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.
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.