It is so impressive when a person says that she will just “whip something up” for dinner…especially when it isn’t followed by a hasty trip home to flip through cookbooks, then a mad dash to the grocery to buy eight out of the ten ingredients on the list. I could outright lie and also “whip something up,” but what if I am on a weekend getaway with friends with nary a cookbook in sight? I could look up a recipe on my phone, but it would become quite obvious when I keep checking it as I cook. That or my friends will think I am a paranoid phone freak.
It would also be wonderful if I could pull together a dish using the ingredients on hand. When I shop for a recipe, I have two options: quadruple the recipe and find a football team to feed, or watch the ingredients rot in my refrigerator…making that $20 dish end up burning a $40 hole in my wallet.
And so my journey began.
I signed up for numerous culinary classes, learning techniques such as poaching, braising, roasting and de-glazing. I enjoyed all of these classes over the years, but always preferred the technique-focused classes over those that just taught you how to make specific dishes. Once I understood why a specific technique is used, I could apply it based on the quality of the ingredients I have to work with or the resulting effect I want to achieve—a batman utility belt of sorts.
However, cooking without a recipe still eluded me, until I realized that I only covered half of it. Knowledge of the techniques enabled me to figure out the instructions section, but I was missing an understanding of the ingredients list. Which ingredients combine to create complex, balanced flavors? How do the tastes of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami work together so that I pat my belly contentedly after a sumptuous meal? If flavor is a combination of taste and smell, how can I take advantage of sniffing produce and herbs at the market for inspiration?
And so the next leg of my journey begins.
I started this blog to explore why the flavors work well together in recipes from my cookbook collection, friends and websites. I then experiment with creating my own recipes based on the flavor principles that I discover along the way.