Cookbook Review: Taste & Technique by Naomi Pomeroy
As an avid home cook and cookbook reader I’m often frustrated that my meals always turn out more “rustic” than desired. I’ve attempted to cook from many professional level cookbooks and have had some success but often find that they skip important steps that a novice requires. The new book Taste & Technique Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking by Naomi Pomeroy is the closest I’ve found to bridging the gap between home cook and professional.
Naomi Pomeroy is the chef/owner of Beast, a well known restaurant in Portland. She is self taught, mostly from books early on in her career and later from cooks she worked with. This book is her attempt at compiling much of the advice into a hands on teaching guide.
Taste & Technique is not a guide that takes you through each step of cooking but instead teaches techniques for cooking, layering flavors and finishing dishes in within each individual recipe. These techniques are then used multiple times throughout the book.
The cookbook is gorgeous and does give off sophisticated vibe. The pages are bright white with a slight gloss. The font is smaller than most cookbooks but I’d say it’s justified for the amount of information packed into each recipe. The photographs all look delicious and provide a great visual of the how the plated dishes should look.
At first glance the recipes in this book look extremely complicated and fussy and I’ll admit that I was initially intimidated. After reading deeper into the recipes a few times I realized that the recipes do often require additional steps or sub recipes but the recipes themselves are not complicated, they are just written in such a descriptive manner that they appear longer than recipes for similar dishes in other books. The Pate Brisee recipe used in the quiche has a description that takes an entire page (2 columns) in a smaller than average font. The recipe describes how the dough should look and feel at each step and explains why each step is required.
The recipes are divided by style including sauces, starters, soups, salads, vegetables, eggs, seafood, poultry, pork, beef, lamb, desserts & pastry and pantry items. Each recipe includes at least one photo, mostly of the finished dish which is important when you are looking to prepare restaurant style food at home. The recipes include many hints and notes in the introductions and sidebars, including reasons why the ingredients are prepared in certain ways. The ingredient lists are do not contain many exotic or hard to find ingredients but I do live in a big city.
I really enjoyed how the cookbook informally uses a building block approach to a meal. In the first chapters you learn to cook dishes like, crispy baby artichokes, crispy brussel sprouts with pickled mustard seeds and butternut squash puree. Then in what I’d consider an entree recipe like fennel-brined pork loin the directions include seasonal pairings for Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring that utilize the previously mentioned dishes. Each recipe does only provide plating instructions and photographs for one of the seasonal variations but I feel that any more would weigh the book down.
As an interesting side note the author believes in seasoning to taste but sort of says that a novice cook might not know how to season to taste. Ms. Pomeroy actually provides measurements for salt in each recipe and says to adjust them as you learn to season on your own.
I had planned to cook the salmon dish from this book but my wife came home with a pound of chanterelle mushrooms. I remembered seeing them in the quiche recipe and decided to give it a try. I started with the Pate Brisee shell which was very simple (despite the long instructions) and turned out great. It was scary seeing how dry my dough was but I went with it and it worked out. It was also scary prebaking a shell because my oven is notorious for destroying pie crust.
Next I prepared the quiche filling which included the mushrooms, cheese, butter, dairy, eggs and some small extras. The filling was extremely easy to put together. I baked the quiche as instructed and took it out closer to the 50 minute side of the instructions. It was beautiful and looked almost exactly like the photograph in the book. The tricks including baking with the crust hanging over made for a perfect looking and tasting quiche. My family devoured about half of the quiche the first night as it is very rich and filling. We then ate it for lunch the next day and it was just as delicious. It really had the flavor and feel of a chef prepared meal.
I really enjoy this cookbook and would classify it as next level up from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller which I cook from all of the time. The recipes are not quick weeknight meals but many of the components can be made ahead and assembled later. This cookbook is for those home chefs looking to make memorable meals for their family when they have some extra time and for the novice chef who is wondering why their food can never reach the next level. It is not a book full of simple cooking techniques but the author does a fantastic job of describing each step that it truly allows you to cook above your normal level. I would recommend this book to the serious home cook.