If one of your resolutions for the new year was to become a better cook, David Chang of Momofuku fame has a new book out that can help you achieve it. Memorably titled “Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave): A Cookbook,” this isn’t just a collection of recipes or a primer on how Chang operates as a professional chef. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is a detailed glimpse of the very different habits and techniques he cultivated while cooking at home for his family during the pandemic.
Rule number 1 is that there are no rules. This realization came to him gradually as an epiphany. In the introduction to the book, which was co-authored by New York Times food columnist Priya Krishna, he writes:
It took me a while to realize … that what ‘cooking’ meant had long been defined for me, by others. First, by culinary school, where I was taught that there is a ‘right’ way to cook and a ‘wrong’ way to cook, whether it’s braising meats or saucing pasta. Then, early in my career, I worked primarily in European-fixated restaurants, where the whole point is to make the same thing, the same painstaking way, again and again. You have to follow the rules. You can’t just make stuff up. And so I forced myself to learn the rules.
As a home cook, Chang came to understand that the microwave — an absolute taboo in the professional kitchen — is a useful aid.
Chang urges readers not to be a slave to recipes — to play and experiment with ingredients. As an illustration, he details a meal that he cobbled together shortly after his family had moved into a new rental house during the pandemic. “When we arrived,” he writes, “the cabinets had dried thyme and bouillon cubes — and that was it. I diluted a bouillon cube in water, mixed it with crushed tomatoes, and added some sugar, salt, and fish sauce that we brought with us. I served it over pasta. It was great.”
You can buy a copy of “Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave): A Cookbook” on Amazon.