Learn to Cook with “(Serious) New Cook”

Cover image courtesy Goodreads. Edited in Canva by the author.

(Full disclosure: This post contains Bookshop.org affiliate links. I received a complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review).

If there’s one thing I love, it’s cookbooks. I have a hefty collection of them in our kitchen and find them enjoyable to look at, cook from, and yes, even read cover to cover. 

When I heard about (Serious) New Cook, a cookbook designed to guide new chefs through basic techniques to make good food at home, I knew I had to check it out. Many thanks to Andrea Burnett PR and Rizzoli publishing for the complimentary review copy of this gorgeous, full-cover cookbook. 

Reviewing cookbooks is always an interesting task, as individual tastes and skill levels vary so greatly. So, I’m straying a bit from my usual review format to take a deep dive into this book. 

As you might expect, the authors begin with a basic overview of the techniques and tools you’ll need to be familiar with to tackle the recipes. There are plenty of full color photos so readers know what these tools and techniques actually look like, which I think would be incredibly helpful to someone just starting to cook on their own. 

What surprised me most about this book is how varied and interesting the recipes are. When I hear “new cook” I imagine some pretty basic stuff, like how to boil pasta or roast chicken. But the authors of this book don’t undersell the novice and instead choose a robust catalog of recipes include sushi, fish sandwiches, steamed pork dumplings, and chocolate cake. 

A lot of the dishes are the sort of thing one might order out at a restaurant, but not make at home. And here they are, broken down in easy-to-follow recipes! Even as someone who’s a bit older and knows her way around kitchen basics, I found myself excited to try some of these new recipes. 

Another interesting aspect of the book is that the recipes are given in sets of three. Each trio begins with a base recipe to help you learn a paticular technique, then you build upon and learn varations in the subsequent recipes. I like this idea a lot for teaching someone to cook, but it’s definitely a different way of approaching a cookbook. 

So far, I’ve made two recipes from (Serious) New Cook, the biscuit-topped chicken pot pie recipe and the flourless chocolate cake. Both were easy to follow and clearly written, though I will say that the chocolate cake didn’t turn out well for my friends and I (we underbaked it). The pot pie, however, converted my husband (he refuses to eat anything approaching a savory pie). I think we will definitely be making it again!

In all, I think this cookbook is a great resource for those newer to cooking and those who are looking to branch out and learn some new recipes for their kitchen repertoire. (Serious) New Cook came out in November 2022, so you can grab a copy from your bookstore of choice now! 


“Flour Power” Will Level Up Your Sourdough Game

Book cover sourced via Amazon. Loaves of bread by me. Image edited in Canva

The year was 2020, and basically everyone was suddenly so into sourdough, grocery stores ran out of flour. I know this because I was one of those people cultivating a sourdough starter and fighting the constant existential dread with bread. 

I’d been following Tara Jensen on Instagram since I read one of her essays for my graduate Food Writing course. She is a writer and baker whose first book, A Baker’s Year, forever changed the way I make pie. In 2020, she began a series of Instagram stories about the care and keeping of sourdough. I needed no further convincing. I gathered my materials, started a starter, and embarked on the sourdough journey. 

I can’t count the number of times I wished for a comprehensive book about sourdough. I loved Jensen’s stories and found other helpful resources online, but I’m a book human, and books are how I like to learn things. 

Jensen must have heard my pleas through the interwebs, because she wrote the bread bible I dreamed about. It’s called Flour Power, and it came out last month. I am obsessed. 

Gif sourced from Giphy.com

I don’t often review cookbooks because they’re such a unique genre and depend very much on a person’s preferences and comfort in the kitchen. But I just couldn’t resist the urge to arm flail about this magnificent tome that now graces my full-to-bursting cookbook shelf. 

This book is so comprehensive, it even includes a guide to milling your own flour if that’s your jam. There’s plenty of guidance on how to cultivate different varities of sourdough starters, including the science behind how the heck a starter works in the first place. Essentially, everything I wanted to know about sourdough between two covers. 

Following the guidance in this book for the care and keeping of a sourdough starter, I’m cultivating a new one (my first died from neglect, and also the fact that I was apparently never taking care of it properly in the first place.) 

So far, I have tried three of the sourdough recipes in Flour Power. It amazes me how slightly different combinations of flour, water, and starter can produce such different loaves. Like she leveled up my pies forever, Jensen’s instructions and guidance for bread making are changing my sourdough game as well. 

Jensen approaches bread making like the artist that she is, and her recipes include photographs and careful instructions that make them easy to follow. Her writing chops make the book a pleasure to read even if you’re not actively using it to make anything. I’d know, because I sat on the couch reading through it when it arrived. 

If you have any interest in learning to make better bread, I highly recommend starting with this book. I wish I’d had it during my first foray into bread baking, and I’m delighted to have it around now. 

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