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Where shall (kitchen) wisdom be found?

dickgrub Jan 28, 2013 08:05 AM

Looking back on thirty+ years of agonizingly slow improvement in kitchen results, I recognize the supremacy of Technique over Recipe. It ain't just, "chop A, dice B, saute, add D, pinches of E, F and G...." It's When? and How high? and How much? and much, much more. Out of my 400+ cookbooks, I have two that go into those issues: Mitchell Davis's "Kitchen Sense" and Rick Moonen's Fish Without A Doubt". I also learn from How2heroes videos. Sometimes cheftalk.com. Took a cooking class from Rick Moonen once, and found him extraordinarily generous in this arena; the link below is to a video of Rick making/explaining NE Clam Chowder. Question: Where do you find "Wisdom"?


  1. ipsedixit Jan 28, 2013 08:09 AM

    >>Looking back on thirty+ years of agonizingly slow improvement in kitchen results, I recognize the supremacy of Technique over Recipe<<

    Totally agree.

    >>Where do you find "Wisdom"?<<

    Mom, and experience and trial-and-error.

    1. p
      Puffin3 Jan 28, 2013 08:18 AM

      I've been making notes in the back of cookbooks for years whenever I happened on a 'tip'. When a dish turned to be crap or great I make notes. I got into 'Escoffier' a few years ago. Funny thing happened. I discovered whenever I followed his recipes absolutely religiously all my dishes turned out to be excellent. Go figure. LOL
      Now I 'SV' a lot and finish with Escoffier sauces. Pretty beautiful and tasty dishes are the result. IMO the sauces are the star and the meats etc. are there to support them.

      1. k
        kengk Jan 28, 2013 08:21 AM

        I absolutely agree with technique over recipe. I experiment and observe the results and try to learn from them. I see so much handwringing here, try it and see what happens is my motto.

        Your linked video has naught to do with clam chowder.

        12 Replies
        1. re: kengk
          dickgrub Jan 28, 2013 09:22 AM


          Apologies! Here is the Rick Moonen video.


          1. re: dickgrub
            sr44 Jan 28, 2013 10:16 AM

            A nice clam soup. NOT chowder, IMO. My grandmother is rolling in her grave.

            1. re: sr44
              dickgrub Jan 28, 2013 11:01 AM

              What would Granny add or change? If the answer begins with or contains "tomatoes", I'm out. Grandpa, (B: Boston, 1882) often said of so-called Manhattan Clam Chowder, "That's just tomato soup with clams in it".

              1. re: dickgrub
                sr44 Jan 28, 2013 11:13 AM

                If it were tomatoes, she'd be revolving faster.

                Salt pork, not bacon. NO celery, leeks, carrots. Horrors, wine! NO flour or cream. NO herbs. Onions softened in the rendered pork fat (the pork bits reserved for later). Clam juice added, and cubed potatoes cooked in it. Clams and sufficient milk (whole) to make the chowder, and salt pork returned. Thickening: common crackers, softened in more milk. I think it was a Maine model of clam chowder. (p.s. she was born in Boston in 1885)

              2. re: sr44
                GH1618 Jan 28, 2013 12:03 PM

                I suppose it's technically a chowder, because it has a potato and milk in it. But one small potato in a pot that size does not a chowder make, in my opinion. And the rest of it so nouvelle (wine?), it's disgusting. This is foodie chowder, not traditional chowder, in my opinion.

                1. re: GH1618
                  sr44 Jan 28, 2013 04:50 PM

                  Except, it's cream, not milk. I do think whole milk was richer back in the day, but it certainly wasn't heavy cream. Yup, foodie chowder.

                  1. re: sr44
                    GH1618 Jan 28, 2013 05:04 PM

                    Beard calls for light cream in his chowder.

                    1. re: GH1618
                      sr44 Feb 4, 2013 06:03 PM

                      He's not my grandmother.

                      1. re: sr44
                        sunshine842 Feb 5, 2013 12:02 AM

                        and he was born in Portland, Oregon...

                        1. re: sunshine842
                          GH1618 Feb 5, 2013 06:49 AM

                          That's right. It's Northwest style chowder, which is similar to New England chowder. Cream distinguishes it from the traditional recipe. There are many improvements to be found in Northwest cuisine.

