Recipes Are Made To Be Broken, Part Two

    Read part one.

How do you use a recipe? Most people, I think, gather the ingredients listed and follow the directions. That makes sense. It isn't what I do.

Instead, I read the recipe. I try to figure out why it works, what is happening, and what each of the ingredients and steps contributes to the final result. I model the process in my head, imagining each step. I try to imagine what the dish would taste like as it is being made, tracking the evolving changes in flavor and texture.
Original images by Melissa Wiese and Wayne TruongOriginal images by Melissa Wiese and Wayne Truong
As I become better at this process, I gain a greater understanding of what happens when I cook. I'm learning, and recipes are my textbooks. When I understand how and why things work the way they do, I can learn to replicate them without a recipe and use them in other contexts. The more often I see something work, the more I internalize it. Complicated processes become second nature.

I learn how ingredients interact, not only flavors and textures that work well together, but also chemical reactions that ingredients undergo when combined or heated in different ways. I learn when and how eggs act like a leavening agent and when they make things denser. I learn why sauces separate and what makes that less likely. I learn how both fat content and heat can have an effect on the tenderness of meat.

I learn how to cook.

That's what recipes are for.

    Read part three.

Comments

my thoughts exactly...

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