Following a Recipe

May 26th, 2008 by katie

Following a Recipe

After years of learning and practicing, I still feel like a beginner in the kitchen. I wish I was one of those people who knows how foods should go together and can make up their own special recipes. I wish I could taste and tweak and try different things, but the truth is: I don’t have a clue. I need recipes. And if I have a recipe, I can fake it. I believe I can cook almost anything if I have a good recipe. Not everyone is like me though. I think recipes intimidate some people, or else they bore them. If you are like my oldest daughter, a recipe is simply another attempt by the universe to control you and inhibit your creativity.  Nevertheless, being able to follow a recipe is an invaluable tool, of the “teach a man to fish so he can eat for a lifetime” philosophy, and one that really will serve you all your life. I also think that if you have children, it is a lesson you need to teach them.  In fact, this started as a Cooking with Kids post until I thought back on all of the roommates and friends I’ve had who really couldn’t cook a thing-even if it came in a box with instructions.  It is not that they are incapable, they are just bored with the process.  If this is you, never fear!  Spending a few minutes preparing will save you the effort of having to pay too much attention later on.   It may seem the most simple of tasks, but really there are a few tricks that can make it easier for the rebels and the attention-span deprived.

One of fastest ways to failure when trying a new recipe is to not thoroughly read the recipe when choosing it. Hopefully this occurs days or hours in advance when you have plenty of time to determine if the recipe will work for you or not.

  1. Start by checking the serving size, prep and cook times. Does the recipe make enough or do you need to double it? Do you have enough time to prep and cook the recipe? What time should you start? Keep in mind that prep times are notoriously subjective based on your kitchen skills. If you are a beginner or if you are trying a technique for the first time plan for the prep to take longer.
  2. Next, thoroughly read through the ingredients. Do you recognize them all and have access to them? If you don’t, do you think you could locate it in the store? Do you know what you could substitute that wouldn’t drastically change the recipe? Do the ingredients require any prep? Sometimes the recipe will simply say, “add chicken.” The ingredient list is where you should note that it is “1 lb of cooked, chopped chicken breast.” Finally do you have the tools to weigh or measure the ingredients as indicated?
  3. Next, carefully read through all of the steps. As you read each one, imagine doing it. Do you know how? Do you have the tools you need to complete it? Visualize yourself completing the recipe from start to finish. Try to imagine what the final product will look like. Is it what you expected? Try to take note if all of the listed ingredients are mentioned or if ingredients are mentioned that are not in the ingredient list.

Some typical recipe foul-ups from my kitchen:

  • Pulling a grilled chicken recipe out at dinner time only to realize the entire recipe was actually for an overnight marinade.
  • Opening the egg carton in the middle of mixing up cake batter and realizing there is only one egg in it.
  • Attempting a lemon pie filling for the first time and realizing half way through that the pan I was using was not going to hold all of the ingredients.
  • Getting started on a pizza dough recipe only to realize the flour was actually by weight, of course I didn’t have a kitchen scale and no idea how to convert it.
  • The classic: not having the oven rack in the correct position.  Opening the hot oven with my knee while using both hands to securely hold a hot, tall pot but not being able to do anything with it because the oven rack is in the top position. 

Do you have any good tips or stories? 

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About chaos

cha·os -noun 1. a condition or place of great disorder or confusion. My chaotic kitchen is the result of three kids, two adults, dog, cat, and fish, a food obsession, a wine drinking hobby, and too few hours in the day. Between trying to feed a family of five healthy, happy meals, watching my weight, saving my pennies, and staying partially sane I have picked up a few tricks along the way. So here they are: the very best tips, tricks, and recipes from my chaotic kitchen-to yours!

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