If you had to choose one book this season and only one book to be your cooking bible, Cooking by James Peterson is an awfully good candidate. Filled with 600 recipes, 1500 photographs it is a "kitchen education". Peterson walks you through all of the French basics and then some.
When you want to return to the classics or just experience them for the first time, Peterson is a tremendously experienced teacher. He learned to cook in France, taking both classes at the Cordon Bleu and working the kitchens of three star Michelin restaurants. He ran his own restaurant in New York and has taught cooking for the last twenty years.
Peterson's writing is detailed, and the photo lessons are a great way to really see techniques up close. The book covers the 10 basic cooking methods, and then just about every category of food including such things as sauces, pastries and custards. Peterson admits to a bias towards French and Mexican cuisine, but there are also Moroccan, Thai, Indian and Italian recipes, to name but a few. They tend to be the more emblematic dishes to be sure.
The only other how-to book with so many photos that I can think of is Jacques Pepin's Technique book. It is for both beginners and advanced cooks and unlike the CIA book The Professional Chef, it geared for home cooks, albeit home cooks who might want to take on making croissants, warm sea urchin mayonnaise, or a foie gras terrine. My only complaint about the book is that some of the non-basic recipes are not very authentic. For example the Moroccan chicken tagine is not cooked in a tagine, but simmered on the stove in a pan, delicious I'm sure, but not really a tagine. Regardless of my quibbles, this book is a treasure trove of great recipes and techniques and tremendous value for the price ($26.40 on Amazon, including free shipping).
Squid Braised in Red Wine
makes 4 main-course servings
3 pounds squid, cleaned, hoods cut into 1/2 inch rings, tentacles left whole
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups full-bodied red wine
Rinse the squid and let drain in a colander. Gently cook the onion, carrot and garlic in the olive oil in a pot large enough to hold the squid. When the onion turns translucent, after about 10 minutes, add the squid and stir over high heat. Continue stirring until the liquid released by the squid completely evaporates. Add the red wine and the bouquet garni and simmer gently, partially covered, for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer until the sauce cooks down and thickens slightly but still remains soup-like. Season with salt and pepper and serve in heated soup plates. Pass the aioli and bread at the table.
Recipe courtesy of Cooking by James Peterson, Tenspeed Press, 2007