Fangirling on Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

This isn’t our official post on cooking recipes this book. We’ll do that at some point in the near future, although I did recently cook the Buttermilk Chicken from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (it was pretty great, and her instructions for positioning the chicken were fantastic).

Find the book here on Amazon.

So, this book is the first cookbook that I’ve read cover-to-cover. As in, every word, even the introduction and the index, AND, I also loved it so that when the collection of prints from the book came out, I bought it immediately. I’ve also purchased multiple copies of this book for other people and own it on both the Kindle and in hardcopy.

Why do I love this book so much? Well, it completely changed my relationship to cooking, and maybe even changed my relationship to food a little bit. It helped me connect a lot of the things I know about taste and flavor (and palate) to the actual real world experience of putting a meal together. Additionally, it is damn well-written. Samin has an incredibly engaging writing voice, and an easy way of explaining things, which helped propel me through the book.

It is because of Samin and this book, that I am tempted (and probably will try) to make my bete noire (or bete blanche, as it may be), mayonnaise: a substance I hate with a fiery passion. I have also begun to salt all of my meat, as soon as I possibly can, which…is a game changer. Drastically improves the flavor and texture of meat. I’ve long been a proponent of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, and it was fascinating to find out WHY I liked it so much, in addition to all of the different uses for it. If you don’t have any, GET SOME NOW, and your food will improve. I promise. Between the book and the show, I also learned about a bunch of other kinds of salt, and found some Maldon at a local store (also available at Amazon through that link), which is great as a finishing salt, and because it has a cool pyramid shape (just the way it was illustrated in the book).

In comparison to other books, I think that Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat does a much better job of explaining how to put together high-end restaurant-quality dishes at home than others. For instance, I love Ina Garten’s book, Cook Like a Pro, but it explains more about the mechanics of the techniques than the WHYs behind them. Which is great, but for annoying question-askers like myself, the why’s are crazy important.

I particularly love the flavor matrices in the book, and felt that they were excellent introductions to flavor pairings. There are a number of other books that go more in-depth on flavor pairings, such as The Flavor Matrix and The Flavor Thesaurus, but I don’t feel that these two books contextualize the flavors with technique and science the way that Samin does in her book (not that I don’t love the other two books also).

Example of a flavor matrix from the book.

Reading this book led to me Kenji Lopez-Alt’s book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, although I’ve read his articles fairly frequently during frantic internet searches to answer stupid cooking questions that I’ve had over the years. I haven’t finished this book yet, but again, am pretty excited to get to the recipes.

Also, because I’m a complete nerd, I asked for (and got, from my mother) the Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) textbook, The Professional Chef, which I have skimmed through, and have been enjoying for the techniques and the vocabulary words that I’m learning. Hilarity ensued, by the way, when I asked my mother for the CIA textbook for Christmas. She paused and responded hesitantly, “CIA?” Right. Forgot to explain that I meant the Culinary Institute, not the Central Intelligence Agency. Heh.

Lastly, I have watched all of the Netflix series with Samin, also titled Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, and loved it. She’s incredibly charming on the show, and I really enjoyed how she presented her material. Chris ended up watching it with me, and says that he liked it. The kids also watched it, off and on, and seemed to be captivated by it when they were in the room… but sitting still is hard. (I should know, I’m ADHD (or whatever the current term for this is) as hell, and cannot sit and watch something without knitting or a phone game, etc.)

I can’t wait for her next book/show/whatever, and I can’t recommend this book enough.


2 thoughts on “Fangirling on Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

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