Books for Cooks - One famous chef and the lesson of a lifetime

We started this look at food books with a peek at a book loaded with fast and easy and super tasty Indian recipes. We had a vegetarian recipe from the book, too.

The last post was about a world traveler (and eater!) and had a gorgeous vegetarian recipe.

Today, we are going to switch gears and look at a unique book from a famous chef. We have one of the vegetarian receipes from the book, but this is not a traditional cookbook. In some ways, it is more helpful than a traditional cookbook. Way more helpful.

Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio (Clarkson Potter)
Sure, it is written by a top chef from the top-rated Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan. And, sure, it has more than 100 recipes. But Think like a Chef is no cookbook. This book is, as it title promises, a guide to teaching you how to think like, you know.

So why do you even want to think like a chef? Well, it’s fun, of course. And interesting. But, best of all, it is incredibly handy.

I mean, envision the last time you were at the farmer’s market. There you were, juggling an eggplant in one hand and a garlic bulb in the other. Did you panic because you didn’t have a recipe? Or did you see a world of possibilities? The chef would see the latter. Which is great because it is a lot more practical to have actual dinner-makings in your hand than a recipe for ingredients you may, or may not, be able to find.

So what can you find here? First, of course, there is a chapter on basic cooking techniques including stock- and sauce-making recipes. Then there is a discussion of building recipes, including three-ingredient recipes. Especially interesting is how different techniques applied to the same ingredients give you different dishes. Most interesting to us almost vegetarians is the section called "Component Cooking," which talks about the use of vegetables.
Vegetarian recipe: Pan-Roasted Mushrooms
4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds mixed wild and cultivated mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and thickly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (optional)

Heat about 1 tablespoon oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add just enough mushrooms to loosely cover the skillet (you should be able to see the pan between the mushrooms). Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, then gently turn mushrooms over as they brown and soften.

Add a little shallot and garlic, some butter, and some thyme and tarragon. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes more, then transfer to a paper towel. Wipe out skillet, and repeat the process, cooking mushrooms in small batches.

Just before serving, add a bit more butter or oil to skillet, and return mushrooms to the pan. Warm over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves 4 as first course or side dish.