Burnt Toast and Other DisasterA Book of Heroic Hacks, Fabulous Fixes, and Secret Sauces

A gifty, funny, and practical guide to transforming the most lackluster of ingredients into a delicious meal, making bad food good and making good food even better, from the author of the New York Times bestselling and IACP Award–winning Twelve Recipes.

Dinner is looking meh. Maybe the stove was left unattended for just a second too long for your original plan; maybe the on-sale meat at the supermarket isn’t looking quite worth the savings after two days in the fridge. Do you waste food and time trying to start from scratch, or money ordering takeout? No, you face up to the facts, step up your game, and transform that cooking conundrum into a delicious meal. The best way to do that? Follow the guidance of Cal Peternell, a chef coming out of the restaurant kitchen to meet cooks where they are with this funny, practical manual for making Bad Food Good.

Though many pro chefs may be able to get their sustainably sourced, locally grown, 100 percent grass-fed, organic ingredients and gently guide them through careful preparation to a simply sublime dish, most of us don’t achieve farm-to-table perfection in every step of the process. From facing down third-day leftovers that have lost a little of their luster to the limits of their local supermarket’s quality, many home cooks start at a disadvantage. With his signature dry wit and years of experience cooking for everyone from high-end restaurant patrons to his hungry family, Cal Peternell is here to level the playing field with this bag of tricks for turning standard (or substandard) fare into a meal to be proud of, troubleshooting such situations as:

  • Making the best of burned food (Burned your toast? Time to make Cheesy Onion Bread Pudding!)
  • Hacking packaged food (including 5 variations on “Hackaroni and Cheese”)
  • Things restaurants often do wrong and you can do better (including pesto, queso, bean dip, ranch, and more)
  • Spicing up lackluster vegetables (Brocco Tacos dazzle both in name and in flavor)
  • Snazzing up dishes with “special sauces for the boring” (including vegetable purees and an infinite variety of savory butter sauces)

Cal also includes a series of hilarious Old Man cocktails, ranging from the Bitter Old Man (one part bitter, one part brandy) to the Wise Old Man (8 ounces water and a good night’s sleep).

Up your cooking game by learning how to spin anything in your pantry or fridge into something special with Burnt Toast and Other Disasters.

Cal Peternell is the author of Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta, A Recipe for Cooking, and the New York Times bestseller and IACP Award–winning Twelve Recipes. He grew up on a small farm in New Jersey and earned a BFA in painting from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, then was inspired to pursue a cooking career while living in Italy with his wife, the artist Kathleen Henderson. After working at various acclaimed restaurants in Boston and San Francisco, he began a nearly twenty-two-year stint as the chef at Chez Panisse, first in the café and then the downstairs restaurant. Cal’s culinary-education podcast, Cooking by Ear, launched in 2018. Cal and Kathleen have three sons and live in the Bay Area.

“Peternell applies his Chez Panisse pedigree . . . to easily prove that ‘the humblest can be delicious, the good made great.’ . . . Peternell’s dry sense of humor is the main ingredient. . . . To err is human but to repair divine in this handy and hilarious manual.” -Publishers Weekly

“Along with great recipes…Peternell shows readers that burnt food is nothing to fear and is just another step—perhaps even a new beginning—in the culinary journey.” -Booklist

“There’s enough to worry about these days. Cooking, Peternell assures through each carefully written but not-too-serious recipe, shouldn’t be one of those things. So burn your vegetables, overcook the rice, and eat a tin of fish for dinner. It will be fine. Actually, it will probably be great.” -Eater

“A clever and useful guide to making messed-up food taste delicious. . . . [a] funny and highly giftable lemonade-out-of-lemons collection.” -Daily Democrat


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