Recipe Rebel: embrace your splash-and-dash attitude
Cooking used to be a foreign language. Sauté or deglaze were not in my vocabulary. The extent of my abilities in the kitchen included frying an egg, flipping a grilled cheese or toasting bread. When eating out became tiresome, it was time to face the kitchen. It was time to tackle cooking. The kitchen became my new playground and recipes like puzzles to be mastered.
Some recipes require flawless execution. To those with the discipline and patience to follow each line to perfection, I bow to your ability to channel Julia Child. For the rest of us who prefer to create our feasts with a more splash-and-dash attitude, here are a few tips to make the process go a little smoother.
When a recipe starts with adding garlic to hot butter in a pan, WAIT! Particularly if the garlic is finely chopped. Garlic will quickly burn or dry out. When adding other chopped vegetables or meat to the pan, you may find the garlic burns before the other ingredients have cooked. Instead add the garlic after the meat and vegetables have sautéed and before adding any liquids or sauces.
Heating butter and oil without gathering all your ingredients first is a recipe for disaster. Recipes are a bit like tests, you should come prepared. Before you start cooking, make sure you have all the ingredients ready to go – washed, chopped, peeled, measured and standing by. Especially if trying a new recipe or one with lots of ingredients to be added at specific points during the cooking process. This may sound counter to the splash-and-dash method of cooking, when it actually makes experimenting easier. Being able to quickly add something when inspiration hits, instead of scrambling to keep up with the pan, stokes the creative mind while looking like a wizard in the kitchen.
Before you stomp a foot or roll your eyes at the realization you don’t have the specific ingredients listed, take a moment and look around the cupboards, fridge and freezer. Do you have items that may work just as well, if not better? Ham, bacon, pork and fish can replace chicken. With the right seasoning, roasted vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms can be good substitutes if peppers and onions are scarce. That jar of sun-dried tomatoes can be chopped or pureed to replace fresh tomatoes in pastas.
Refining a few key techniques and processes will build confidence and inspire creativity. Unleash curiosity in the kitchen and treat your friends and family to a dish of your own imagination!