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By John Coffelt
Releasing Tuesday, Southern Living’s “Home Cooking Basics: A Complete Guide to Southern Cooking” attracts beginning and advanced cooks with detailed directions and generous pictures that are informative without being simplistic.
Whether it’s a review of culinary terms and techniques or that special dish that grandma used to make, “Basics” is sure to become a trusted reference.
“Basics” is setup with five units that move from basic culinary knowledge to more advanced skills.
The units Setup and Ingredients are pretty much standard in most cookbooks (although “Basics” is more comprehensive than most).
But where the cookbook differs for most is with its hands-on, detailed instructions found in the units Prep and Methods.
In Prep, the author demonstrates essential skills like how to roast and peel and bell pepper, how to shred cabbage or how to cut a whole chicken.
Then in Methods, the authors take the instruction a step further with delicious recipes that illustrate more complex skills that focus on a final outcome.
One example is a no-cook assemble-from-store salad.
The recipe is for a Tomato-Cucumber Bread Salad, but the instruction goes farther than simply tossing a salad.
Taking store-bought ingredients such as red wine vinegar and deli sourdough the budding cook yields homemade vinaigrette and croutons.
Those with more experience can get stumped on some dishes.
For me, biscuits have always been troublesome, but with a quick glance at the full color pictures, I saw that I had mistakenly been mixing too long and not kneading enough. The result, perfect Southern buttermilk biscuits.
The Recipes unit contains a nice selection of Southern dishes.
Having a sweet tooth, I couldn’t pass on the Coke cake.
While not trying to imitate the Cracker Barrel desert, the recipe, with homemade icing, was rich, moist and chocolaty. The instructions detailed each step of production without skipping anything or being redundant.
According to her bio, the author, Katherine Cobbs, left her first publishing job at National Geographic for culinary school on the West Coast. Cobbs’ attention to visual story telling is an apparently a carryover from her days at the magazine. It is a down-to-earth guide that has the experience of a chef without the gourmet’s haughty, obscure fare.
“Home Cooking Basics,” hardcover with 416 pages lists for $29.95. It is available at Amazon.com and Barns and Nobel, as well as bookstores.