Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


I want to call attention to a cookbook after my own heart, a cookbook that seeks to encourage and teach the few fundamental ideas on which all cooking is based. It’s called Twelve Recipes by Chez Panisse chef Cal Peternell, and it came into being out of the love of a father for his sons.

Peternell, on returning from a family trip to Europe, wondered why more cooking wasn’t done at home, notably and especially by his fellow chefs. He understands: fatigue, time, the desire to see new restaurants. But he also knew this:

“The ancient acts of gathering foods, cooking them, and then coming together to eat are as profound as any that we do, and as pleasurable.… I consider cooking and eating with my family my best skill.”

Yet he’d failed to teach his kids to cook. And so he wrote this book, and it’s excellent.

Sam Sifton said it best in his NYTimes review: “Rare is the cookbook that acknowledges the simple truth that there aren’t really all that many recipes in the world. There is just technique, and practice, and joy and love, and at the end of it something simple and delicious on the plate, something that the reader may not have considered making before cracking the spine of the book.”

As Sifton notes, the recipes here are narratives, as the best recipes are. A really good recipe is a story. And of course Peternell includes not just twelve but rather numerous recipes, and variations on those recipes, but his title emphasizes, as I tried to in Twenty, that all of cooking rests on a small but powerful base.

The first chapter is called “Toast,” the second “Eggs,” the third “Beans.” One is called “Roasted Chicken,” from which so much can be learned. I love his “Three Sauces” chapter, which describes the underappreciated-at-home Béchamel, as well as Salsa Verde and Mayonnaise.

The book is beautifully designed, with homey photography (everything seems to be rustic these days!) and lovely watercolor illustrations.

And it’s thoughtfully, honestly, eccentrically written. Meaning we get a full sense of the chef’s personality as well as his personal cooking convictions. In the “Pasta with Tomato” chapter, he describes a marinara variation called “Arrabbiata.” Though the term typically translates as “angry,” Peternell writes, “I prefer ‘enraged.’” And so in the list of ingredients is “Enough red pepper flakes to enrage and not engulf.” I love that. I love that he wants his kids to know how to make a cake. Everyone should know how to make a cake.

I love this whole book—even though he does tell his kids to put vinegar in the egg-poaching water (Kids! Don’t tell your dad I said this but it’s a bad idea!). And I want to give one away because it’s so damn good. I want to spread its exuberance about cooking food and sharing it with the people we care about, one of the most important and profound acts of humanity.

To win a copy of this book, write in the comments below a dish or technique that teaches more than the dish or technique alone by Thursday (comments will close at midnight).

Happy cooking!


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



298 Wonderful responses to “Twelve Recipes & Giveaway”

  • Andrew Bemis

    for me it would be pour over coffee. To make a truly great cup it isn’t just about you it’s also about the care and attention everyone from the farmer on up. Making a good cup of coffee takes attention and patience.

  • Victoria

    You can beat egg whites many ways, for instance using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. But if you follow Julia Child’s instructions from The French Chef television show and beat them by hand in a copper bowl with a large egg whisk and a comparatively smallish bowl, you learn about the interaction of the eggs with the copper, and how using the right size tools can be very helpful.

  • Brian Matheson

    I’ve learned a lot about the science of chocolate through making ganache. Temperature, fat ratio to liquid, crystallization, bloom.

  • Peter

    Make the time. Plan ahead.
    Taking the time to grow or shop for fresh ingredients and high nutrient dense fruit and vegetables.
    Taking the time to prepare, serve and enjoy.
    Save time by planning ahead, being organised.

    Time the essential ingredient.

  • Brian Elsbernd

    Making bread. It teaches patience, working with the dough, and understanding when things are done (the knead, the rise, the baking, etc.). You may be following a recipe but you have to react to your creation each step of the way. There is no way to hurry and you may watch the clock while baking, but you know when it is done not by the clock but by the smell and the look.

  • Ouida Lampert

    Broth. Or stock. Or the name du jour for the magic stuff that time and saved bits can render. Teaches? Patience, frugality, and healing.

