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Old 01-02-2007, 01:22 AM   #11
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i can't even look at a recipe without noting what needs to be changed.

at the moment, the only time i might follow a recipe is when something is totally new to me. however, my usual approach on a totally new dish is to compare several different recipes, get the general lay of the land so to speak, and then just blast my way through it.

ok, and then there are a handful of dessert and pastry recipes that i'll follow or at least stick pretty close to. my great-grandmother's christmas pudding, grandmother's mincemeat recipe, a dynamite cranberry-almond pudding, my genoise, pie crust ratio. that sort of thing.

of course there's my little blue (falling apart) notebook that's mostly filled with my old professional recipes which i used to follow precisely (for the most part). fortunately or not, i no longer need recipes that call for things like 6 lbs. of chocolate, 3 flats of eggs, 1/2 gallon cream, 2 cups vinegar/ tarragon reduction, 1 case granny smiths, etc.

99% of my cooking now is eyeballing this, don't have this so let's use that, might as well just dump all of this in, hey a little of this would be great, better boost this up a little, and hey that's nowhere near enough brandy kind of cooking.

great fun

let me make sure that wine's ok before i use it.
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Old 01-02-2007, 02:51 AM   #12
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for me, recipes are NOT blueprints(unless it is baking), but suggestions. Cooking is always open to interpretation in my world. Improvising/experimenting is how new things are created, and the glory of food is, no matter what, it is not like you are mucking up a billion dollar plan if things go a rye, just start over and go again.

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Old 01-02-2007, 10:33 AM   #13
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I usually find something at the market (on sale - like a roast or something). Then I will see what I can do with it at home. Sometimes I will go through my cookbooks to get an idea, or jump on the internet and search for recipes for whatever food that i have. I then use that as a guide and then put my own twist to the meal. It's a lot of fun and very rewarding.
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Old 01-02-2007, 10:54 AM   #14
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I am the improvisation queen!! Very often I invent some dishes off top of my head and wing it all the way, most of the time it works. I do look at and use various recipes but I rather use them for getting the general idea and drawing inspirations for trying something new, especially when I have some ingredient(s) I would like to try for the first time.
I would recommend following the recipes for a budding cook who is just starting, and develop the general idea about what goes well with what, which method works better for certain ingredients etc. etc... which you will acquire after a bit of experience. Then start giving a little more faith in your intuition and creativity and start experimenting!! To me, it is the most fun part of cooking.

However, after series of disasterous results, I have found it is not quite same with the baking, and I am not so experienced (or talented) enough to be too creative in baking, so I usually follow the given recipe pretty much to a T like a good girl. I would like to get to the point where I can improvise as well making cakes and breads some day though, that will be nice...
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Old 01-03-2007, 02:12 AM   #15
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A couple of years ago I was talking to my son and a friend of ours on the radio about Moussaka when a guy we know chimed in and wated the recipe - so I gave it to him. About a month later he showed up one night and told me how lame my recipe was! The problem turned out to be not my recipe but that he had "improvised" it into a really bland lasagna!!!

I usually try a recipe just the way it is written the first time. There are flavor combinations you might not think about that are actually great together. If you just discount the recipe - there might be great flavor combinations you may never experience. Nutmeg in some Italian and Greek dishes may sound a little strange - but it's just fantastic in "context", for just one example.
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain
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Old 01-03-2007, 02:45 AM   #16
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Although I'm all for improvising, I firmly believe that anyone, beit cooks in the industry, home cooks, etc. should have a firm grip on the basics of any type of cuisine before they start improvising or else they have absolutely no foundation whatsoever. I mean, it's cool and all if you can make a white asparagus-truffle foam but if you can't make a basic beurre blanc or hollandaise then you're pretty much worthless.
"Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
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Old 01-03-2007, 08:44 AM   #17
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I look at recipes as containing lots of ratios. Dry to wet, fat to acid, acid to sugars, solids to liquids, etc. Once you grasp the ratios and understand the cooking techniques involved with a dish, it's easy to modify things. The same goes for baking - but much more strict.

For most recipes I try to find the "mother" or originating recipe. This usually takes some research. From there I look at regional modifications, and contemporary examples. Then I usually try to cook the "mother" recipe to get a hold of the essence of that dish. From there I usually get a taste of what things I want to modify, and how to go about doing such.

There are very few things I cook (especially that are to be served to others) that are entirely "winged". I usually follow some sort of foundation or platform of another dish I'm experienced with and use the ratios to improvise with what ingredients are available.
Nick ~ "Egg whites are good for a lot of things; lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, and clogging up radiators." - MacGyver
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Old 01-03-2007, 12:41 PM   #18
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Thanks, ironchef, nick.

I appreciate that advice quite a bit. My Hollandaise is iffy, btw. Sometimes it breaks, sometimes it's perfect. ;x It's all about heat, I think! :X
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Old 01-03-2007, 01:22 PM   #19
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as a Die-Hard Experimenteer, I can`t help but improvise (kitchen or otherwise).
I can`t even open a can of soup without adding Something to it, I don`t read any recipe books anymore unless I want to reproduce something VERY Specific to try it.
but I`m a Cook, and Not a cheff, so I can get away with a multitude of sins that way :)

and beyond Breads, and the occacional Pie crust, I don`t bake anything.
Happily my Wife has recently shown an interest in this area, so as a Unit, all things should be just great now :)
Katherine Snow. xx
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Old 01-03-2007, 01:39 PM   #20
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It all depends...

If I want to cook a classic dish for the first time, I collect several recipes from respected sources and compare. I may choose one of the recipes or combine interesting aspects of several. That's how I know what it's "supposed" to taste like.

On the other hand, I can do a Chinese style stirfry without a recipe and often do. However, if I want hot and sour soup, I have to be sure to include certain ingredients and follow certain steps.

"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -Carl Sagan
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