Toss the Recipe
The all too common feeling of dread when the question is posed: What's for dinner? Frantically flipping through recipes in books or web pages, the grocery list that results is nearly as daunting as the decision of what dish to make. After having purchased a myriad of ingredients, with dinner time drawing near, the race against the clock begins to reach its conclusion. While the resulting meal prepared may be exactly as the recipe intended, flavors perfectly mimicking the writers vision, the extra time and money spent can be truly exhausting. When did cooking become a chore, a list of requirements sans creative spontaneity? Especially after the afterglow of the holidays has passed, how can the enjoyment of cooking be reinvigorated?
In order to take apart the reasons for why dinner preparation has become such an arduous task, let's toss the recipe book to the side for a few moments. While the recipe book is on the table, walk to the fridge, open it and imagine some chicken, perhaps some greens, apple or two and some forgoten carrots. The cupboards, aside from the typical spices- italian blend, paprika, salt and pepper- some garlic and onion powder, only some less than stellar day or two old bread.
Rehashing the idea of flavor matching from the previous bit (F@!? Fusion)the ingredients described are exactly what we're looking for in a balanced dish. The chicken, regardless of the cut can be seared and roasted. Bread, having been cubed and toasted- tossed into a salad with mixed greens and sliced apples will compliment the roasted chicken seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Our carrots that have been left to mildly dehydrate in the bottoms crisper are now perfect to be roasted and cooked down- blended with the juice left in the pan from the chicken. If lemon, oil and mustard happen to be found in the kitchen- these will make a fine dressing for the mixed green salad.
As all of the above items are fairly common place, they have been used as a simple example, however the possibilities are endless. The basic premise for this excercise is to take the focus off of a recipe and turn our attention to preparations- with interchangeable ingredients. The meat (chicken), the salad (salad, apple, croutons) and the starch (carrot purée) work together to create balance of both texture and flavor. None of this is to say that recipes are not valuable, however now we hold a key to unlock the secrets that each ingredient has been dying to tell us- what they are made of.
Take the carrot, for example- we know that it contains sugar but is also a root vegetable. Root vegetables include potatoes, parsnips, radishes, yams and many others. Russet potatoes, we know are starchy and fluffy when boiled but become carmelized when roasted. Could potatoes be substituted by carrots? Familiarity increases by tasting them and experimenting which allows for ingredients in a particular preparation to be interchangeable- allowing the designer (in this case- you) to be the master of your own destiny. As always, we'd love to hear about your discoveries and thoughts on future topics. Please feel free to comment below. Until next time, keep your knife sharp and your mind open.