  • Robert

    The wonderful technique of making bread in my cast iron Dutch oven. Always wanting to share the bread, thinking about the history of what was made and by who in my vintage Dutch oven prior years. So much thought into one loaf of bread each time.

  • JP Galang

    Extracting coconut milk from scratch. This task is a simple one. a thing we chef usually delegate to less experienced kitchen worker. but to truly extract the goodness of coconut milk from scratch, it will require a lot of patience and proper technique to get that fabulous and oh so creamy milk. we all can do a simple dish using this ingredients and have different tastes for final product all because of this very crucial and yet very simple step. define labor of love. 🙂

  • Susan Chapo

    Garden fresh tomato sauce. Blanching, peeling, seeding tomatoes. Sweating onions and garlic. Reducing these to a rich sauce. Seasoning with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. When does it become about more than the recipe and techniques? When the tomatoes and maybe more of the ingredients come from your garden. Then it teaches that one small seed and a bit (depending on the year) of patience can grow food that is delicious and healthy and amazing.

  • Lorraine Rotanelli

    Hello – I shall try to be brief.
    Last night for the first time, after reading and preparing, I followed your instructions-how to make perfect scrambled eggs. Boyfriend was hungry and about to have something frozen and awful from TJ’s. I said “NO.”- just wait a moment and I will make you scrambled eggs.
    Followed instructions to a “T” and what I made was delicious, beautiful to behold and simply sublime. Boyfriend swooned, ate every morsel (even the toast was perfect) and we were both very, very happy. And now I know how to make PERFECT scrambled eggs. Thank you!! I plan on making everything in your awesome book.
    Not sure if this was what you meant but wanted to share with you regardless. Thanks, you rock.

  • Jennifer

    Quiche. It’s the home cooks gateway into all things custard. And now I recognize that whenever I use a cup of dairy and an egg, I’ve made a type of custard. Made lasagna tonight. Ricotta and egg = custard. French toast = custard. Sometimes I even make custard just to eat custard. :-).

  • Deborah

    It is about the passion you have about cooking. It is about looking in the fridge and pulling a meal together with what you have. I have passed on my passion to my kids and I know they will too. This cookbook sounds like a keeper. I own 39 cookbooks, I love them all.

  • M E Jackson

    Cheese. Like bread, it teaches patience, appreciation, life and love.

  • Scott C.

    Our family loves the gallette. The technique is very simple and wonderfully satisfying to prepare; a savory 3-2-1 pie dough loosely brought together with your hands. Roll it out and you can fill it with anything from a classic preparation of sautéed leeks and potato with herbs and parmasean, or (our favorite) leftovers! We often follow up a roasted chicken on Sunday with a chicken, mushroom and herb galette on Monday. Add a simple salad and it’s near perfection!

  • Daisy Steele

    Canning. Planning ahead, preserving, patience, low acid vs high acid, transforming something that will spoil in days into something that will keep for months.

  • James

    Braising – almost all cultures use the technique (how many different ethnic dishes can be made with short ribs alone), so many different types of dishes use the technique (soups/stews, pasta sauces, ratatouille, etc), and you can use the technique with almost any ingredient. Plus it teaches, preparation, layering of flavors, patience… basically it’s awesome.

  • Ken

    Keep it simple. Make it your own. Don’t be afraid to experiment. A recipe is a guide, not set it stone. Someone else’s recommendations. We are all different, and have our own individual preferences. Take fish. You don’t want to overcook it. Get fresh, quality fish. Salt and pepper to taste. Make a simple sauce – say lemon juice, honey, a little wine, a little chilly, cilantro and/or spring onion. Hot pan, hot oil. Fry skin side down. Pour sauce over. Cover. Rest a while. Done.

  • P Adams

    Tacos – because they are so simple virtually anyone, especially fledgling cooks, can make them and be successful. There are endless variations and they demonstrate how wildly creative one can be and how delicious the result. I think tacos show how texture impacts taste.

  • Lene Johansen

    Scalloped potatoes. Everyone loves them, and the technique of boiling the potato slices in the cream until it thickens from the starch in the potatoes is useful and simple. The dish can be varied with all sorts of spices, herbs, and vegetables. I have added fennel and other root vegetables to the dish, seasoned it with chives, sauteed garlic, rosemary, and spring onions. This dish can be varied forever and still maintain its heart warming creaminess.

