Ever wonder why a brined chicken tastes juicier than a chicken straight from the package, or freshly picked corn tastes sweeter than corn that's further from the farm? This volume is full of answers for the curious cook, providing not only terrific recipes for favorites like Blue Cheese-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin and Down-Home Mashed Potatoes, but also explanations for why the recipes work. Crispy Fish Tacos get their crunch from oil heated to 375 degrees-any hotter and the oil starts to smoke and break down, any cooler and the fish turns mushy. Moist Chocolate-Mint Layer Cake is scrumptious-smooth because the recipe calls for extra egg yolks, which add fat and moisture. And if chopping the onions for French Onion Soup brings tears to your eyes, the book suggests chilling the onions for thirty minutes to slow the sulfurous chemical reaction that irritates eyes. For the most part, recipes are simple and familiar: American classics with a few detours through Mexico and Italy. But they are, for the most part, healthy, easy to follow and tasty, and livened by the ""secrets"" that go with them.