Cooking from A to Zest: DVD Review

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We know a lot of good home cooks. They clip, bookmark and try recipes, watch endless hours of food shows, love to eat out and talk about the next trend in food. Their cooking is good and they want it to be great, but something is missing. The recipe collections and food shows pass along ingredients with directions but not behind the scene know how.

The recently released DVD Cooking from A to Zest promises to make up for the lack of know how and teach you to cook like a pro. The basic yet essential techniques and fundamentals of cooking taught at culinary schools are presented in this 4 volume (over 8 hours!) DVD set.

Find out more after the jump.

Volume 1: Build Your Kitchen: Knives, Knife Cuts, Essential Kitchen Equipment, Build the Pantry
Geared for the clueless novice, host Kierstin Buchner teaches how to build a well-stocked kitchen, from equipment to pantry ingredients.
We liked: Introduction to knives. Interviews: Mark Bitterman owner of The Meadow (specialty salt shop) and Chef/Co-owner Leather Storrs of Noble Rot (wine bar).
Missing: How to find the proper angle to hone a knife and how to sharpen a knife at home.
Annoying: Recommendation: purchase a full set of cookware. Sets don't always match the needs of the cook.

Volume 2: Stocks, Soups, and Mother Sauces
We liked: Making stocks from scratch and use in soup bases and derivative (small) sauces. Fixing a broken hollandaise sauce. Storing delicate sauces in a thermos, to hold, before serving.
Missing: Equipment needed and not covered in Volume 1; cheesecloth and chinois (conical strainer and stand) used for stock making.
Annoying: Using the name "flavor sachet" instead of culinary term- bouquet garni.

Volume 3: Vinaigrettes, Salads, Vegetables, Potatoes, Pasta, Grains and Legumes
We liked: Tips to cooking perfect pasta: add plenty of salt to season water, don't add oil to water (sits on the top of water, inhibits sauce from coating pasta), reserve some pasta water to add to sauce of finished dish (adds flavor and smoothes out sauce)
Missing: Ingredient measurements for all recipes during preparation.
Annoying: Kierstin channeling Giada. (Note: she was part of Giadia's Food Network team)

Volume 4: Cooking Methods: Eggs, Meat, Poultry, Fish
We liked: Time and temperature instructions for pan frying, braising, stewing and roasting. Interview with the butcher: meat selection and use.
Missing: Use herbs and spices as flavor enhancers, less reliance on salt.
Annoying: We feel like couch potatoes and would rather be in the kitchen ourselves.

The set would make a fun gift for a beginning cook as well as the cook who is timid in the kitchen. It is a good reference set for the cook wanting a personal tutorial, one that allows instant replay. For more of what you learn from A to Zest, check out What's a Whisk one food bloggers journey through the coarse.

For us, nothing beats hands on experience. We want a live instructor to encourage and correct our efforts. We want to smell and taste the food!

We are recommending Cooking from A to Zest for those who enjoy the freedom of home instruction at their leisure. Watch an entire volume or reference a particular selection from the menu. After mastering the techniques and recipes provided you'll be ready to loose those training wheels and coast in the kitchen.

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