The perfect combo.  Twenty & a pair of Spankettes. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I’m giving away a personalized Twenty and two awesome Spankettes in return for your ideas. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Short version: I ask you, cherished reader, what book would you like me to write next?

Update, 5/9, 8 p.m.: A winner has been chosen using randomizer: Aaron Weiss, a journalist and TV news director in Sioux City, Iowa. Thanks for commenting, Aaron, and for cooking with your family! Thank you everyone. Frankly, I was astonished by all the ideas and fascinated by the patterns. Still making my way through the nearly 500 comments.

My favorite suggestion, got filtered out due to a spam issue, from regular reader and commenter, Bob Tenaglio:

I’d call the book “Time; The Secret Ingredient You’ll Never See On Iron Chef,” and it would delve into dry-aged meat, fermentation, enzymatic transformation, what constitutes “freshness” and “rot,” the role of rigor mortis in meats and seafood, “low and slow,” development of flavors.

Very intriguing! Thanks Bob and thanks all. I’m blessed and grateful.


…and now back to the original post…

Complete version, or here’s what happened Thursday at Bar Boulud, my favorite culinary landing pad when touching down in NYC. I was there to meet with my editor, Michael Sand, of Little, Brown, which will be publishing The Book of Schmaltz in August, and in the spring, my innovative exploration of the kitchen’s most versatile ingredient. These were the known factors when I decided to hook up with this venerable publisher.

This, too, was known: I would also write four shorter, single-subject cookbooks. And this was the main topic as Sand and I munched through salads and jambon beurre and a taste of boudins noir et blanc (exquisite, all). What should those books be?

Ruhlman Singles will be about one-third the length of a traditional cookbook. Like The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, they will comprise 20 or so recipes, but recipes that might be short master classes on a specific idea and technique within that broader subject. In the Single for Roast, for instance, there would be a high-heat roast technique and recipe, a low, slow roast technique and recipe, a pan roast, etc., and it would explore all the finesse points, the techniques that take a dish from good to aaaawesome, recipes that gave my prose room to spread out, in a format that would allow photos of each dish and as many process shots as we feel needed. (Can’t tell you how many of you have thanked me, or Donna and me rather, for making you feel comfortable in the kitchen because of the process shots.)

The world doesn’t need more recipes, it needs more technique, and home cooks need more confidence and encouragement in the kitchen. (Because you’re not too stupid to cook, even though Kraft wants you to think you are.)

Sand and I mulled: should they be basic technique books, like roast? Or ones more suited to the ambitious home cook, like sous vide or fermentation (cooking with bugs!), or cooking with actual bugs, grasshoppers, and whatnot?! (As that’s Andrew Zimmern territory, I’ll probably stay out of the latter.)

Then Sand said: “Why don’t you ask your readers. What do they want?”

Well? I’d love to hear from you! I have a list of ten or so ideas already. But take a moment to tell me: if you could choose one subject for me to write and think about, to cook through and photograph, what would it be? As an enticement, I’m giving away to one of you, chosen by randomizer on Thursday, a signed and personalized copy of Ruhlman’s Twenty: Twenty Techniques, 100 Recipes, a Cook’s Manifesto, and two—yes TWO!—Spankettes, the middle-sized wooden spoon that is one of my most cherished and valuable tools in the kitchen. While the winner has to be chosen at random and live in the U.S. (postage issue, sorry Canada, England, Australia, India!), if I write about what you wanted me to write about, I will be eager to acknowledge and thank you by name (if you wish) in the book.

So, I ask you, with deep thanks for even clicking on this page, tell me, what should the next book be? I shall return to Sand today the revised manuscript on the world’s most versatile culinary ingredient, and photography will wrap up soon. What should I write about next?

If you liked this post, take a look at these links:

© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


484 Wonderful responses to “Twenty/Wood Spoon Giveaway
(with butcher’s string attached: need your help!)”

  • Dave Giese

    Sauced…sauces and drinks…in no particular order.

