The Kitchen Counter Cooking School – Kathleen Flinn

Posted 11 May, 2012 by Trish in In the Kitchen, Reading Nook, Review / 33 Comments

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Title: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
Author: Kathleen Flinn
Published: 2011 Pages: 274
Genre: Non-Fiction; Cooking
Rating: 5/5

In Short: Struggling to find use for her culinary know-how, author and chef Kathleen Flinn gathers nine ametuer cooks and teaches them simple yet helpful lessons in the kitchen—everything from knowledge of knives to making soup to roasting a chicken.

Why I read it: I first paid attention to this one when Lisa of Lit and Life reviewed it and then Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness read it. And then when Peppermint PhD reviewed it I immediately decided to recommend this one to my mom and sisters for our 2012 group read.

Thoughts in General: I loved this book. I think that the timing was perfectly right for me to read The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. I’ve been thinking about my own eating, especially as I’ve been really paying attention to Elle’s eating, and I started it around the same time that Scott and I started our Eat it Real challenge. I’m fairly confident in the kitchen but I don’t have a lot of skills—I’m eager to learn (thank you Ms. Beth Fish for letting me question your ear off) and am willing to make the mistakes to get the best end product. In that way I feel as though I differ from the other women in the book who didn’t have a lot of kitchen confidence and didn’t enjoy cooking. I may not be the best cook but I love cooking and experimenting.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is divided into chapters by different Lessons. These range everywhere from the correct way to hold and use a knife to knowing the taste of your ingredients to making use of what’s in your fridge to understanding just what’s in that box you’re using. Each chapter contains anecdotes from the individual lessons, progress reports from the various participants, a bit of history or background, and then a recipe or two. I read this book rather slowly—maybe over two months—and the individual lessons made the book easy to pick up and put down. Honestly I’m not sure that this is one you would want to read really quickly!

Even though not all of the material was new material for me, I had so many Aha! moments while reading this book. Keeping a bowl next to your chopping board for discard scraps? Duh! Different spice and oil parings for flavor inspired meals? Awesome! Hand holding while I work up the courage to roast a whole chicken for the first time? Thank you! And many many more. While very seasoned cooks might not get as much out of this book as I did, I think that there is something for everyone. My only wish is that there would be more diagrams and pictures to go along with some of the instruction. For example, I had to actually pick up a knife so I could visualize how Flinn was describing the correct way to hold.

And…I didn’t think that this review could be complete without attempting to roast a whole chicken for the first time (roasting a whole chicken is a big deal in the book). Overall it turned out great! Except, I think I need to review my chicken anatomy as I roasted it breast down with all the spices on the backbone. Oops!

Bottom Line: This is a book that I will refer to time and time again and know that I could re-read it and pick up so many more tips. While it would be impossible for my cooking methods to change overnight based on this book, I found it very eye opening and I am much more aware now of how fresh my spices are, the best way to cut that onion, how simple it is to whip up a tasty and healthy meal. I recommend this book to anyone who would love a few little lessons in the kitchen—there is something for everyone to take away. Personally I’ll keep this one right next to the rest of my cook books!

Are you confident in the kitchen? How did you learn to cook?

Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

On the Blog:
One Year Ago – Memity Meme Meme Meme
Two Years Ago – In the Garden – Spring 2010
Three Years Ago – Sunday Salon 6 – Influence
Four Years Ago – The Innocent Man – John Grisham

33 Responses to “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School – Kathleen Flinn”


    Ahem. Sorry about that. I’ve just been meaning to read it forever, and now you’ve made me just about desperate to read it. I see a book store trip in my immediate future.

  2. Sounds like a good one. I could use some tips. I’m not incredibly confient in the kitchen and think I’m still learning how to cook. I didn’t really care about cooking until maybe ten years ago. I’m not one of those women who learned in her mom’s kitchen, but maybe that’s for the best.

  3. I’m with Heather. I have this book and have been meaning to read it, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I need to pull it out!

    I’m a total hack in the kitchen, everything is trial by fire. I’d love to be more knowledgeable about the ins, outs and whys of cooking. I think that knowledge would make me a little more adventurous in the kitchen.

  4. I read this one last year, just before Christmas. I kept reading bits of it to Mike and was going on and on and on about the knife chapter, in particular, on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning I opened a set of knives, completely unplanned.

  5. Nan

    I JUST in the past few months started keeping a bowl next to the cutting board while I’m chopping vegetables for the peelings, etc.. I came to it on my own after 64 years! Glad someone told you earlier!!
    I posted one of her videos once. I like her. Cheery and fun.

  6. Awww, I love your chicken pic. It is beautiful, even if it’s breast-side down.

    I want to read this book, too! Had my eye on it for a while, and I do love some foodiness.

  7. *Heather – There’s so much knowledge in this book that I think everyone will find something to take away. Hope you read it soon!

    *Carol – I learned a few things from my mom who is an excellent cook but I still struggle with pulling things together on the fly. Lots of intuitive information in this book but sometimes it’s nice to just see it written before you.

    *Teresa – Put it on your bedstand and read a chapter a night–it’s not really one to pick up and read in a day. I hope you get something out of it, though! I am currently on the search for more “WHY” books–like you I feel like understand the why will make me a better cook.

    *Kailana – Kathleen Flint strongly believes than anyone can cook given the right amount of information and tools. I definitely think that confidence leads to a more positive experience!

    *Lisa – LOL!!! Sounds like Mike was really tuned into the universe. The knife chapter was an interesting one for me–I still have troubles holding it correctly!

    *Nan – Another sin of mine is using a cutting board that is WAY too small and then having everything crowded together. Why do we make things so hard for ourselves?! ;) I’ll have to look for the video!

