Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It all comes down to ratios

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 11:15 AM

Michael Ruhlman is well known within culinary circles for his book The Making of a Chef. Before television shows like Top Chef, Ruhlman enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America and wrote a tell-all book describing his experience.

When I started blogging about my culinary courses I wasn't aware of Ruhlman's 1997 book but it appears we covered many of the same bases.

In my top ten list of things I learned at culinary school, number 5 was ratios. They're used everywhere in the kitchen and are at the heart of Ruhlman's new book, Ratios, which is being released today.



On his blog, Ruhlman says he wanted to write a book that "cuts to the core of cooking" and if this is the start of the ratio movement then I'm all behind it.

Too often I hear friends say they would cook more but they are terrible

at following recipes. Even if that's just an excuse, it makes the

point that many people see recipes not as a guide but as a foreign

language. It's not surprising when you consider that some of the

recipes in modern cookbooks require special molds and equipment.

But for most dishes, recipes are the

culinary equivalent of training wheels. And the key to abandoning these

recipes is ratios. In my ratio guide, I went over several of the

basics -- one gallon water to one pound pasta; three parts oil to one

part vinegar for vinaigrette dressing. Ruhlman touches on these and 31 more, including the bread dough one in the video. The other 200 odd pages of the book cover the tweaks and small additions you need to finish the dishes. Really, though, it's those 33 ratios that are important.

Besides the fact that they're easy to remember, the other reason I'm a ratio fanatic is that they are easy to pass along. You're not going to describe every detail of a sausage recipe to a friend over lunch (at least not a friend you want to dine with again) but if you casually mention that you just made some sausage and it was just three parts meat to one part fat, they're more likely to go, "Oh I could do that." And thus, another ratio convert is won.

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