Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Do you cook with recipes?


Cusina
 Share

Recommended Posts

This topic is pulled from the Notes from the Librarythread this week, over on the Media board.

Do you cook from recipes? If so what kind appeals to you?

I do cook with recipes. I kind of like the challenge they present and I like to cook with a lot more variety than I have expertise, so I often turn to them. I don't always follow them religiously, usually have to tweak something here and there. I do fly without them when I have complete confidence, a strange idea I want to try out or the dish is extremely straightforward.

I look for recipes that either come from a good source, like an author I trust or recipeGullet, or contain the essence of an idea I've had. I'll often type "almonds and cherries", or whatever I have a taste for, into Google and just see what comes up. It's like a treasure hunt to sift through all the results (some of them interesting only because they are so god awful) and find something that has potential. I know this is dorky, but hey, it's kind fun to see what you come up with. Sometimes I find something that really sparks my imagination. (This, actually, is how I discovered eGullet in the first place. I was looking for cheesecake ideas. Boy, did I get more than I bargained for.)

I get the sneaking feeling that this isn't the norm here on eGullet though. Most of you are confident enough not to need the safety net of the step by step. Am I right in my suspicions?

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sometimes for me the safety net is nice...however i do like to be creativ and someone i love once told me that a recipe is merely a guideline...so in essence they ar not absolutes...but then again I also learned the same lesson from my mother as well...who never followed a recipe to the letter in her life..she would always add to or take away from until it became something unique to her...ive found over the years that i pretty much do the same thing as well...I know i said sometimes the safety net is nice...but only in as much as it can be a guide for what I can do..something for me to experiment from...but ive never been afraid to go ahead and try my own thing either..if it works...great..if not..experiment with it some more...after all isnt that how all recipes started anyway?

a recipe is merely a suggestion

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First time around, I go by the recipe .. by the second, and even the hundredth time, I have woven so many of my own creative ideas into the original, that I guess it is easier to simply, as you say, wing it ...

Baking? then I follow a recipe .. with pretty much everything else, I find isn't so important to be precise ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am a novice. I have only been cooking, with any seriousness, for a few years. Recipes are vital for me. Occasionally, I will compare several for the same dish. Usually, I will pick the one which sounds best - but I do combine or blend the recipes occasionally. My confidence is greatest around ingredient substitutions. I can make minor changes now, where a few years ago I religiously went by the exact recipe. Winging it totally is something I only dream about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find it varies. Sometimes I'll find a recipe in a cookbook that captures my imagination and I have to follow it. But I only follow a recipe very closely the first time. Then I make my own changes in the future.

Other times I find a single ingredient and I wing it completely. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But it's fun seeing how things work out.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I try recipes often and if it is a specialty or ethnic dish I do follow the recipe at least the first time around.

I have hundreds of cookbooks and often go on a search for something "different" or old, or famous or otherwise not the usual application and I do follow the recipe exactly as written.

Otherwise I seldom use recipes. I have an idea of the result I want to achieve and I have been cooking for so many years that I know to reach that point I can do any number of things to get that particular flavor and will do one or the other. I like the adventure of adding a bit of this and a bit of that and tasting as I go.

Baking is an entirely different matter. Baking is chemistry. One must follow a formula that has been developed over a period of thousands of years. There has to be the perfect balance of ingredients to get the expected results.

I follow recipes to the letter. There are rules for alterations and substitutions and one must adhere to these or suffer a disappointing result. Learn the basics and commit them to memory and you can recognize an error in a recipe before you use it and have a poor result. Not every recipe is 100% correct. There are typos and drop outs but once you know the basics you can spot these prior to wasting your time.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I'm cooking something new (to me), I try to find several recipes and sort of "triangulate" amongst them.

If it's something I've done before I just wing it. People find it annoying when they ask for a recipe for something I've cooked and I honestly can't remember what proportions I used. :blink:

Maybe I should follow deltadoc's example. :laugh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A recipe can be many things. It can be a stepping-stone to learning, when you are first learning to cook. It can be a way to convey a certain personal vision...when it is written by someone with a different 'take' on things or perhaps a person with a deeper 'take' on things. It can be an entertainment...and it can also be a way to hold on to a special memory or history, either personal or cultural.

