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The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji López-Alt (W.W. Norton; $49.95)

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In his Food Lab blog, which you can find at Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt tackles all kinds of cooking conundrums—the best way to sear a steak, how to cook salmon so it doesn’t stink up the house, how to best cut an onion—often going against conventional kitchen wisdom in the process. Now he’s amassed his research and recipes in one giant book (the hardcover comes in at 938 pages and weighs more than 6 1/2 lb.). López-Alt says he decided to publish it because although he loves blogging and the interchange of ideas he enjoys with his readers, the blog can’t compete when it comes to presenting charts, graphics, and easy-to-understand layouts. (Score one for print.)

The book contains hundreds of recipes and loads of step-by-step photos (there’s more than 1,000 full-color images), but what I like best about it is its tone. The classic food science reference, Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, is brilliant and jam-packed with information, but boy, it can make for some dry reading. Because López-Alt carries out his own experiments (with detailed explanations on how he goes about setting them up), he can tell funny anecdotes along the way, all while imparting the knowledge he’s gleaned from his “lab” (aka his kitchen). Does he think he has all the answers? Absolutely not. He encourages readers to test his theories, try their own, and even email him about their findings. I’m thinking that most may be too busy scarfing down his Super Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits to bother.

30-Minute Minestrone
This soup looks gorgeous, packs a ton of flavor, and feels virtuous. But you’ll be hard-pressed to actually make it in 30 minutes. That’s just how long it’s on the stove, and the time doesn’t include prepping all those vegetables. That said, the short cooking time does make it taste fresh.

Cheesy Hasselback Potato Gratin
Though a labor of love-you’re peeling and slicing 5 lb. of potatoes, coating them in cream and cheese, and then standing them up on edge in a baking dish-the resulting gratin is a stunner.

Featured Recipes from The Food Lab

Photos by J. Kenji López-Alt

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