  • Joella

    I’m grateful for beans. It wasn’t technique for us then. It was survival. Plain and simple and filling, with a pan of hot cornbread in a cast iron skillet. Many years have passed since then, and I still love a big pot of beans. My beans have grown-up with me, to include onions and garlic, tomatoes and Peppers, along with veggies that I never dreamed of as a kid. The dish may have evolved, but that feeling of security bubbles to the top when I’m cooking beans.

  • Jenna Oh

    Making lasagne teaches a lot. U have to have just the right amount of cheese to make it taste perfect. And be careful theres not too much tomatosauce. Using different herbs and spices makes it taste a little different each time but it´s still lasagne.

  • Katie


    One of the simplest foods we have, but can be transformed into so many things — from humble to ethereal — anything from a simple hard-boiled egg through scrambled eggs and quiche and on to silky sauces, decadent custards, clear up to feather-light meringues and macarons.

    They appear in almost every cuisine on the planet in all their different forms, yet we sometimes take them for granted.

  • Jerry L

    Jambolaya, it uses so many techinices and senses from start to finish. It has many variations and styles none of which are”wrong”.

  • David Booker

    Adding butter to a pan sauce. Slowly swirling cold butter into an already reduced pan sauce adds so much more than flavor. It enriches the texture of the sauce – slightly thickening it and making it silky and tongue-coating. It enhances the entire experience.

  • Erin

    I would say bread, because it teaches you patience. You can’t skip waiting for the yeast to work — you have to wait. You HAVE to. I love that.

  • Ruth

    I take a leap of faith every time I make mayonnaise. The recipes make it sound so easy, just mix an egg yolk with some lemon juice or vinegar and beat with a whisk or whizz in the blender and slowly add oil. It doesn’t always work and I end up adding another, and sometimes another yolk. I can exhale when the slow stream of oil starts to emulsify. This process teaches me patience, that some things have to be done right in cooking for them to work, and that, as with so much both in the kitchen and beyond, doing something, again, and again and again, it gets easier and better.

  • Maria Villalba

    Braising, like in life, a slow, gentle approach, and paying attention to how things combine produce the best results.

  • Doug Aanes

    I agree with so many of these great comments. In particular, the ones about braising, pickling, and making a dish your own beyond just following a recipe. I’d like to add the idea of “practice” meaning doing something over and over. You quickly realize the complexities in even simple dishes.

  • Jessica K.

    I’m going with pizza on this one. Not only is it my favorite food ever, but I feel like when you eat pizza you can taste how much time and effort (or lack there of) has been put in. From the dough, to the sauce, to the cheese, to the toppings…there is something for everyone and, quality reigns over quantity.

  • Bob


    It’s not only a basic technique that underlies a number of simple and tasty Asian dishes, but relies on Think and mise en place, because once you start things rolling, you’re working with high heat and can’t afford to ignore the ingredients for long.

    And just as Cal uses Twelve Recipes to teach his children, Mom taught me many of the basics.

  • Gerry O'Neill

    Mise en Place.

    Don’t cut corners. Do it. Don’t think “I won’t bother to cut that butter into pieces and put it back in the fridge.” Just do it.
    Don’t think, “I can mince garlic in a heartbeat,” because you can’t – not with everything else going on.
    And I don’t care what all the TV chefs say about making this or that meal in 30 min – they have everything portioned out, chopped, minced, whatever, before the cameras start rolling.
    Mise en Place has been the hardest thing for this stubborn old cook to learn.

  • Kandie

    For me, it is baking – because demands that I slow down and take my time and be accurate. Now only if it applied to the rest of my life.

  • Rosa

    Risotto. It’s a lesson in patience and feel for how to prepare the rice to be al dente and creamy, with the right amount of seasoning and cheese.

  • Rhonda

    Challah the ritual of baking it every week the kneading the braiding the baking.finally gathering with family blessing&eating,

  • JGD

    For me its Grilling. I enjoy getting the kids involved in the prep and working the grill. With the grill it’s always a little different, you really need to pay attention. I also find standing around outside is a great time to talk.