I've read and used recipes in all these ways, and am grateful that all these ways exist.

Oh, yeah. Recipes can also be a way, within a business, to maintain consistency.Hah! Almost forgot that one....

At this moment in time, I don't use recipes...really at all. In some ways that could infer capability...in other ways it could infer lack of intensive growth in the area of continuing development...that grasping seeking that is done when one just 'doesn't know' how this thing will turn out, and needs to follow someone else along the path to learn.

I am quite sure that in the world of cooking, there is something new to learn each day one wants to! On and on ad infinitum! Some things are simple and take not a lot of time or effort...but others (as in learning a new language) there is preparation and focused intent involved to truly capture the thing.

New vocabulary....that is what recipes can offer....when one is ready to seek it.

(With the added note that one can learn just by doing, too...but recipes are like secret code books, I think! :smile: Take them, use them, then write your own code in your own way to keep the interest going....)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I definitely use recipes and love to try new recipes. I am more "by the book" when it comes to a cuisine that is unfamiliar to me. If it's a recipe for a food that I am familiar with, or something I can imagine easily, I will be okay with substituting one vegetable for another or throwing in a handful of cheese or doubling the mushrooms or whatever.

Of course, when baking, I follow recipes. The only things I have been able to bake successfully (not out of a box) are quick breads and muffins, and I make my own bread but use a bread machine for kneading/proofing. I don't do cookies, cakes from scratch, pie crusts...not from a lack of trying.

I often check Cooking with Google if I have a few ingredients I want to use together. Then I check the results for a recipe that has been well-reviewed (because I can't always tell from looking if it's a bad recipe) and one where I have most of the ingredients or can substitute.

If I want to be creative and make something on my own, I still look up similar recipes, especially if it involves a meat. I was a vegetarian most of my life and have only been cooking with meat for about two years, so I don't really have it memorized how long it would take to bake chicken thighs at 350 degrees, or how I would best cook this chuck roast. I'll take the time, temperature, and method of the recipe I find into consideration and then make up my own recipe. But I do that the least often.

I most often follow recipes. And I love them, because I am somewhat scatterbrained in the kitchen, and slow and ponderous when it comes to prep work, and easily overwhelmed if I'm making two dishes at once that both require several additions, etc. at different times. I need that recipe to keep me in check because I tend to forget ingredients or steps. :wacko:

Rachel Sincere
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Apart from baking (something I don't do on even a special-occasion basis), I look at recipes as guidelines to show what might work and what might not.

Most of the time I cook by feel, which is probably why people can't follow my recipes ("take some home-made demi-glace…").

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I use recipes. I'm not a detail person, I have to have stuff like that written down or I'll never remember timing, general amounts, techniques, and seasonings. It'a a memory tool. Unlike deltadoc, I've always been forgetful. :laugh:

BUT..

The recipes I use are my own, the ideas and techniques gleaned from assorted cookbooks. I write them down (each is a Word file) and am constantly tinkering with them as I find new ideas from here, magazines and the newspaper, or from all those new cookbooks I keep buying. Very few of my recipes were copied verbatim without some sort of change on my part, and it is extremely rare that I "follow" a new recipe as it is written the first time I make it, but I simply have to have a written record for me to be able to recall how I made something. I tend to read it through before I start to cook, then only occasionally refer to it for amounts of ingredients or timing. No way I'd ever be able to cook without written recipes-and I've been cooking for almost 40 years!

Edited by marie-louise (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If it's something I've never made before, I search through various sources (cookbooks, database, 'net, whatever), select possible recipes, and then make something up. I just can't follow directions. The BF thinks I have authority issues.

"It is a fact that he once made a tray of spanakopita using Pam rather than melted butter. Still, though, at least he tries." -- David Sedaris
Link to comment
Share on other sites

For those of you who never use written recipes:

How many dishes do you think you have in your memory? 100, 200, 500?

How long can you go (one month, one year, two years, more) between times you made a dish and remember timing, technique, general amounts?

Just how much detail do you remember? (How complex are the recipes you remember-5 ingredients, 20?)

