In this book, a sequel to the first edition of my book On Food & Cooking, I brought the scientific method into my home kitchen to take a closer look at a number of common foods and cooking methods. The first group of experimental chapters answers such questions as: Why do lettuces, avocados, and basil leaves turn brown, and how can you retain the green in salads, guacamole, and pesto? How do you keep tender meats from becoming tough by the end of the braise? Is it preferable to clean mushrooms with a moist cloth instead of rinsing them? Does hot ice cream mix freeze faster than cold? How do you take the wind out of Jerusalem artichokes? What's the secret to beurre blanc? How can you control the texture of fruit ices and granitas?
In a second group of chapters, I mused on the fact that although many of us are eating better and more variously than ever before, we're also more anxious that our eating habits will do us in. Taking heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's in turn, I took a look at the facts as they were then known about the relationship between diet and health. And in the concluding chapters on the enduring appeal of cooked foods, I tried to show how a scientific perspective can enrich our experiences of cooking, eating, and living.
Table of Contents:
- Chapter 1: The Searing Truth (Cooking always squeezes out meat juices)
- Chapter 2: Oil Drops Keep Falling on My Toque (The fate of spatter from the frying pan)
- Chapter 3: Simmering Down (Cooking tender meats well below the boil)
- Chapter 4: The Green and the Brown (How to keep the green color of salads and sauces)
- Chapter 5: Taking the Wind Out of the Sunroot (Making the Jerusalem artichoke more digestible)
- Chapter 6: Beurre Blanc: Butter's Undoing (A sauce made by transforming butter back into cream)
- Chapter 7: Simplifying Hollandaise and Bearnaise (Properly understood, these sauces almost make themselves)
- Chapter 8: Mayonnaise: Doing More with Lecithin (Mayonnaise can be made with little or no egg yolk)
- Chapter 9: Persimmons Unpuckered (Updating ancient Chinese methods of artificial ripening)
- Chapter 10: Fruit Ices, Cold and Calculated (Three dozen fruits, five styles)
- Chapter 11: The Pleasures of Merely Measuring (Prowling the kitchen with thermometer and stopwatch)
- Chapter 12: Fat and the Heart (Coping with quirky biology)
- Chapter 13: Food and Cancer (Learning how to improve our odds)
- Chapter 14: Minding the Pots and Pans: The Case of Aluminum (No metal surface is inert)
- Chapter 15: The Physiologist of Taste (Science in Brillat-Savarin's classic)
- Chapter 16: The Saga of Osmazome (The early chemistry of gastronomical pleasure)
- Chapter 17: From Raw to Cooked: The Transformation of Flavor (Why does the human animal like cooked foods?)
"Some works are so original they defy classification. Such a book is Harold McGee's The Curious Cook."
--Los Angeles Times
"The Curious Cook is an indispensable kitchen companion to conventional teaspoon-of-this, dash-of-that cooking volumes."
"If you want to know what you're doing in the kitchen and be entertained while you find out, you must read this book."
--Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue
"A thoroughly charming and extremely useful new book."
"The Curious Cook is as explosive as a le Carré yarn, as simple as good bread, as complex as a classic sauce, and as enlightening as only Harold McGee can be."
--George Lang, owner of the Café des Artistes restaurant in New York City