The title of Notes on Cooking, the new book by Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich, might scare you off. An academic tome, you might think, or perhaps a gushing kitchen memoir by someone you never heard of.
Fortunately, it is neither. In fact, it is exactly what it says: a book of short, easily digestible notes about cooking. 217 notes, in fact, organized into 19 chapters, from “Understanding the Recipe” to “Temperature” to “Repairing Food.” And I’m willing to bet that, no matter how experienced you may be in the kitchen, you will find tips here that will improve your skills.
Some notes, such as these on cooking with herbs—(“137. Add fresh woody herbs at the beginning. Rosemary and thyme infuse a dish through heat. 138. Add fresh leafy herbs at the end. Chervil and chives are brightest when raw.”)—codify what you might already instinctively do and explain the logic behind it. Others are practical kitchen ideas that provoke “Oh, duh—why don’t I already do that?” moments when you read them: “92. Flag hot things. Place an oven mitt, potholder, or towel over the handle of any hot item you set aside. Signal clearly to others and yourself that there is danger in touching it.” There are also slightly more philosophical hints, along the lines of “23. Preside happily over accidents” and the wonderfully self-deprecating final note: “217. Always be cooking. Hone your craft by doing it. Stop reading. Start cooking.”
The second title (after Notes on Directing) in the RCR Creative Press Notes on... series, this little book is perfect for leafing through at random or zeroing in on any subject you might have questions about. In either case, it is very likely to accomplish two goals devoutly to be wished: to improve the food you cook, and to make cooking it more fun.