Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ratio - Michael Ruhlman

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday CookingTwo books cover to cover in one afternoon, needless to say I am in ocular distress. Well Ruhlman has done it again with Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, and produced yet another book that any cook would probably agree is useful (as opposed to every other cookbook on the shelf). Alton Brown describes this book best as:

"Cooking, like so many creative endeavors, is defined by relationships. For instance, knowing exactly how much flour to put into a loaf of bread isn't nearly as useful as understanding the relationship between the flour and the water, or fat, or salt . That relationship is defined by a 'ratio,' and having a ratio in hand is like having a secret decoder ring that frees you from the tyranny of recipes. Professional cooks and bakers guard ratios passionately so it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Michael Ruhlman is forced into hiding like a modern-day Prometheus, who in handing us mortals a power better suited to the gods, has changed the balance of kitchen power forever. I for one am grateful. I suspect you will be too." -- Alton Brown"

It is very true that cooks, and bakers are very fond of ratios. Ratios are far easier to remember then recipes. The first ratio I learned while attending culinary school was the all important Mirepoix: 2 part onion, 1 part carrot, 1 part celery. I suspect however that bakers are far bigger utilizers of ratios on account of their holy baker's percentages. Which is exactly what I find so exciting about this book. I mostly glazed over any cooking related ratios involving stock, consomme, and the like, but absolutly ate up the section on dough, batters, and custards. This knowledge to me was absolute gold, something I had been previously ignorant about. I would recommend buying this book purely based off those chapters. However, if  you are a baker I am sure you probably already knew all that stuff anyway. I really hope someone takes Ruhlman's concept and runs with it on a more macroscopic level. Could you imagine The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs  geared completely towards ratios? The exact proportions required for the most original version of Tapenade, or Coq au Vin? Ok, perhaps thats a little far streched and takes the creativity out of the cooking, but I for one would buy it. Thanks Ruhlman for reaffirming my faith in culinary literacy.