On reading through it last night, I found it was money well spent.
Chefs don't create from recipes. They create from tastes. They create in the same way that a compeser "hears" notes in the concert hall of the mind before anyone plays them on a keyboard.
We have come up with fourteen basic tastes. Along the way, we sometimes had as many as twenty-two tastes, but that became rather unwieldy. We hated to let go of any and we debated over each of them as if we were the pledge committee at a fraternity considering a bumper crop of wonderful candidates. In the end, though, simplicity and our desire to create a reasonably practical book won out.
These recipes are largely a portrait of one chef's work. We think the same method can be applied to anyone's cooking, and will result in a deeper understanding and better food. It is our hope that when you have finished this book, you know more than a recipe or two (which is, fact it, all we take from most cookbooks). Just like a professional chef, you should feel confident that you can look in any pantry, any refrigerator, and know how to take the ingredients at hand and combine them in a sure, confident, and delicious way. It's elemental.
Well, since it's a cookbook, I'll include a recipe. Because the book concentrates on elemental tastes and how they combine, the recipes are not laid out quite the way they are in other books. Each recipe has an introduction which lays out the components the recipe brings together, and winds up with "taste notes" which analyze the play of flavors and textures in the finished dish.
Lobster in Syrah Reduction with Aromatic Grits</b>
Going by the old red-wine-with-meat and white-wine-with-fish rule, lobster is forever thought of as being prepared with white wine. But lobster has a rich, buttery-tasting flesh that can stand up to a big red wine sauce. You can use whatever red wine you like, but we liked a syrah... Generally lobsters are way overcooked. This is a soft way of cooking them beautifully that preserves the silky texture of the meat.
1 cup warm Basic Red Wine Sauce — lobster variation (page 221)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
Freshly ground white pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking grits
2 tablespoons butter
Combine the milk, water, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to boil. Add the grits, and simmer until soft (1-2 minutes). Finish with 2 tablespoons of butter. Season again and adjust thickness with more milk if necessary.
2 tablespoons medium diced leeks
1 tablespoon butter
Freshly ground pepper.
Sightly saute leeks in butter. Season.
4 whole lobsters, 1-1 1/2 pounds each
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blanch the lobsters for 3 minutes in boiling water. Remove and shock in ice water. Separate tails and split lengthwise. Remove the meat and discard the vein that runs the length of the tail. Remove the meat from claws. (Put empty shells, heads, and bodies in zip-lock bag and freeze for future lobster stock.)
Place the lobster meat in a well-buttered baking dish.
Dot the lobster with butter. Season with salt and pepper or cayenne and place in the oven, 5-6 minutes.
NOTE: This will yield a lobster that is still a bit translucent. If you like your lobster cooked till it is white all the way through, leave it in the oven a few more minutes.
Place a dollop of grits in the middle of four wide bowls. Ladle the wine sauce and vegetables around the grits. Place the lobster on the grits and spoon butter from the lobster dish over the lobster. Top with the sauteed leeks.
Our taste notes
If, like most people, you go straight for the lobster and grits, you'll find that you get the round nose of butter that pulls up the shellfish flavor, itself a bit buttery. The grits spread taste and coat the palate. The rich lobster flavor and texture is cut by the vinted tang of the wine. The slight bitterness of the wine-infused vegetables tends to contain taste. The leeks fill the nose and pull up the next round of taste. The final notes are butter and wine with a little picante heat.
(Terms in italics are elements of taste identified by the authors. Think of them almost as technical terms.)