Sunday, March 12, 2006

Recipes= Necessary?

Do people really follow recipes? I sure don't. I pretty much use them to give me an idea of what flavors go well together and a vague sense of what order things go into the pot. As I was hunkering down to make Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, I decided I most certainly was not going to spend 50 minutes simmering pearl onions in broth while the meat stewed in the oven. Isn't meat yummier when the onions go in there with it? Why not stew the onions and meat together! I did relent to cook the mushrooms separately in butter, but wish I had just stuck those in the casserole with the other stew parts. Perhaps what I am cooking is not really a boeuf bourguignon? Either way, it smells damn good.

I was about to say that the only recipe I ever really followed was the one for walnut-lentil pate, but I cheated on that one, too. At first I followed all the instructions because vegan recipes scare me a little. Then I decided that no matter what you do to cooked lentils mixed with pureed walnuts and garlic, it's going to taste good. So, 24 hours later, I have a huge supply of pate to eat with my fingers while I cook other meated foods.

I guess years of experience have given me this food confidence (cockiness?). I know Corey follows recipes. I have seen him measure out the six cups of water to boil macaroni and watched him mete out salt pinches. Are recipes really just instruction manuals for novices? Are recipes to me what directions are to my dad? I'll sit here and think about that while I eat more pate.


Em said...

Recipes are important for baking, since it's more complicated chemical-reaction wise than cooking. I generally follow recipes when I bake. I also generally follow recipes the first time I make something and thereafter experiment. I think it's important to learn how different spices affect flavor alone and when combined with others, and I can't learn that if I only season according to the recipe!

If you like Alton Brown, you might want to check out his books. They are less recipe books and more 'the science behind the cooking techniques' books. I got them for Dee for xmas, but I am going to steal them back and read them myself (as soon as I finish the other 63 books that are on my to-read list this year).

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