Monday, August 25, 2008

Bonnie's Law of Cooking #2

There are people who don't ever like to follow recipes - they like to open up the fridge, find some ingredients, throw them together and hope for the best, and usually end up with good results. However, I am not one of these people. I am a sucker for reading cookbooks and recipes. I have a shelf devoted just to the cookbooks I own. I subscribe to three cooking magazines (Cooks Illustrated, Cook's Country and Martha Stewart Everyday Food) and I know I'll have them coming every month from now into perpetuity because thanks to my amazing wife.

I'm the guy who loves to clip recipes off the back of jars and cans and bags of food. Do you know why? Do you know how much test cooking and focus grouping Nestle has put into making sure that their Toll House Cookie recipe on the back of your bag of chocolate chips will come out the exact same way every time? Or how much money Hellmans has spent to ensure that their recipe for potato salad is hands down the easiest and tastiest? If you're ever looking for a recipe, trust the back of your food packages.

As I was typing this, I forgot that I set the pot I was sauteeing up some sweet pepper and onion confit on to high and here is the result:

Alas, I was able to salvage some of it, but that will teach me to blog and saute at the same time.

I am a big believer in reading and following recipes, if only to learn a new technique, flavor combination, or just to find an easy way to make something you've always wanted to cook. Even though I've said cookbooks really aren't needed in today's Internet-driven society, I still like reading them and I still enjoy getting them as gifts.

This brings us to Bonnie's Law of Cooking #2, which is as follows: When following a recipe for the first time, follow the recipe exactly. Only then can you make modifications the next time you make it. Now, this is not always a hard and fast rule, and I definitely violate it every now and again (sorry, Mom). For instance, any recipe calling for walnuts gets immediately substituted with pecans (my allergy) and most of the time anything overtly spicy gets reduced (for Steph). Of course, not all ingredients are necessarily availible. I was making Cooked to Death Hot and Sweet Peppers and they only had Italian long peppers instead of the Hungarian variety. Not a problem!

Bonnie's Law of Cooking #2 has been one of the principles that guides my work in my kitchen, and it should be in yours as well, my readers. Recipes are designed for pretty much anyone to follow, and then when you've made it once, you can add ingredients, increase or decrease cooking time, whatever you decide. Just make sure you note it in your cookbook, right where the change is made. Then you'll never have to worry about it again, and you'll take standardized printed recipes and make them your own.


Bakerloo said...

Seriously, Rosey. I love this blog.

I'm gearing up for the latest challenge: I'm on Weight Watchers and Aaron's starting Atkins again. We are trying to be sexier, but dinner time is going to be a bitch.

Stephanie said...

You've introduced Bonnie's Laws of Cooking, but you started at #2. You need to do a post on #1.