Molly Baz succeeds with the classics in her gorgeous first book, but struggles with creativity (except on recipe titles).
This is one of the more personality-forward cookbooks I’ve reviewed, and I think you definitely have to be into Molly’s whole shtick to fully appreciate it. Abbrevs abound with “k-bas” standing in for “kielbasa”, “potato c’s” replacing “potato chips” (Editor’s note: this does not reduce the number of syllables), and, of course, the obligatory “cae sal”. Et tu, Bru?
The book is meant to provide “techniques that teach and recipes to repeat”, and I think this book has a lot of good qualities about it. Her direction on how to re-balance a dish that’s too salty, sweet, or sour is great advice (we'll get back to the irony of this shortly)! I also agree whole-heartedly with her golden rules — especially tips like cooking to the visual indicator. That kind of advice firmly plants this book into the “Beginner Cookbook” category for us, so we turned off our intuition and cooked it explicitly as-written (like a beginner would) and judged it within that context.
One great trick is the clever QR codes sprinkled through the intro to help if it’s your first time slicing a fennel bulb or making mayonnaise. That thoughtful detail set my expectations high with this book — I was honestly hoping to see more of those little tricks sprinkled throughout, but what I got from the recipes themselves was underwhelming and mostly focused on plating aesthetics.
Most of the recipes were middling, but some just flat out didn’t work as written. The Piri Piri(-ish) Chicken sounded great in theory, but due to its lack of internal seasoning and extremely long recommended cook time was dry and mostly flavorless. Dishes like the Grapefruit and Burrata Salad with Chili Crisp also leaned too much on a single flavor profile (in this case, bitter) or non-complementary textures in the case of Shrimp with 20 Cloves of Garlic which made them a little tiring to eat.
We did have some hits alongside the misses though, and there were a few little touches we loved, such as Molly's use of sambal oelek in the Linguine and Clams recipe and the heavenly Master Beans to add ferment-y depth and a little bit of kick where things could otherwise be boring. That was where this book really excelled for us — making tiny, thoughtful improvements to basic dishes.
After 5 intensive days with this book, I can confidently say that if you are someone who loves Molly Baz (and aren't afraid of a little salt) you’ll really enjoy this cookbook.