Have to pipe in on Alton Brown. Although his schtick can be annoying, Alton`s show on Food TV is the best of the bunch for one big reason: Instead of just demonstrating recipes (which is fine) he cooks and tells you exactly why he does it the way he does.
The key to moving beyond a recipe-follower and becoming a good cook is technique, which sounds more imposing than it is. When you need something as simple as boiling salted water, when do you add the salt? The plain answer is after the boil. But why? Because you can pit your pot if the salt sits on the bottom waiting to be moved by the boiling action.
That`s a technique and there are countless others. Understanding why you do what you do not only helps you remember it, but also adds to your skill-set as a cook.
Alton`s one of the best cooking teachers I`ve encountered, and if you can`t stand the clown-act, check out his cookbooks. Excellent stuff.
On that note, anyone interested in discussing favorite/essential cookbooks? We could post as a new topic. I`ll start if you like.