Let’s say that you are depending on a teacher or a mentor…someone you trust. What would happen if you found out that they’re not telling the truth, or at least, they aren’t telling you the whole truth? If you’re depending on a book to teach you a new kitchen culinary skill, you need to know now that the book isn’t telling you everything you need to know about cooking meals at home. In fact, it might shake your faith and think, well, I can’t even cook water now!
I want to help to restore your faith in recipes. I know I often bash recipes, but recipes are useful for trying to duplicate meals that you like, for duplicating restaurant meals, and for getting new ideas on what to cook. However, the reason I have issues with recipes especially for a home cook that doesn’t understand basic cooking method is that there are things that recipes do tell you and there are things that recipes don’t tell you.
Unfortunately, if you really take a look at the components of a recipe, you can begin to see that they are really a bunch of steps without explaining any nuances. For example, a recipe may say to cook shrimp until pink. But if they are large shrimp, the shrimp are going to turn pink before the inside of the shrimp is completely cooked. The recipe may say nothing about this. The recipe may tell you to add onion and parsley at the same time and cook until the onion is tender. NO! If you do that, the parsley will be obliterated by the time the onion is ready.
Most cookbooks assume a basic knowledge of cooking methods that you just may not know. This is what I want to help you to understand.
Here’s another example, in one of my cookbooks it says to cook the chicken for 45 minutes or until done. Until done? How are you supposed to know if it’s done? The recipe doesn’t tell you. What does medium heat mean? Again, the recipe doesn’t actually explain this.
A lot of times, the cookbooks that are made by a company that contain a lot of name brand products are often the worst offenders of not explaining all that you need to know. That doesn’t mean that all cookbooks are like this. I have several books that are very clear and concise about explaining how and why you do something. Here are a few examples from my collection:
• The Sauce Bible
• On Cooking
• The Flavor Bible
• Professional Baking
All of those are very specific and explain what I need to know to cook food by method and by combining flavors, etc. I also like to get cookbooks that are specific to a region to help me to understand how to create flavors from that region. Here are just a few examples:
• Celebrate San Antonio
• Tropical Cooking
• The New Orleans Cookbook
So, if you can’t completely trust your cookbook, what do you do?
• You have to be smarter than your cookbook.
• You have to know when it’s lying to you.
• You have to know when it’s pretending that it knows and it really doesn’t
• You have to know when it’s left something out
Next time, I’ll show you ways to be smarter than your recipe book, improve kitchen culinary knowledge, and restore your faith that you can cook water! I’ll also explain to you how to use a recipe’s shortcomings to your advantage.