Meal of The Week

CHEF JOHN SPEAKS

Version 2

WRITING A RECIPE CAN BE TRICKY.  ARE YOU INSTRUCTING A NOVICE COOK OR AN EXPERIENCED CHEF?  THE NOVICE WANTS DETAILS.  HOW MUCH SALT IS A PINCH?  A SPLASH OF OLIVE OIL?  WHAT KIND OF WHISK DO I USE FOR SALAD DRESSINGS?  WHEN I BROWN THE CHICKEN, HOW BROWN SHOULD IT BE?  THE KNOWLEDGEABLE COOK DOESN’T WANT A RECIPE CLUTTERED WITH EXTRANEOUS DETAILS.  WHEN I WAS A NOVICE, WORKING MY WAY THROUGH JULIA CHILD’S MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, VOLUME I, JULIA’S METICULOUS INSTRUCTIONS WERE A GIFT.  IT’S HOW I LEARNED TO COOK.  NOW, I RARELY FOLLOW RECIPES AS WRITTEN.  I KNOW ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT TO SKIP, WHAT TO ADD, WHAT TO CHANGE SO THE DISH CONFORMS MORE TO MY PERSONAL TASTE.  WHEN I FIRST STARTED SENDING OUT RECIPES, I FOLLOWED IN JULIA’S FOOTSTEPS.  BUT I SOON GREW IMPATIENT FIGURING OUT WHETHER A PINCH OF SALT IS AN 1/8 OR 1/4 OF A TEASPOON.  AND, IN THE END, ISN’T IT BETTER TO LEARN TO COOK BY LEARNING HOW MUCH SALT YOU LIKE IN YOUR FOOD RATHER THAN MEASURING IT OUT?  BAKING IS A DIFFERENT MATTER, OF COURSE, BECAUSE BAKING INVOLVES CHEMISTRY.  YOU CAN REALLY MESS UP A CAKE IF YOU TINKER WITH PROPORTIONS AND INGREDIENTS.  BUT A CUT-UP CHICKEN?  DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF YOU USE 18 PEARL ONIONS OR 24?  HOW MUCH GARLIC DO YOU LIKE IN YOUR SALAD DRESSING?  HOW MUCH PEPPER IN YOUR CACIO E PEPE?  LEARNING TO COOK IS REALLY A MATTER OF LEARNING TO SATISFY ONE’S OWN TASTES.  THIS IS A LONG WAY OF APOLOGIZING TO THE NOVICES.  I TRY AND MAKE MY RECIPES STRAIGHTFORWARD AND CLEAR.  AND A GOOD MANY OF THEM — MOST — ARE RELATIVELY EASY.  BUT IF YOU RUN INTO TROUBLE, DON’T HESITATE TO E-MAIL ME.  UNTIL THEN, BON APPETIT!

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