I'm looking for a technique-based cookbook geared towards 2 cooks; a beginner and an average home cook looking for more variety. More than a straight compendium of recipes, I'd prefer something that illustrates techniques, then suggests variations, but not just recipe variations, more like guidelines; "try these herbs instead". Photos rather than simple line drawings showing some steps are helpful, because the dude's skills could generously be described as rudimentary, somewhere below a beginner. He knows cooking temps and grills whatever's on the platter I hand him.
One thing that I'd really like to see are what herbs and spices play well together in sauces or to season meat/veggies. For example, lots of books suggest the same dozen or so herbs/spices to season fish, but ways to combine them? Crickets. Or they've got pages and pages of spice lore, but despite detailed flavor notes, each is treated very broadly ("use on fish, meat and chicken"). Where's the information on great ways to spice up steamed or sautéed veg? Maybe I'm asking too much, but in any case, really good chapters on sauces and seasonings will score big with me. If I can't get the general guidelines I'd like, I'll settle for scads of seasoning/sauce recipes, which in the end will teach the same thing.
I've got the 2006 ATK Family Cookbook, and it tries, but is so fussy about it's own techniques, that it often takes the simple out of simple and everyday, which the dude needs. And it's variations don't do much to encourage experimentation, being complete recipes in themselves.
In summary, the techniques are for my Dude, the endless variety is for me.
With that in mind:
1. Which one of the cookbooks you own do you think will be best for us?
2. What is it's strongest point?
3. Where do you wish it were better?
Finally, (and thank you so much for your help!), what do you think of 2 books? Maybe HTCE: The Basics for him and something else for me? Which would you recommend?