  • MattyG

    Bechamel Sauce and the other Mother Sauces, Oh, The places you will go once you have these foundations.

  • Joanne

    This is a technique that ended my frustration and made me a happier baker. After years of not wanting to make biscuits or cut out cookies because it was time consuming, messy, and hard to clean up, I decided to just make my dough into a rectangle and cut squares. I now don’t put off these once tedious recipes. I would love this book — at XX years old and kids gone, I love to bake for friends, coworkers, and family.

  • Brian

    Fermenting, but particularly kimchi. I’ve loved learning more about fermentation, pickling, and other methods of preservation.

  • Ben H.

    Two things. First, bread. It’s an experience that utilizes all of your senses and beyond the basic reactions that are occurring to create the finished product, teaches patience. Nothing has drawn my children into the kitchen so frequently over the years and, I’d wager, few things will give them such wonderful memories of their childhoods.

    Second, cooking with actual wood fire. There’s so much to learn about how the foods react to the heat and smoke and volumes could be written on learning the various nuances of the woods, the grill/smoker/fire pit and how they interact with the food, the weather of the day, etc.

  • Mary Zelli

    You must always cook for yourself and those you care about with love. I’ll always remember the time my Dad threw away the hamburger my Mom had made for him because it wasn’t cooked “with Love”. Teaches us a lesson on how to take care of ourselves and others. Love yourself first and take care of yourself so you can take care of others if/when you choose.

  • siu fong

    Making homemade dim sum…recipes are typically shared word of mouth

    Directions typically include instruction such as add a handful.

  • Jim Dixon

    Cut a slice from both ends of an onion, then cut it in half from top to bottom. Lay each half flat side down on the cutting board, and you learn that the flat stabilizes whatever you’re cutting and makes it easier and safer. Cut each onion half into slices, using a finger to keep them together after each cut, and you see how how you hold the knife and use a slight forward motion makes each cut smoother. Rotate one sliced half ninety degrees and cut it again, watching how the onion’s layers fan out and fall apart. You see how, as you move toward the end of the onion, the layers want to slip apart, and you curl your fingers to hold the last slices together. Push the other sliced half gently down, so it fans out like a stack of dominoes, and cut it into smaller pieces. You discover how the slices have a bit more purchase on the cutting board like this, and you can easily chop them keeping the tip of your knife on board.

  • Bethany S

    I know this probably sounds simple, but gravy. I’m not sure why but it has taken most of my adult life to learn that patience is key with gravy. I’ve made many much more seemingly difficult dishes, and not had a problem. But for some reason gravy always gets me.

  • Matt K


    Making a “pot roast” demonstrates not only a series of steps for a recipe, but for any number of simply prepared long simmered dishes. There are infinite numbers of variations and possible refinements that can be done to take the finished dish from rustic to incredibly refined. All that is needed is a relatively inexpensive piece of meat (or not) and a liquid that is tasty in its own right. Forethought and patience are all that is needed to make a true one pot meal for a group, or food for one for a number of days.

    Braising teaches frugality, cooking with your senses, creativity, and illustrates the magic impact that cooking for others can have every time.

  • Shari

    Baking teaches about following directions and chemistry. For it is the chemical reactions of the ingredients that makes bread rise. If you don’t follow your directions correctly you will have, for example, a dry cake.

  • James O.


    To be sure, not one of your famous ‘Twenty’, but it’s still a valid technique.

    Whether one is making yogurt, tempeh, pickles, or beer (mmmmm! Beer!), or any of a host of other foods or drink, it teaches a couple of things:

    The first is patience. Each food that is fermented takes time to do right. One simply can’t cheat, substitute or otherwise hasten the process; the microbial miracle that transforms these foods follows its own schedule.

    The second is an awareness of our own place in the greater ‘circle of life’. Fermentation is a process of life, for life, to life; Living yeasts and bacteria consume previously-living matter, and return a form that can be consumed by another living creature: us. And this form is, in many cases, more nutritious or readily-digested than the original.

