One of the greatest challenges I’ll face in developing the recipe portion of this blog will be my cooking style. Simply put, I do not follow recipes. This is probably the reason why I cook and don’t bake (with very few exceptions). I’m often asked for recipes and I don’t provide them because what I do is by trial and error until I perfect it and even then I tend not to write it down. Once perfected, I just do it. That now has to change or I’ll have an empty recipe blog :-).
I once heard Michael Symon (my all-time favorite chef) say we should follow a recipe to the letter the first time out and then modify it to our liking when cooking it after that. I tried and simply cannot do it. It’s a matter of trying to perfect balance (in my opinion) of aromatics and seasonings in trying to achieve the taste I look for when embarking on a new recipe.
I tend to get a hankering (yes, I used hankering) for a particular dish – it could be something I had as a kid or an adult or something I saw on television or in a magazine or came across while reading a book (some authors are very detailed in describing the scene).
If it is something I’ve tasted recently I will set out to make it myself. More than likely I’ve taken it apart (actually deconstructing it and/or through taste) and from that have developed the starting point of the recipe. Through trial and error I will modify what I believe to be the recipe until the taste is close. (BTW, Dennis gets grossed out when I start taking my food apart.)
If it is something I’ve not tried or maybe tried many moons ago and can’t come up with a starting point, I’ll go to my favorite recipe website (http://allrecipes.com) and look at several high-rated recipes to get an idea of what goes into making the dish. I also look at the comments for those recipes as people will often state what they changed about the recipe and you can almost always find a common theme (adding heat or salt or using a broth instead of water, etc.). I then take it from there.
I always alter dishes with a few exceptions…like grits. I’ve mastered creamy grits by talking to a server at a restaurant in New Orleans where I had the most awesome grits (until now anyway). The key is measuring, cooking slowly and stirring. Okay…off track here…whether I have a starting point via deconstructing or by looking at various recipes, I always rely on my sense of taste to a point and then will call in the expert taster (Dennis) and have him taste it and tell me what he thinks is missing. He will likely deem the recipe okay or will suggest I add salt or heat or some other herb or seasoning or he’ll say, “something’s missing but I can’t pinpoint it”. Once we call it done and eat it, I always find a way to improve it. I may try altering ingredients once or multiple times before I determine I’ve reached as close to perfection as I’ll ever get. I then try (try is the operative word here) to remember to write down what I did so I can do that same thing going forward.
This blog will now press me to write it down. I did that yesterday when I took a stab at Shrimp and Grits. I believe that will be the first recipe I’ll post. It was my first go at it and I already know how I’ll change it next time, but what better way to take you through the process then to have a “Shrimp and Grits” recipe and then later a “Shrimp and Grits-Improved” recipe?