Friday, November 17

What is Recipe of the Week?

My goals with Recipe of the Week are to weekly post a seasonal recipe and also to inspire you to have more confidence in your cooking. As many of you know, I am not really a recipe guy, meaning I am not a “slave” to recipes. Take, for instance, Rice Krispy Treats. They’re my favorite things in the world, and you should see me sweating over that box trying to make sure I’m doing precisely what it is telling me to, because I want them to turn out right! After all, the process of making the treaties is not the most ordinary. Let’s see: melt a lot of butter (exactly 3 tablespoons), melt 40 marshmallows (no less and no more), stir in six cups of cereal, dump in pan, flatten. Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? So what’s my problem? It’s simple ─ a lack of confidence and a fear of flunking it. But will I ever learn anything if I always stick to the gooey details and never have any fun? I would do best to chuck that box and just rely on what I would call my instincts.

I have learned, as I cook more and more, a little about how those instincts develop. As you try different things, here and there, you will begin to feel more natural, and become more flexible with what you’re making. I believe cooking is a craft best learned through observation and practice. This means we must free ourselves from the tyranny of "the recipe.” A recipe can be a great guide, but many times you will know better than the recipe! After all, which comes first: the chef or the recipe?

Maybe you have had some bad experiences where one day you felt adventurous and altered a recipe in some way and it flopped. So you blamed it, not unnaturally, on your experiment. But just think how much you learned from that! I probably have had more “learning experiences” than anyone, from meat roasted until it is as tough and dry as a steer’s jaw muscle, to “drinkable” crème brulees, to things catching fire in the oven, to bread baked so undesirably dense that only David would eat it.

I must admit that some foods can be somewhat “intimidating" (Eggplant...EEEK!). Other foods are just so unfamiliar that you haven't a clue as to what to do with them (Parsnips?!). There is also that unsettling problem of not knowing whether or not a certain ingredient will go with, or in, whatever you’re making. One thing to always remember is “if it grows together, it goes together". Because really, the best culinary teachers are the ingredients themselves! THEY inspire what I make. How they react to different preparations and when they come into season are all important considerations in the creation of a dish. The goal here is to demystify the process and learn some basic techniques that will be helpful in making delicious meals.

If you don’t like to eat good food you will never be a good chef. You also need to enjoy seeing others utilize the sense of taste God has given them (or at least most of them). A big part of what motivates me as a chef is seeing others take pleasure in what I make.

Don’t get your hopes up too high: this isn’t a weekly magazine or newsletter or anything. Just some little hints and pointers to think about and try. I hope each one of you can develop your own style using this mindset; I don't intend to clone a bunch of chefs exactly like me, and the last thing I want to do is abolish recipes and then create another set of rules. In fact if I accomplish what I want to, you will be able to take the recipes I provide and alter them to your own personal taste. I know a lot of you have other things to tend to and can’t spend all day in the kitchen like me. But please don’t always try and make things as simple and basic as you can. Take some time, have your kids help, have some fun, and taste the difference.

2 comments:

Garrett said...

I HATE RICE CRISPY TREATS!

Well not really... but they are hard to eat with out a glass of milk and a lot of jaw muscle stamina (sort of depends how many you are eating too).

Though I do not cook a whole lot, I am bound to force my Mother and Sister to cook more creatively if I see recipes I like here. Great idea!

Peter Telian said...

Garrett, I'm sorry, but you can't be my friend if you don't like Rice Crispy Treats.