates it with recipes. His book makes me feel smarter and more in control. As if that's not enough, the recipes are some of the most appealing ever." Deborah Madison, author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
"If you want to know why onions make you cry, are terrified by hollandaise or curious to find out why good cooks add old oil to new, this is the book for you. The recipes not only tell you the what, but also the why. I learned a lot." Ruth Reichl, editor and chief, Gourmet
"'How to Read a French Fry' ... is not only good science, but also good fun. Parsons's affable voice and intellectual clarity make his lessons a pleasure, and there are excellent recipes to illustrate them ... it's (a book)for people who like to roll up their sleeves and cook a good meal."
"With passion and enthusiasm, Russ Parsons explains the science behind kitchen common sense, then illustrates it with recipes. His book makes me feel smarter and more in control. As if that's not enough, the recipes are some of the most appealing ever." - Deborah Madison
"Russ Parsons new book is fascinating to read and totally useful in the kitchen. Food lovers like me are always hungry for an understanding of what is happening inside our saucepans, our pot roasts, and our peach pies. Parsonss scientific explanations are very satisfying and his recipes look mouthwatering. He writes with the clarity of a good journalist, the skepticism of an accomplished editor (which, as editor in chief of the L.A. Times Food Section, he surely is), and the energy of a passionate home cook, who knows just what the rest of us need to know." Jeffrey Steingarten
" If you want to know why onions make you cry, are terrified by hollandaise or curious to find out why good cooks add old oil to new, this is the book for you.
The recipes not only tell you the what, but also the why. I learned a lot." Ruth Reichl, editor in chief Gourmet magazine Gourmet
In this witty book, "Los Angeles Times" food editor Russ Parsons explores the science behind basic cooking methods--mixing, frying, roasting, boiling, and baking. Along the way, he slips in little-known facts and useful cooking tips. Parsons also includes more than 100 recipes that deliciously exemplify the principles he explains.
In a book widely hailed for its entertaining prose and provocative research, the award-winning Los Angeles Times food journalist Russ Parsons examines the science behind ordinary cooking processes. Along the way he dispenses hundreds of tips and the reasons behind them, from why you should always begin cooking beans in cold water, to why you should salt meat before sautéing it, to why it's a waste of time to cook a Vidalia onion. Filled with sharp-witted observations ("Frying has become synonymous with minimum-wage labor, yet hardly anyone will try it at home"), intriguing food trivia (fruit deprived of water just before harvest has superior flavor to fruit that is irrigated up to the last moment ), and recipes (from Oven-Steamed Salmon with Cucumber Salad to Ultimate Strawberry Shortcake), How to Read a French Fry contains all the ingredients you need to become a better cook.
About the Author
RUSS PARSONS is the food and wine columnist of the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of the best-selling How to Read a French Fry, a winner of multiple James Beard Awards for his journalism, and the recipient of the IACP/Bert Greene Award for distinguished writing. He lives in California, which produces more than half of the fruits and vegetables grown in this country. He has been writing about food and agriculture for more than twenty years.
Table of Contents
Recipes x Introduction 1 One How to Read a French Fry 9 Two The Second Life of Plants 47 Three Miracle in a Shell 123 Four From a Pebble to a Pillow 149 Five Meat and Heat 217 Six Fat, Flour and Fear 285 Index 313
Review A Day
"What sets this book most clearly apart from others of its kind is the quality of its recipes, which show Parsons's own taste for a very of-the-moment style of cooking, one emphasizing freshness and the strong flavors of Italian and Mexican food especially." Corby Kummer, The Atlantic
(Click here to read the entire Atlantic review