    Lastly, fermentation teaches community. Surely, we can make single servings of tempeh. Or a single pickle. Or a glass of beer. But fermentation as a technique lends itself to making bulk, community-sized batches; it’s only worth the effort when done in large amounts. These are meant to be shared. With family. With friends. With others.

    And that’s why I think ‘Fermentation’ is such an important technique, and more than just the mechanics of prepwork.

  • Becca Z

    Growing up, whipping heavy cream taught me how the same base ingredient can transform into a light, sweet, airy whipped cream, or, with a bit more whipping, a savory herb butter. Likewise for egg whites, I learned I could make sweet meringues or fold into savory or sweet souffle. As with so much of life, the amount of work you put in, or the extras you add can entirely change an act, a situation, emotions, results.

  • Nathan S

    (Real) chinese stir fry.

    The equipment required to make a real stir fry with “wok-hei” (blazing high heat, round-bottom wok) makes such a huge difference between “good” and “amazing” stir fry, it is hard to describe. Making stir fry also has a great sense of balance between ingredients, teaches preparation with very necessary mise-en-place, and can be used to cook so many things. The cooking technique is very interactive, exciting, hot, sweaty and demands patience and repetition. I think it builds character and really makes you appreciate the food coming to the table! It is one of these century-old techniques that has been refined over the years but still cannot be matched. I imagine that beyond modern kitchen heat sources and implements, this cooking technique hasn’t changed for hundreds (maybe a thousand?) of years. You’re actively participating in a part of history when you make a stir fry at home.

  • Cindy M.

    Baking, especially with kids, yields a good product, but helps reinforce things like measurement, fractions, the importance of following directions in detail, and patience!

  • Katie

    Making your own pasta.
    It’s not hard, but I still only do it for special occasions. When I do I always think of my Italian great grandmother and great great aunt who taught me how – me on a chair in their kitchen at age 4 or so, getting to roll out the dough. It still amazes me decades later – what a smooth, pliable beautiful thing comes from just flour and egg in just the right ratio. And it tastes better too. Now when I make this with my 2 and 3 year old they are spellbound just like I was and in a couple of years maybe they’ll understand it’s not just pasta but it’s their heritage too.

  • Stephanie FOssum

    I love to bake angel food cakes from scratch. I use home raised eggs from my chickens. Baking the angel food cake teaches me to follow the recipe precisely. I do also like to try variations, such as adding in chocolate.

  • Gabby

    Kimchi – Up until last year I never heard of it, let alone tasted it. Our stores don’t sell it. I had to grow the Nappa cabbage and Daikon radishes in my organic garden because they were also hard to find items. I was so worried with that 1st batch that I was going to poison myself by letting food ferment. So far from true! That simple food led me on a journey of making other cultured and fermented foods and beverages and to truly discover the relationship between food, and overall health. I went from a diet of mainly processed foods to making from scratch – traditional, organic and farm fresh. Although I’m elderly, I have never felt better!

  • Frank Reiter

    I have to say anything with egg & dairy. The custard, and all combinations of such things. They all speak to the interaction of the egg with the other ingredients. So versatile, so malleable.

  • Chas

    Chicken schnitzel with lemon sauce – pounding the cutlets paper thin (with Ruhlman’s custom meat pounder – my new favorite tool), seasoning the cutlets first!!, getting the oil hot!!!!, coating & frying the cutlets until they are the perfect balance of crispy and tender, pour out most of the fat, add a little flour, white wine & lemon, butter & parsley. Lemon wedges to garnish. A fresh salad on the side. Nothing better for the kids, my wife & me. Make extra – great for lunch the next day.

  • Mike Riley

    Chicken pot pie – it requires four separate techniques to create, all of which are important for the home chef: roasting a chicken, making stock, rolling out a flaky crust, and whisking together a roux as a thickener.

  • Brenda D

    I would say baking. I bake a lot and if you don’t follow the recipe exactly, the finished product will not come out just right. There will always be some little something wrong! You have to be precise with your measurements, and add them as they are in the recipe. Don’t get in a hurry! Take your time and bake that great bread, cake, pie or cookie!!

  • Michael Bird

    I would say fermentation. There is so many varieties a person could create so many different foods an beverages that put altogether it can be quite wonderful.

