The upside of reality food television: all the teenagers we meet who want to hang in the kitchen in today's cool tattooed chef era. And yet most teenagers are still caught in those awkward cooking years. They don't need kid's cookbooks, or at least don't think they do. But they're not quite ready for Thomas Keller's forthcoming Bouchon Bakery cookbook yet, as most don't yet have the skills, and certainly not the attention span, to get through the recipes (if they do, well, lucky you).
And they're still teenagers. Which means they come home one day and announce they're now a vegan, the next that they are going to take up the art of home butchering (in your kitchen). And so when these five cookbooks showed up on our desk, all meant for an adult audience, we couldn't stop thinking of various teenagers we know. Get our picks after the jump.
Because they're certainly not learning how to actually cook by watching Gordon Ramsay yell at home cooks on MasterChef, entertaining as he may be. Nor will they be able to “like, so totally win that show in, like, 5 minutes,” if they can't first master the most basic “easy chicken tacos” (p. 135). Use their food TV obsession to your weeknight family dinner advantage with this book.
Christopher Kimball and his army of test kitchen staff promise up “every recipe, every ingredient testing, every equipment rating” from all 5 seasons of their Cook's Country TV show. The TV show itself might not have the splashy pizzazz of network food shows, but the chapters here are actually more teen attention span-friendly than the typical “salads-mains-desserts” fare. Things like “Fork-in-the-Road-Favorites” (Four versions of fried chicken!), “Everybody Loves Italian” (spinach lasagna, meatballs and marinara, chicken Parmesan) and “The State of Grilling” (from burgers to ribs, chops, veggies and sides).
As this book is from the Kimball empire, there are also tips galore (store leftover canned chipotle chiles in the freezer for up to 2 months), product explanations (the difference between cider and distilled white vinegar) and concise, photo-driven illustrations of common kitchen techniques like whipping cream (here, soft peaks, stiff peaks, an over-whipped mess are shown).
Because cheesemaking has enough “eww-gross!” surface mold moments to stave off the cross-town requests for a ride to the latest teenage horror flick for at least a few hours.
Author Sasha Davis is on the board of the American Cheese Society; co-author David Bleckmann is a self-described “obsessed home cheesemaker.” Together, they're pretty fantastic at making mold sound as exciting as mold probably ever can be.
Though many cheese books take on an academic tone, this one is full of splashy photos, for a cheesemaking guide at least, and simple, step-by-step Munster-making guidelines. Between cheddar cheese and creamy blue lessons, profiles of professional cheesemakers in a Q+A format offer up great insight into the world of cheese curds.
And we should probably mention, as a quiet Sunday morning courtesy, that the photograph of Liam Callahan, co-owner/cheesemaker at Bellwether Farms in Petaluma holding two baby goats has repetitive “OMG he is so hot!” squealing potential. Still, a small price to pay for fresh handmade goat cheese.
Because the steak-obsessed teen today is no longer content with learning how to grill, they want to join The Butcher's Guild. And when mail-order flank steak boredom sets in, they'll want to be just like that bad-ass, tattoo-covered underground chef on TV who butchers his own side of beef.
This is one of those times when a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Home Butchery comes in handy. There are prettier butchery books out there, certainly.
But this isn't a moment when you want gorgeous photos of rib eye steaks. Here, you get the whole deal, from slaughter to skinning, all the guts (literally) that a hunter endures before you get to the glory.
If your kid truly wants to be a butcher, he/she will be mesmerized. If not, see the next book.
Because after all the butchering photographs, there will likely be at least one new vegetarian in the family. Local cookbook author Clifford Wright's recently re-released classic, Mediterranean Vegetables, is a complete artichoke to zucchini education of 200 vegetables used in Mediterranean cooking. The book, originally published in 2001, is presented in encyclopedic format, with explanations of each vegetable. It's a go-to source for the young (and old) food enthusiast.
For more obscure entries like desert candle, Wright gives one-paragraph descriptions (an herb “eaten as a vegetable in Turkey; the leaves are also added to herbal cheeses”); those vegetables and herbs used more widely also have an extensive explanation of the “plant characteristics and varieties,” a brief history, and information on how to grow and harvest that backyard borage and dandelion. For recipes, expect classic recipes from the various Mediterranean regions, like French garlic soup, Greek skordalia (garlic sauce) and Syrian roasted garlic cloves with artichoke-garlic-yogurt sauce (all under the garlic entry). It's a lot more fun to read than that high school history textbook.
Because even if now you're more of a quick cookie and homemade ice cream sort, you probably remember your teen cake years fondly. There's something about cakes that kids at any baking age love, but they're at their Italian cream cake (p. 105) best when they're older. When they can appreciate the flavor of that burnt sugar cake with maple cream cheese frosting (p. 127) and also have the dexterity and skills to roll that chiffon cake into a coffee cream-filled spiral (p. 77).
The modern take on classic recipes makes this baking book all the more fun, as you get a nostalgic taste of those daffodil cakes (p. 60) and Texas sheet cakes (p. 22). But we suspect that “not-for-children gingerbread bundt cake” is going to be the first cake any teen will make, just to prove author Julie Richardson, owner of Portland's Baker & Spice, wrong. She warns that the cake is so heavily spiced, it is “not for the faint of heart.” The same, actually, could be said of teenagers.
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