                          1. re: GH1618
                            sunshine842 Feb 5, 2013 07:38 AM

                            to each their own.

                            1. re: GH1618
                              sr44 Feb 5, 2013 08:20 AM

                              Revolving again...

            2. r
              RosePearl Jan 28, 2013 08:34 AM

              Joy of Cooking
              Better Homes and Gardens
              Betty Crocker (for cakes)
              Craig Claibornes Southern Cooking, for his mom's good sense and damn good recipes.
              Maida Heatter (again, for baking)
              Laurie Colwin. Her two cookbooks are Take with you when the earthquake hits gems.
              Marian Cunningham.
              And of course, Julia.
              and some more, but these are just off the top of my head

              1 Reply
              1. re: RosePearl
                dickgrub Jan 28, 2013 10:02 AM

                RP: Your comment, "...to take with you when the earthquake hits" had me rush to Amazon to order two Colwins, of whom I had never heard. Much thanks.

              2. Chemicalkinetics Jan 28, 2013 08:55 AM

                <Where do you find "Wisdom"?>

                Between instruction (from books or video) and practice, but more on the side of practice. To be more specifically, from the mistakes during the practice. Trial and errors. Every so called mistake is my learning experience where my wisdom is refined.

                1. tcamp Jan 28, 2013 09:06 AM

                  I have a hard time gleaning techniques from books and the types of cookbooks I tend to read are more recipe oriented.

                  I've learned quite a bit here. I also like videos as a way to learn a new technique.

                  1. d
                    dkenworthy Jan 28, 2013 09:30 AM

                    My mom, my mother-in-law, Julia Child (back in the black and white PBS days). The Mexican ladies on a grafting crew I worked with. Friends. Trial and error. Cooks Illustrated.

                    The best way is to hang out in the kitchen with people you love who love to cook. The Chinese say that hunger is the best seasoning, but I say that love is the key!

                    1. g
                      GH1618 Jan 28, 2013 10:42 AM

                      For me, it's James Beard. Even Julia Child turned to him for wisdom on occasion.

                      1. sunshine842 Jan 28, 2013 11:26 AM

                        Right here on this forum....there is a mindblowing amount of expertise and knowledge amongst the folks here...and they're usually generous with both.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sunshine842
                          blue room Feb 4, 2013 07:57 PM

                          Yes. kitchen wisdom shall be found *here*.

                          1. re: blue room
                            dickgrub Feb 4, 2013 09:17 PM

                            Ya know...it didn't occur to me when I posed the question, but I have learned some VG stuff on this site. Like the killer beef stew I just made, which benefited immensely from a CH thread of a while back: "don't just brown the beef pieces til the red color disappears, brown to a deep mahogany" and "after browning, deglaze with a port". Definitely kicked it up a notch or even two. Thanks, Hounds!

                        2. dave_c Jan 28, 2013 02:20 PM

                          Jacques Pepin. He often has little tips in his cooking shows. These little tips often turn out to be time savers or much better ways of peeling, cutting, preparation... etc.

                          1. c
                            CathleenH Jan 28, 2013 03:32 PM

                            I just finished reading Grace Young's Stir-frying to the Sky's Edge, which gives detailed instructions for achieving great stir-fry on your home stove. I just ordered the type of wok she recommends, and I look forward to developing my skills once it arrives.

                            1. w
                              wyogal Feb 4, 2013 09:26 PM

                              ... at the end of a wooden spoon.

                              1. TheCarrieWatson Feb 5, 2013 09:01 AM

                                if you are interested in books about cooking, food, etc., that aren't recipe-based cookbooks, I highly recommend Harold McGee's books. Those will really elevate your knowledge of what's happening when you poach an egg or build an emulsion. That basic understanding has made me a lot more confident and capable than I was even a year ago.

                                1. f
                                  foiegras Feb 5, 2013 05:40 PM

                                  i think it may be on the tip of my tongue ;)

                                  i cook virtually without recipes, learned that way ... i think the key is to just keep tasting & building the flavor.

                                  and good ingredients really help, so perhaps inside a primo market.

                                  for baking, i agree that maida is the fount.

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