Tuesday, July 25, 2023

recipe rules

Brithistorian has posted some Laws of Following Recipes:
  • 1. Before you start cooking, read the entire recipe. Be sure you have all the ingredients and all the equipment and that you understand everything the recipe is asking you to do.
  • 2. If the recipe writer goes to the trouble of specifying a brand name or other adjective for any particular ingredient, they probably have a good reason for it. Either follow their instruction or, if you're going to make a substitution, be damn sure you understand why they made the choice they did so you can make an intelligent substitution.
I'll go along with these, with some caveats and additions.

1a. After following Law 1, begin the cooking process (i.e. after marinating and other pre-cooking activities) by laying out everything you're going to need on the counter. This is easy for ingredients, which are listed in the recipe, somewhat more difficult for utensils and cookware. You're guaranteed to forget something and have to dig it out later.

1b. If the recipe includes a step where you add a whole bunch of different herbs and/or spices at once, put them all in a small bowl together first. This will save frantically measuring and scooping numerous items while the dish is (over)cooking.

2a. Caveat: Cooking recipes (skillet dishes, casseroles) are forgiving. Measurements can be approximate - yeah, that looks like about a tablespoon of butter - and substitutions are easy. Not as wacky as chopped jalapeƱos for relish, but certainly on the level of vegetables. If you don't like mushrooms, don't put any in! Even if the recipe is for stroganoff or marsala. Only occasionally does this go off the rails. I ate at a Chinese restaurant once that offered Mongolian pork, and I discovered why this dish is usually made with beef. On the other hand, I've had Mongolian shrimp and liked it.

2b. But! Baking recipes (cookies, cake) need to be followed precisely - measure everything exactly, and no substitutes or changes - or disaster will follow. Cooks like me who like to wing it need to revert to severe conventionality in this repertoire.

2c. Quiche is a good example of how laws 2a and 2b intersect. Go ahead and tinker lightly with the filling as long as the quantity remains the same; but be exact with the eggs and cheese.

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