Imagine taking a cooking course at Le Cordon Bleu-Paris. What might you learn ? You would, undoubtedly, become familiar with the foundational cooking techniques which are universal to all cuisines and begin to master the use of basic ingredients which are common to many recipes. So, while you can’t necessarily skip over the ocean on a whim to improve your cooking and baking abilities, you can check out Ruhlman’s Twenty and read the book that will make you a better cook, by introducing you to these very things.
Michael Ruhlman has distilled all the possibilities of cooking techniques to the twenty he deemed the most fundamental. Number one technique: think. “Thinking in the kitchen is underrated”, he instructs. ”Before you begin. Stand still. Think.” Another technique: braise, which he calls, “a kind of emblem of the true cook”. Also: sauce. "Sauce completes a dish, adding succulence, seasoning and color...that's how you turn something good into something fantastic". And: soup. "If you've got chicken stock, you've got a meal". His instructions for all these various procedures are clear, concise and de-mystifying and, in addition, beautifully illustrated and demonstrated with pertinent recipes.
Releasing the untapped potential of key ingredients qualifies as technique as well, and he orients you to the best and most essential: onion, salt, egg, butter. “Butter. Give me butter. Always butter!” (Look here to see who said that.) Ruhlman is opinionated (do not use iodized salt; making bacon is easy; the egg is divine) and almost religiously devoted to the experience of preparing and presenting good food. The recipes he includes could be the essential canon of eating; you could own this ‘cookbook’ and never need another.