  • Peter Gobel

    Yes, sauces! You could break it into reductions, emulsions, etc… A lot of people would really appreciate pictures of the sauce-making process. Can’t tell you how many times people have asked me when making a sauce, “does this look right?”

  • Stefan Bloom

    A book on how long to cook things – how long to roast asparagus, grill chicken breasts, boil potatoes, etc. Even just a book of tables with basic timing guidelines would so far and away be the most useful book in my collection.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      i was taught in culinary school that the answer to all of these questions was: TILL ITS DONE! [chef vanishes]

  • Tristan A

    Spices and herbs please. I would love to have a useful explanation to understand how to use spices or herbs together: which ones work together, what’s their flavor profile, their affinity for certain foods.

  • gwyn

    lots of good ideas in here! what about a book about flavor profiles? what are the components of indian, spanish, southeast asian, greek, you get the idea. we could then riff without having to buy a bunch of cuisine-specific cookbooks.

    or a book on building flavor. that may sound rudimentary, but i think it’s a pretty sophisticated thing. I learned some tricks from Twenty, and now go through more fish sauce then i ever expected. there must be other things like that. how to build flavor in sauces, soups, sandwiches, cocktails. those ‘hidden’ things that you can’t really identify but really make a dish belly-pleasing.

    one last thought–a book about spirits/cocktails. maybe with appetizers. the happiest hour. that’s just me.

    can’t wait to read it!

  • Merri

    Salad dressings, starting with a good vinaigrette. It sounds so easy, but it’s just not. I’d like to make all my own (get away from high fructose corn syrup you know) and I do make some. But I just haven’t mastered doing in instinctively, without looking for a recipe.

    PS, I’m a self-taught, late to cooking type. So maybe other people are better at this than I am.

  • SSmith

    Your straightforward approach to cooking with wholesome, natural, readily available ingredients brought this cook to seek out your books. Please do a cookbook on cooking in cast iron. I love what you do with Le Creuset. I have cooked forever, but relocated a year ago to a remote ranch with no microwave. Cast iron is awesome, and I enjoy your recipes so much!

  • Greg Smith

    A shellfish book would be welcome – teaching seasonality, selection and properly cooking….

  • Richard

    Food for week or some period of time or function for the family, educate on nutrition, organization of the week, lesson on cooking, shopping, breaking the fast food, processed habit. Social connections related to food and sitting down to the table. Achievable goals for these crazy times we live in. Establishing tradition in a family, passing on family history. Kinda the Sunday gravy thing. Twenty things to bring the family back together through food.

  • Jenny J.

    Please write a book about fermentation (including recipes and technique on sauerkraut & sourdough bread). Michael, I appreciate how you provide books on technique in order to encourage us to cook delicious food. By the way, Twenty is an amazing book. I have a copy for myself, I have given a copy to my sister, and I am giving a copy to my cousin who is getting married next month.

  • Michael Hermann

    My suggestions:
    Sauces – starting from mother sauces through to modern approaches
    Curries – so much to be tapped here
    Mixing types of food origins – “fusion” stuff
    Farmer’s Market – could go into how to find the best ingredients, what to look for, what to skip
    Building a meal – how to construct a smooth and balanced multi-course menu

  • Jennyox

    Entertaining. I like feasts and parties. Your take on menus and timings, cooking ahead and last minute flourishes, drinks made by the batch, etc. would be a very good read. That being said, I will read whichever book you write next.Thanks for calling me “cherished”, and this is a nice prize.

  • Scott Kelley

    I would truly enjoy a book on knives, how to use the, maintenance and then move on to skills and butchering. I want to learn how to take apart anything.

  • Todd B.

    Trying to think of things that are not covered well overall, sous vide or wood fired. Although I also like jennyox’s idea of an entertaining time line as well.

  • Rachel

    A mini-cookbook on eggs would be welcome, especially how to use the protein and fat to best advantage to raise, emulsify, and thicken various dishes.

  • Mary

    Cuts of meat (roasts, steaks, etc…) and how to cook them so that they taste great! So wishing for this. I’m mostly vegetarian only because veggies are inexpensive and easy to grow, so you can experiment and get to being great at cooking them. But a roasts and steaks remain mysterious to me, are very expensive, and unless I’m braising, I’ve always been saddened by a less than flavorful outcome of my attempts.

