How to Read a French Fry
and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science
By Russ Parsons
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780395967836, 352pp.)
Publication Date: May 2001
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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.
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.
In How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science, Russ Parsons answers all sorts of food science questions, including why meat browns, why sauces emulsify and how frying is different from roasting. More at NPR.org
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"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 Parson’s 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. Parsons’s 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