Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School - Review + Recipe

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

This book has been on my TBR since pre-blogging days.  I got a text one day from Lisa over at Books Lists Life saying I just HAD to get this book.  So I did and fully meant to read it.  I even picked it up a few times but for some reason never actually started to read it.  Then I read her 3rd book Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good which was about her growing up days and her family and loved it.  In 2016 I read her 1st book - The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry about her time at Cordon Bleu and adored it.  So this year when looking for the first book of the year I decided it was finally time to take The Kitchen Counter Cooking School off the shelf and actually read it.  And I'm so glad I did!  This is like pure inspiration wrapped in book form and is interesting and entertaining as well.

The book starts off with the author Kathleen Flinn in the midst of a bit of an existential crisis.  She's written her first book, she's graduated from culinary school - now what?  The spark of inspiration comes after an encounter in a grocery store with a woman who really just didn't know what to do with the ingredients in front of her.  After some t
hinking and planning she starts a cooking class with 9 volunteers.  All people who don't feel comfortable in the kitchen and who rely either on takeout or packaged food and all people who are curious about doing better.

Now I'm a relatively experienced cook.  I make dinner at least 5 nights a week and very rarely use prepackaged ingredients.  I went in feeling pretty smug - I mean what could she possibly teach me?   I bake bread regularly, I can follow a recipe but alter it if need be, I'm not scared of messing up and am always willing to try new things so clearly this book would only be for entertainment and maybe a few recipes.  I don't know if it was because I started this on New Year's Day when I'm always looking for a new project or if it was my vague awareness that I wanted to change something in my food habits but this book got me THINKING.  Not just the huh.. that's interesting I need to keep that in mind thinking but the making lists and planning strategies kind of thinking.  I suddenly have the urge to inventory my pantry and refrigerator.  I want to read all the labels and know where all my food comes from.  I want to experiment more, taste more, think more and I'm super excited about it.  I feel like this book gave me clarity for something I was trying to change but hadn't really figured out how or what or why.

If you're not looking for massive inspiration this is still a good read.  Flinn comes across as informative but not like her way is the only way to do things.  The different students are interesting and I liked seeing how they dealt with each class and how they interacted with each other.  I also really enjoyed the chapters at the beginning where we met them and saw how they cooked and the chapter at the end which was a  revisit.  Some were more successful than others and it was really interesting to see the takeaway.  I think anyone interested in cooking would really enjoy it and get something out of reading it - from confident experienced cooks to people who are interested in cooking but nervous about it and unsure of where to start.

For a recipe I'm sharing one that I've already made several times in the few weeks since reading this book.  While not particularly low fat it is simple and just amazingly good.

Basic Alfredo Sauce

8 ounces cooked pasta
2 cups heavy cream (2 tablespoons reserved)
1/2 teaspoon 
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the pasta according to package directions, Carefully reserve one cup of the pasta water to use in the sauce.  Over medium high heat, add all but 2 tablespoons of cream to a saute pan or skillet.  When it bubbles, add the salt.  Small bubbles will erupt into larger bubbles.  Stir.  When the sauce thickens enough to cover the back of a spoon or leave a clean line in the bottom of the pan when you pull a spatula across it, add the pasta water.  Cook over medium high heat for about 3 minutes, until it bubbles again and the sauce thickens.  Add the reserved 2 tablespoons of cream, heat through, and then add the cheese, garlic (if using - I haven't), and a few cranks of pepper.  Taste, and add more salt if needed.  Add the cooked pasta and any additional ingredients and stir well to coat.

This stuff is so good!  I could pretty much eat a whole pot of it myself but I do try to be good and share!

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads


  1. I will have to look for this book. I need more sauce recipes too!

  2. You had mentioned you would be sharing an Alfredo recipe and I am so glad you did. Pasta is a weakness for me and this sauce needs to be made at our place soon.
    Nice review of the book, I think it's one I to my to-read stacks for this year. Sounds interesting,

  3. Hmm I have never heard of her or her books but they sound interesting. Glad this inspired you!!

  4. I bought this book at a library book sale during our Cape Cod vacation last fall. Even more excited to read it now... great review, Katherine!

  5. You've convinced me that she's an author to keep in mind.

    best... mae at

  6. I enjoyed her burnt toast book, so now look forward to getting this one. Good Alfredo sauce, simple but the best things are.

  7. I think I'm the only person alive who wasn't all that taken by this book. I didn't dislike it, but I had only a meh reaction. Maybe it was my mood at the time.

  8. I'm adding this book to my list! I love Alfredo sauce but have never made it myself. My daughter and her family eat pasta a few times a week so I'll give her this recipe.

  9. This book inspired me as well. And the recipe? Yum!

  10. This sounds like something that I would enjoy. I love homemade alfredo sauce but I tend to add a lot more cheese than this recipe calls for. Maybe I should actually follow a recipe instead of throwing things in a pot.

  11. Oh, this sounds like a good book, Katherine. I like that it has made you rethink some of your cooking habits and decide to change some things. I haven't read anything by this author, but will look for her books now that I know you have liked them so much.

  12. Sounds good. Sometimes I need to plan better foodwise. Sometimes I'm wishy washy and go by the wind or craving needs. I cook from scratch most of the time. I dislike it when a recipe uses Cream of Something.

  13. This sounds like a really interesting book, and speaks to a lot of Top Chef scenarios who say they like to cook with natural ingredients and have a hard time using canned or packaged food. Heck I need to be looking more at ingredients (lol) Sandra Lee may think differently though(lol)

  14. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I really like how she writes about food and the different glimpses into her life her books give. (The Leek and Potato Soup (Potage Parmentier) from this book is good too!) ;-)

  15. This was my favorite of her books. As soon as I was done reading it, my son and I got creative and raided the fridge to make several different salad dressings. So much practical advise that we tend to get away from.