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I know this was a trivial slip, a forgivable editorial error, but it's an error that illustrates my point: You can master Ruhlman's twenty noble techniques, but bake your angel food cake in a greased pan and you're screwed. Imagine a thick, yummy shortbread crust topped with cold, sweet, congealed vinegar.
These countless quirky, puny, nettlesome details really do matter. If you absorb Ruhlman's breezy generalizations about the importance of acid in cooking (that it will enhance your cream soups, butterscotch sauce, and pulled pork) you will definitely become a slightly better cook.
In fact, he tells you to pour the batter into a "prepared pan." There are several ways you could interpret this, and a novice might take "prepared pan" to mean a greased pan, which would be the right guess for almost any cake except angel food. Anyway, I refused to buy expensive cider vinegar on faith and used the 365 cider vinegar we had in the house.
As Michael Ruhlman writes in Twenty (more on that shortly), acid is typically used to "brighten" flavors, and I've had New Mexican pork dishes where tomatillos did just that. Duguid writes that oyster sauce gives the dish a "smoky undernote" but I didn't pick it up.I will never make poached eggs any other way again.*Here's exactly what Ruhlman says about angel food cake pans: Even if he had a tube pan, he writes in the headnote, he wouldn't use one because it's so hard to get angel food cake out of a tube pan.Classic chef arrogance and truth." But once you have these culinary fundamentals down, the kitchen is, so to speak, your oyster: "There's virtually nothing you can't do Each essay (one per technique) is followed by recipes. Short of arranging a cider vinegar tasting, does he have any advice?I decided to bake Ruhlman's angel food cake, which is topped with whipped cream and homemade toffee because the photograph was so beautiful I wanted to tear it out and frame it. You have to dig for it, but in his essay on "acids" there's this pearl of wisdom: "You usually get what you pay for. The best vinegars are delicious, not simply harshly acidic." In other words, if you're not up for buying and tasting all the vinegars on the shelf, grab the most expensive one.
But the flavors in this Burmese stew needed no brightening. Not bad, not good, not worth talking about at length.