Thursday, January 21, 2010

A recipe: Just a Guideline

Depending on whether you have been cooking for years, or just starting out, I thought a good introduction would be about recipes. Recipes are this: Just GUIDELINES!
Whether the recipe was written by Rachel Ray, Emeril, Thomas Keller or some sweet old lady in upstate New York, you will not necessarily share the same tastes. Recipes can be modified to fit your palate. What if a recipe calls for garlic and you hate it? What if you really like a lot of citrus in your salad dressing? (Miss Jen!) Now, if you are just starting out cooking, look for recipes that you think you will like. As you gain confidence in the kitchen and with ingredients you will feel more comfortable experimenting. As one of my Chefs in cooking school said about ingredients, “Don’t be afraid, they’re not rocket fuel!” Have fun with it. And don’t worry about making mistakes, because sometimes the best, signature dishes are made when you make a gaff!
Another thing to keep in mind about recipes is that just with each person’s own palate, not all stove tops, and ovens are the same. Baking a loaf of bread in a recipe writer’s oven at 400 degrees for ten minutes might work for her. While other ovens may need to be up at 525 degrees and the loaf may need to cook for an additional thirty minutes. While preparing your meal, think about how your final product should taste like, look like and realize that you may have to modify cooking temperatures and times to ensure achieving your ideal final product.
Alright, another bit of a pet peeve of mine in recipes is when it calls for 1 medium onion. If you are just starting out cooking, how the hell are you going to know what a medium onion looks like? I am not sure I even know what a medium onion looks like. Equally annoying is when they ask for 4 garlic cloves. Have you noticed the cloves on the outside of a head of garlic, greatly varies from the ones on the inside? With these situations, experience is what comes in handy. Just take your time, breathe, relax, have a sip of wine. (Or two.) Use your instincts and remember: less is better than more, because you can always add but you can’t take away!
My last bit of advice about recipes, I take from Julia Childs. When a recipe calls for white wine, what do you use? Some overly oaky California Chardonnay you got as a gift last Christmas? (yuck!) I have always been told, do not cook with wine you would not drink (in my case, that doesn’t mean much, seeing I spent most of cooking school sipping on $5 bottles of Yellow Tail Shiraz, but that’s a story for another blog.) Anyways, Julia Childs says instead, use dry vermouth. You can get a decent bottle for $5 and I promise you will not notice a difference!

So, that is about all I have for you today. If you have any questions, comments or any topic suggestions please feel free to email me at:
See you next time!
Happy Cooking

1 comment: