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Monday, August 23, 2010

It is not in the Recipe...

Sorry it has been a while since my last Ordinary Chef post. There has been a tremendous amount of activity around the household. A positive thing to let everyone know about...I have officially graduated from CP2 class with flying colors. Our final was a tough one, mystery basket, but I aced the food and the written exam. My basket consisted of (in random order): pork tenderloin, sirloin, smoked salmon, chicken wings, beets, eggplants, broccoli raab, green beans, turnip and cucumber. Six dishes were created with cheffy precision.

NOW ON TO PASTRY! Honestly, this scares the crap out of me. I am not one that can measure something out and put it into an oven without any tweeks. Oh well, it must be done.

Now, on with the topic...recipes.

Normally, when you get a recipe, it is with you at all times. You constantly look at it, do what it says. Look at it again, do what it says. (I am not going to continue...you know where I am going with this.) Here is my suggestion to you...STOP LOOKING AT IT!!!

A recipe should be used as a guide for what you want to accomplish. Take a recipe and make it your own. Don't follow what someone else thought tasted good, use your own styles and ingredients. Granted, you need to keep the integrity of the dish and the final product should look the same, but the dish will should have your own flair!

Here are the steps I use when looking at a recipe: (but what do I know, right?)
  1. I look for recipes containing my main ingredient, whether it is my protein or veg. This is where the iPhone comes in handy. They have a FREE app called Epicurious. It is loaded with great dishes and a search-able function.
  2. Read over the recipe a few hundred times. Know what the end product should look like and what the consistency is going to be.
  3. I then write the recipe in my handy dandy recipe book that I keep (everyone should have their own recipe book. I mean, we have to have something to give our grandchildren, right?). Add some different ingredients to compliment the meal. If it calls for potatoes, I might add another root veg like Turnips or a Rutabaga.
  4. TASTE TASTE TASTE. As I go through the steps, I keep tasting over and over. Pinch of salt here, a little garlic there. Maybe it is a little to sour, so I add some honey. This is YOUR DISH...make it your own.
So, take the time to understand the recipe and where you want to end up. Everything else in the middle is what you want it to be. The one thing I have learned in Culinary School is to experiment. You will not know what something will taste like until you try it.

If it fails...the dogs always will eat it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Little SPICE in Your Life!

Sorry for the recent absence in posts, but the family and I have traveled to Colorado for the week. We are spending about 3 days at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs then up to Denver for a night then back down to the Cabin in Cuchara. It is mainly for D's work, but it is fun for me to tag along. I know...tough life, huh?

Anyway, wanted to chat a little bit about spices. Now, don't be afraid of them. They are not going to hurt you...well, some of them might bite you in the rump after a while, but in general they can be your friend!

You need to try as many spices as possible in order to know exactly how each spice works. There are the few that add a bitter flavor on the front end and those that add a little heat on the back end that can be wonderful.

Now, here is a trick of the culinary world...toast your spices first! But Ordinary Chef, if I heat the spice, don't I need a little fat to go in the pan or it will burn? Yes, nimrod, if you leave it in there for more than a couple of minutes. Here is the procedure...get your pan smoking hot. Add your spice and leave there for a minute. Take it off and store. Simple, right? Believe me, you will never want to not toast your spices again!

Now you are saying...what about the blended spices I get in my neighborhood grocery store? Those are fine, hell, I even use them on occasion. Just be careful and read your ingredients. If you can't pronounce it, then it should not be in there and should not be in your body.

Just remember...cooking should be fun. It should be an adventure, not a chore. Enjoy yourself and be kind to the food.

Good Cooking,
The Ordinary Chef