I find this so fascinating-just the other day I had to pull out my business card to read someone my FAX number (I've used it every month or two for several years now.) I just can't remember details...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Recipes for me - because I am pretty inexperienced and have a complete and total lack of imagination. :cool:

Also the kinds of recipes I like are ones that suggest substitutions or variations so that I can learn more about what foods go with what other foods.

I also like to get several different recipes for the same dish and try to understand why the differences.

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a recipe gal. Mainly because I like to try new things. I have a few tried and true favorites, but even then I don't know the recipes by heart. Probably if I'd spent more time learning technique and less time following the recipe, I could do more from scratch by now, but oh well.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another fan of recipes here. I follow the instructions exactly the first time to see what I'm working with. After that I am quite prepared to alter it.

I do sometimes buy ingredients and just fool around with them and see what happens. A lot of my soups and vegetable dishes are like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's taken me a couple of years of steady cooking and more or less slavish recipe following, but by now I do feel free to take liberties with recipes on occasion. I think the more I cook and the more I know how ingredients interact and react to different types of cooking, the more liberties I'll take- but at the same time, I'll probably always use recipes as starting off points, because I'm not that imaginative.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Recipes are great things. I grew up learning how to cook the basics from hanging out in the kitchen with our extended family. But then, when I wanted to venture into other cuisines, recipes were my open door to adventure. After getting good advice on which books were reliable, I started gaining confidence to venture forth. I am further along the path with Mexican, getting there with Thai, haven't begun yet with Indian. So... That is the great thing about cooking. The paths are endless and can be endlessly fascinating. Recipes have a place in there. I guess I use them in all the ways mentioned above.

I also enjoy testing and tweaking my own creations or rifs on others' ideas. Then when I think I have it where I want it, I write it down along with its story. I got the biggest thrill last week when my son tried my lemon/white wine chicken recipe in his new little Le Creuset. He called all excited... "Mom! It tasted just like yours!" Er... Um... I did puff up a bit. :blush:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, recipes are for ideas, learning new things & techniques, or baking.

(And even in baking, there is a lot of leeway... like deciding to soak the raisins in the Quaker Oats oatmeal raisin cookie recipe in calvados... just 'cause every dessert with liquor is better. However, I never mess with the dough or batter of any baking recipe.)

I usually improvise, then never remember what I did to improvise, so nothing ever turns out identical to the way I made it before. It's kind of like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I made a little fruit tart for a friend once, just out of random stuff I had laying around. Even though she begged for me to make it again, I have no idea what was in it or what kind of crust it had.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those of you who claim to have memorized recipes: can you distinguish between techniques in relation to each other and ratios? (I use "ratios" in the CIA sense, at least in the way that Michael Ruhlman describes it in his two books, The Making of a Chef and The Soul of a Chef.)

I feel like I have a very large number of techniques down but my memory for ratios is often lousy; if I'm not reading exactly the ratios for a black bean sauce, say, or (god forbid!) a cake, I'm going to screw it up.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I follow a recipe carefully only if it's using a technique I haven't used before, or is in a totally new cuisine to me and I'm not sure what the flavors should be--but both of these cases are rare now. Often, I'll take the flavors suggested by a recipe and combine them some other way--recently grilled a duck and made a sauce for it with the ingredients I'd originally been planning to braise the thing with, and that kind of thing.

And some of the best, most satisfying things I've ever made have been totally invented, based on little scraps I've had left in the fridge--but this is a double-edged sword. I was lucky enough to live with an Indian guy for a while who would just nip into the kitchen and "whip up a curry," while I was still measuring out, teaspoon by teaspoon, all the spices. After watching Wilson freestyle, I finally was able to cut loose--but unfortunately the most delicious lamb curry I ever made can never be recreated because who knows what the hell I put in it...

Basically, I just remember techniques--and this is the strongest knowledge base I have for improvising. So I have only a few recipes in my head--one for braising, one for roasting, one for pan sauce, one for pasta sauce, etc.--and they're adjusted according to what ingredients look good or what flavors I'm craving.

But like chrisamirault, for technical, chemical-reaction things, I have to consult a recipe--to remember the proportions of butter and flour in a white sauce, for instance. Those kind of details fall out of my head after a month or so of not making the recipe.

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...