  • Libby

    Sous vide, absolutely! I have a homemade crockpot adapter, but I haven’t done much more than make (amazing) steak in it, and confit duck.

  • jodonnell

    Poaching. The forgotten step-child. Rarely seems to be included for anything but eggs. Isn’t confit included?

  • Jeffrey T. Verespej

    I would like to see the following topics as short books:

    1) Spices & Flavoring (combinations, how to pick the right flavor)
    2) Sauces
    3) Fat (fat doesn’t make you fat, how to use it (and the right kinds) responsibly)

  • Christopher Cina

    A book on grains such as quinoa, teff, millet, and kamut. These are usually ancillary topics in other food and cookbooks.

  • keith karp

    Not to take a page out of Kurlansky’s portfolio, but a book on butter and it’s applications would help to re-invest americans in what is clearly the only healthy choice when it comes to cooking/baking.

  • Brendan

    Dishes where meat features more as condiment than main course. You had touches of this in Schmaltz. As a person working to eat less meat in general, (despite being a committed omnivore) this is a topic of great interest.

  • robynski

    I know you’re just coming off Schmalz but I would really love a short book on Lard. From rendering to pie crusts and everything involved in that journey.

  • Samuel

    Fermentation! All types are fascinating, foods, drinks. Jeff Smith had a quote that was something like “yeast is proof of god, how could something theater makes beers, wine, cheese, bread etc. be random?”

  • Alex

    Lunch! What used to be such a nice break from work, to be enjoyed, is now – for most Americans – something to work through, or to ‘grab something quick’ … i’d love a book focusing on a few great lunch recipes, and a new innovative look at it.

  • Pamela Garelick

    I would love to see a book on tips and techniques that you and your colleagues have collected over the years. For example I learnt about how to tell that a steak is done by pressing my fingers on to my thumb pad. I’d like a book that explains the science of cookery like Harold McGee but perhaps in simpler terms with examples. Why do we put the oil in the mayo mix slowly. Perhaps this is too ‘beginner’ ish for most of us, but perhaps a book encouraging those who think that cookery is so complicated and it’s not for them! Just a few ideas. Gluten free perhaps as well.

  • Elsieb

    When it’s done. Eggs, meat, cakes, everything. A common failure in cooking, getting to know the perfect moment. Visually, tactile, auditory etc.

  • Ryan K

    Sous vide would be great. A short on vinaigrette. Veal Stock!

  • RBH

    You’re Doing it Wrong: Why Professional Chefs’ Food Tastes Better Than Yours and How to You Can Cook Like One

  • Allison

    Sous vide for the home cook; make-ahead dishes, especially for entertaining and potluck.

  • Allison

    Oh, also, how about a book of all the delicious simple things that are too simple to fit in a recipe book.

  • Mike

    I would like to see a book on side dishes. As a home-cooked, it’s not hard to find recipes online or in books such as yours for the main course. When you put together a nice meal for friends or family, you want more than just one dish. So my suggestion has two elements. The first is for some tasty dishes to accompany various meals. The second part, and to me actually the more important part, is the time element. It would be great to find a book that specifies what can be partially or fully done ahead. A book that gives advice on how to multitask in the kitchen so that the side dishes come out at about the same time as the main course.

  • Ginger P

    I would love to see a book on legumes. I am from the south and beans are found in every kitchen… although, usually only prepared with ham hocks and cornbread for “sopping”. Don’t get me wrong, I love my heritage and my Momma’s soup beans, but I would love to see such a rustic and humble staple refined. Not only are they an excellent source of protein, but they are also gluten free and can be prepared vegetarian (if necessary). Plus, they are readily available year round and relatively inexpensive. Imagine one cookbook linking a multitude of diverse cultures, cuisines, and financial backgrounds.

  • Aquanetta

    FIre and Water: the science of heat and moisture, how to work with them to get the results you want with various methods of cooking.

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