    *Andi – LOL! The chicken did turn out very purdy but I DIED when I cut it open and realized my mistake. Wasn’t even paying attention. ;) Hope you can get to this one!

  8. I’m still learning how to cook. That’s one of my favorite things about cooking. It’s always a work in progress. I need to pick this one up. Great post.

  9. I’m so glad someone wrote a book like this! While I can completely sympathize with the working moms of the 80s saving time with alot of frozen food and some takeout, I think a sad result is that my generation has grown up without knowing the basics of cooking. I was lucky; my mom cooked, but then again, she was a family studies teacher from several generations of farm women, and her job meant that she was home by 4:00. Lots of my friends, though, have kids of their own now and want to make food for their families, but don’t know their way around the kitchen. This is a great book to help revive the art of simple home cooking!

  10. *Bermuda – Ooooh, after this book you’ll want to roast a chicken. ;) Or not. But I hope you enjoy.

    *Linda – I agree–there is so much to learn about cooking that it’s always something that will stretch and challenge. I hope that you’ll read this one.

    *Trisha – I thought the book was an interesting one but it definitely got me thinking about my own cooking and eating.

    *Naomibrun – Thank you for visiting and your comment. It does seem like there is a big trend lately with homecooking from scratch rather than eating from the box. I think that our generation doesn’t realize that cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult and it can taste wonderful. I’ve been trying to think of ways to preserve food to make weekday cooking easier. I definitely hope people continue to read this one (and write books like this).

  11. I learned most of my cooking from tv shows. Thankfully they corrected many of the things my mom taught me wrong (she doesn’t use seasonings or spices on ANYTHING) and have led me to try a few new things. But I find that with each cooking and baking book that I pick up, I branch out and grow as a cook just a little bit more. I will definitely take a look at this one sometime soon!

  12. I don’t think there is tons here for the experienced cook but it’s definitely a great resource for techniques. My favorite part of the book was the end section with the flavor / spice ideas — it’s the perfect jumping off point to cooking without a recipe.

  13. I loved this one too! While I haven’t attempted to roast the chicken yet, I did make her simple alfredo sauce and it is AWESOME. So much better than what you get in a restaurant, and probably a lot better for you (even though it IS alfredo sauce, LOL). I definitely want to use other recipes in the book.

  14. *Kristen – I watched a lot of cooking shows when I was in college as well–funny how simple spices can really make all the difference. But also knowing how fresh your spices are and which ones to pair. I admit I’m guilty of keeping spices way too long! Hope you enjoy this one.

    *Beth F – I love the spice pairing section as well! There are a few things that I’ve learned through experience but there’s still so much to know! ;) And I appreciate all of your wisdom–it’s fun chatting food.

    *Heather/Book Addiction – Oooh, I haven’t tried her Alfredo sauce but I’ll have to give it a whirl. Think I even have heavy cream in the fridge. I did also try the bread and it was awesome. Need to whip up another batch!

    *Lisa/ButteryBooks – Like you I also learned to cook from my mom as well as cooking shows. It’s only recently that I’ve been trying to find more knowledge in books and online. I hope you like this one.

    *Carrie – The book is very accessible and there’s a lot in there for everyone. If you’re wanting to learn more about cooking, it’s a great hand-holder!

    *Joy Weese Moll – I DIED when I cut open the chicken and realized my mistake. I kept thinking that the legs laid so nicely under the chicken that I didn’t need any twine. ;) We learn best from our mistakes, right?

    *Beth S. – Have you read The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry? I’ve been wanting to read that one now, too.

  15. For many years it never occured to me that people didn’t learn to cook when they were young and living at home. My mom taught me to roast a chicken when I was twelve and then I could make sunday dinner. I learned one day that washing the potatoes did not mean to use dish soap. well, she never told me not to use soap. i do think that mom taught me to cook, because she doesn'[t really like to do it even though she is quite capable. I have made it a point to teach my kids and any of their friends who are in the house when I am cooking. They all seem interested. My son now cooks regularly while living at my sisters. If he wants food, he must cook, my sister works odd hours and really appreciates what he does. he sends texts to me asking cooking instructions. He has improved so much over the course oft he past year. Now he is even teaching some of his college class mates so they don’t have to spend a fortune eating on campus every meal.

  16. *Heather – I did learn to cook from my mom but mostly casserole/roast/easy dish type things. But I think it’s a great great idea to have little ones in the kitchen from an early age. We always helped so I felt more confident cooking when I went off to college than my roommates and friends. That is so fantastic about your son–I bet he’ll be able to impress a date one day. ;)

    *Libby – It really is a great book!

    *Carole – Hope you like this one.

  17. Sounds like a great book and chicken looks yummy. I cooked them breast side down when I was young and just starting out and it actually makes it really moist!

  18. This sounds like a good book. I was never taught how to cook, but like you, I’m not afraid to just get in there and try. I’m not sure if my techniques are proper, but I get the job done. Might be interesting to read just too see just how much I really don’t know!

    • *Kristi – honestly sometimes if the job gets done with cooking then that seems to work for me. ;) Baking, however, is a different story. I really want to learn how adding XYZ can change up the recipe.

  19. Les

    Three years (to the day!), I read Flinn’s memoir, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. (Review found here.) I thought it was wonderful and keep meaning to pick up a copy of her new book. I love to cook, but am always looking for explanations and new methods for various recipes and techniques. And, did someone mention a recipe for a delicious Alfredo sauce?? Yes, please!!

  20. *Les – I’ve been meaning to try the alfredo but keep forgetting about it. Maybe I’ll do that tonight for dinner since I don’t have anything else planned. I’ll have to check out The Sharper Your Knife. I recently picked up an Alton Brown book on the more “explanation” side of baking but don’t necessarily have the brainpower for it these days. ;)