  • LoriT

    Over the holidays, I had fun diving into different ways of using cornmeal (so inspired by a guest eating gluten free). I grew up with polenta, and even though I lived in the south as a teen and young adult, only really discovered the joys of grits in the past 10 years. My guest loves grits, so I took to experimenting with various recipes, some polenta inspired, others more traditional. Time at the stove watching raw materials evolve into divine emulsions teaches patience, grows confidence, and if you’re paying good attention, rewards with a delicious payoff.

  • Scott Burwash

    Mashed potatoes.
    They require an understanding of produce varieties; flavor infusion and balanced seasoning; texture; and patience.

  • Michele

    Herbs – how to flavor food with fresh herbs, preferably grown outside your back door. Herbs, especially parsley, are the under-sung heroes of the best recipes.

  • Sandra Salinas

    Banana bread. Cooking fruit, heating times and cosistency, how changes in types of flour can change flavor and consistency.

  • Luchie

    Gravy. Like sauces, you start with a roux (which is a technique in and of itself) and add as you wish.

  • Scott

    For me, the technique that taught me the most was making stock. Trying to extract flavor from such meager ingredients was a great lesson. The technique taught a lot about how to prepare ingredients, the affect of temperature and time as well as the flavor generated in browning the bones.

  • William Lundy

    Not to sound patronizing, but learning about ratios changed forever the way I cook and the way I think about recipes and cooking. Once I got the basic ratio for bread, for stock, for pasta, it was off to the races as I was then free to experiment with different products and adjustments to ratios. With bread, I tried various amounts of various flours – with varied results depending on how radically I altered the balance. With stock, it’s become “dead easy” to determine how much liquid to use for a given amount of meat. And with pasta, I’ve settled on 2:1 flour:egg for the consistency that works best in my machines and tastebuds. Do I have a wide variety of foods that I prepare – you bet! Do I buy bread, stock, or pasta anymore? No – and that should be sufficiently telling as to the power of learning principles.

  • Jacob

    Braising – It teaches that time is a magic ingredient with almost no substitute.

  • Vince

    Many of these suggestions are good. I have taught people to cook since I love to cook and so many of my friends do not, mostly because they do not think they can. My first lesson is usually making an omelet. Once you know the basic method which is simple but requires technique the technique allows innumerable variations that do not require teaching but only your taste and imagination.

  • Jake

    Making coffee with a hand-grinder and an aeropress. With changes in time, water temp, and the size of beans – I can make a completely different product every time.

  • Jameson


    It teaches proper reduction (which leads to other sauces, glacé, and concentrates), cooking eggs without overcooking (which opens the door to mousses, anglaise, ice cream, etc.), emulsion, (which leads to salad dressings and mayonnaise), and how to season properly as the high amount of fat can be tricky to season well.

    And it in itself is a blank slate on which to create endless variations from one technique.

  • mark j

    Chicken Soup. Easy to prepare from humble ingredients, but somewhat difficult to perfect. Most importantly, you can’t make chicken soup without being overcome by the need to share it with others.

    And that desire for communal nourishment (physical and emotional) is the basis of all good cooking.

  • Tereza Snyder

    Scrambled eggs—breakfasts, omelets, custards:

    • precision
    • patience
    • practice, practice, practice

  • Amanda

    Chicken or veggie stock. Teaches self reliance and forethought. Once you realize how easy (and cheap) it is to think ahead and make stock, you’ll never go back to the boxed stuff again.

  • Tim in Iowa

    Hash. Its simple, often leftover ingredients teach thrift and the endless combinations of meat/veg/liquid encourage creativity.

  • Clayton

    Sous vide- many people don’t understand the thermodynamics of cooking. i.e. cooking meat for long time at a lower temperature will never result in overcooking which is contrary to the way we usually think about cooking.

  • Malika

    Any family recipe. Hopefully your family has some! For me, there are a couple of Christmas cookie recipes, potato pancakes, “bum soup,” helepkes (stuffed cabbage), and a few others that I learned from my parents or grandparents, and that I’ve taught or will teach my daughters. I consider those recipes to be heirlooms – much more valuable than furniture or jewelry. They record our family history, and keep family members alive in our memories.

