Timothy Ferriss's new book The 4-Hour Chef isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure guide to the world of rapid learning. Here's an excerpt:
CHEAT SHEETS FOR EVERYTHING
Any subject can be overwhelming. Magazines have to fill editorial space month after month with “new” recommendations and the result is predictable: clashing recommendations, uncertainty, information deluge, and opting out.
To stem the tide, I have a constant checkpoint posted over the walkway into my atrium: Simplify.
Above the sign rests the beautiful and brutal Nepalese khukuri, a curved knife symbolic of the legendary Gurkha military regiments. Field marshal Sam Manekshaw, a former chief of staff of the Indian Army, was quoted as saying: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or a Gurkha.” The blade is in my home to remind me of the importance of decision. The word decision, closely related to incision, derives from the meaning “a cutting off.”
Making effective decisions—and learning effectively—requires massive elimination and the removal of options.
The easiest way to avoid being overwhelmed is to create positive constraints: Put walls that dramatically restrict whatever it is that you’re trying to do.
In the world of work, a task will swell in complexity to fill the time you allot it, a phenomenon often referred to as Parkinson’s Law. How does so much get done just before you leave for holidays? It’s the power of the clear and imminent deadline. Though vastly simplified, in the world of cooking, Le Chatelier’s Principle is invoked to remember that a gas will expand to fill the size of its container.
So…all we have to do is create a tiny container: the wonderful one-pager.
The goal here is to make something intimating unintimidating, so you don’t quit. You have the rest of your life to seek out and master the exceptions, to be comprehensive, if you want.
I use two different types of one-pagers:
1. The first is the Prescriptive One-Pager, which lists principles that help you generate real-world examples. In short: “Here are the rules.”
2. The second is the Practice One-Pager, which lists real-world examples to practice that indirectly teach the principles.
Let’s create a prescriptive one-pager for almost all of the recipes in The 4-Hour Chef. Ready?
Just follow these rules:
Use a probe thermometer for just about everything. You’ll never need to guess if something is done or not again.
JUST STEAM IT
Just steam vegetables: Put 1/2” of water in a pot, throw in the veggies, cover, and leave for 15 minutes on a burner set to high. Squeeze lemon juice on them just before serving.
Set the oven at 350°F (180°C). Setting the oven at 350 will work more than 90% of the time. Just use the probe thermometer and cook all proteins until the internal temperature reaches 140°F (60°C).
For each type of protein, there is a spice or herb that will never fail you. (Don’t forget to add Maldon sea salt.)
- Fish → fennel or dill
- Beef, pork, or lamb → rosemary
- Lamb → mint
- Eggs → tarragon
- Tomatoes → basil
Add one or more of the following to make anything delicious
- Montreal steak rub
- Prosciutto – it’s already cooked, like bacon
TOP IT OFF
For entertainment or conversational value, offer one of the following as a topping at the table:
- Edible green tea leaves (eatgreentea.com)
- Lemon or “Buddha’s hand” zest (using Microplane)
- Crickets, roasted and placed in a pepper grinder; they taste nutty.
MAKE IT PRETTY
To make your served food look pretty and “restaurant made”:
- Sprinkle sliced almonds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), or chopped chives on top.
- Stack things atop or against each other on the plate: make the food look tall.
If you need an appetizer for a group and want to minimize stress, always go cold: make gazpacho in advance and leave in the fridge until ready.
AND… THAT’S IT
You’ll make awesome stuff, and nothing should be overcooked or undercooked. Congrats! You are now cooking better than at least 50% of the people in the entire U.S.!