In this week's cookbook review, we dive into the comfort of home cooking with the Cooking at Home Cookbook by New York Times Bestseller David Chang and Food Journalist Priya Krishna.
David came up as a chef in kitchens where you had to do everything the hard way. But his mother, one of the best cooks he knows, never cooked like that. Nor did food writer Priya Krishna’s mom. So Dave and Priya set out to think through the smartest, fastest, least meticulous, most delicious, absolutely imperfect ways to cook.
From figuring out the best ways to use frozen vegetables to learning when to ditch recipes and just taste and adjust your way to a terrific meal no matter what, this is Dave’s guide to substituting, adapting, shortcutting, and sandbagging—like parcooking chicken in a microwave before blasting it with flavor in a four-minute stir-fry or a ten-minute stew.
Cooking at Home is a cookbook without recipes, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead of giving you recipes and a bunch of instructions to follow, David will teach you the principles of his home cooking, and he'll take you through how to make a meal.
The book’s “recipes-that-aren’t-really-recipes” tend to stay way from precise measurements of ingredients and time, and instead emphasize intuition, personalization, and experimentation. David and Priya provide a set of adaptable culinary blueprints for readers to iterate on - for instance, a general formula for cooking a cheap cut of meat or whipping up a vinegary condiment - and envision a recipe not as “a rigid instruction manual, but a Mad Lib.”
For those who only cook with recipes, don't worry because you'll be surprised how great your intuition is - or becomes over time - if you stop relying on precise measurements. You'll learn to eyeball how much onion you need for a dish, or to season to your taste. The idea of Cooking at Home is to don't become obsessed over the nitty-gritty. What kind of vinegar? Yellow or red onion? Medium or small tomato? These are all questions that, in these recipes don't really matter.
Cooking at Home wants to prove to any home cook that cooking is really simple when you join a little sandbagging, a little food science, and a little intuition. Forget the "right" way to do things. Just learn to make it up as you go. Throughout this book, you'll find the tools to do that, along with a whole bunch of dishes and ideas.
As we already said, Cooking at Home should be seen as a bunch of guidelines, and you should make your own decisions based on how many people you're feeding, what flavors you prefer, how soft you like your vegetables, and so on.
The organization of this book is also something worth mentioning since it makes the navigation through the book very simple and effective. The 8 different chapters, How I Cook Most Meat, Things I Love to Microwave, or A Few Other Things I Love to Make, just to name a few, cover specific techniques and ingredients. For example, in the How I Cook Most Meat chapter you'll find everything from how to cook Brisket, Chicken to Oxtails and even to how to make marinades and the rules to marinating meat.
Cooking at Home is a new genre of cookbook. A guide to the culinary dark arts of substituting, adapting, shortcutting, and sandbagging, that stay away from precise measurements of ingredients and time and instead emphasize intuition, personalization, and experimentation. This isn’t a cookbook overflowing with recipes, it’s more about technique with a few recipes and variations.
Cooking at Home has a very different approach from the other home cooking books that we are used to reviewing. More a guide than a cookbook, Cooking at Home, will teach you how to enjoy cooking at home using your instincts and personal preferences.