  • Iska

    Stew. I just learned to make it and actually liked it. By making it, I learned knife skills, trimming the meat, flavoring and what spices and herbs to mix with it, and braising.

  • K.

    Roux! Always roux! I taught my best friend, living across the country from me, to make roux, explaining it all on the telephone. What it teaches? The magic of simple ingredients. The flavors that are hidden. A light roux is so different from a dark roux, and very different from a very dark roux. And a roux with poultry fat? So different than a roux with butter. Our role as passionate household cooks is to transform the ordinary into the nourishing and beautiful. Nothing more humble than flour and fat. Nothing more beautiful than a gravy from the pan scrapings and drippings and a little flour.

  • witloof

    Pie crust! I started learning how to make it when I was in middle school. There are so many ways that it can go wrong and you have to learn to measure, to feel, and to keep your hot little hands from softening the butter! Then all of the technique that you need in order to roll it out. It’s such a simple thing but it requires such skill and patience to do well.

  • Myra

    Brining and pre salting. Meat science and cooking techniques such as roasting and smoking.

  • Jared

    Infusing oil with herbs and garlic by simply sauteing in them. Or creating a sachet to ad big flavor with minimal effort.

  • Vicki

    Gnocchi. Teaches that it’s fun to be in the kitchen and that you can help at any age. Grandma, after her stroke, would sit and use one hand to flip the gnocchi with two fingers. My dad was in charge of the boiling pot of water. Us kids ranging from 6 to 18 would take turns rolling, cutting and running wooden cutting boards filled with gnocchi to my dad. My mom – she always made the sauce and kept snacks coming for us “workers”.

  • Chris

    Omelots. The decision from prepping the fillings, the pan, gentle heat, folding, and garnishes.

  • sharon saulnier

    Hanging meat in my basement to make pancetta, from your Charcuterie book–a leap of faith to be sure, but so satisfying!

  • Kathie wagner

    Gumbo….roux, trinity Liquid,thickener, fresh ingredients, admixture of protein, a flicker or starch, a cacophony of flavor

  • Jon Reynolds

    Gumbo! If you love it like I do then much is learned from years of repetition and tweaking and constant learning. If you save the shrimp shells then you learn how to make a very simple seafood stock by adding some mirepoix, bay leaf, peppercorns and lemon. It teaches you the powerful ways that certain ingredients interact, from the sweet smell of onion, celery and bell pepper sweating in a pan, to the almost thickening effect that okra has as it simmers and breaks down. If you add tomatoes as I do then you can marvel at the powerful effect that acid has in brightening a hearty dish. By making a peanut butter or chocolate roux you learn patience because you know that without the proper roux you don’t truly have gumbo. Most importantly, again through repetition, you learn the life altering power of mis en place. When you are more efficient you have more time to focus on the love.

  • Kelly

    Tasting for not only salt, but acid. I show my son how this works by taking a bit of whatever we’re cooking and having him taste it before and after adding a few drops of lemon or vinegar to see how it changes. Not to make it taste “lemony” or “vinagary” – but looking for that just-so flavor balance. Adjusting acid and salt in a few spoonfuls is a nice way to learn to anticipate how those actions can affect your dish.

  • Jimmy

    The pale blue smoke. It is a constant fight to maintain it; it shouldn’t billow out, nor should it be absent. It should rise from the pit like a warm breath on a cold morning. And you must watch for it. Just like you must watch for the temperature. Two hundred and twenty five degrees. That needle will dance on you…boy will it dance! Throw a dense green hunk of oak on that fire, and you’ll see that needle drop. Open that door and gaze longingly into that fire and you’ll see it climb. You must be patient and watch.

    And the temptation. Oh…the temptation. You want to look, to peek, to justify it to yourself by saying that the probe might just be off kilter, or that it might need some mop. But you hold tight. Your will, iron.

    And through the night, you hear the piercing cry of the alarm, signifying the end, but you know you have to feel. You will know if all is right with the world by the touch of your hand. But…not yet, as you again must wait. The rest. The temptation.

    The brisket.