Monday, January 6, 2014
The Business of Tweaking
I think many of you already know this: Baking is a science which a formula of ingredients is put together to achieve an end result. When you discover a recipe you want to bake such as cookies, cakes and bread, you must follow the recipe to a T. If you are an expert baker you may have the gift of knowing if the recipe can be tweaked in any way. For the novice (like me) it's follow it to the letter.
However, cooking is different. Cooking is an expression of each individual's heart and soul. It's a matter of blending flavor combinations to suit your personal taste and yet those flavors have to meld together and provide a symphony of flavors that don't combat one another. Cooking is blending salty and sweet, spicy and sweet, that sort of thing. It's also about bringing different texture elements to the dish - components that make sense being together.
Many foods are a blank canvas and on their own do not have a great flavor profile. It's what you add to the dish to make the flavor pop, sparkle and be the star of the dish. Pasta is one of those ingredients that comes to mind. Dry pasta on it's own is bland but when you add it into a great sauce and the sauce is allowed to coat the pasta then it becomes something completely different. For instance fettuccine pasta. It would be bare and bland were it not for the rich and tasty Alfredo Sauce, or a linguine or angel hair pasta tossed into a seafood dish takes on the flavor of the cooking liquid.
Rice: arborio, white, wild or brown is not all that flavorful on its own; it becomes flavorful from the liquid you cook it in and the elements you add to it.
To give you an insight into my process of creating my own recipes I often get "inspirations" at night and that night or the next morning I write down what I want to make. I begin with a flavor profile and write down some ingredients I believe will be good in the dish and further check the availability of pantry and refrigerator items to see what I have on hand. From there I wonder, who else has made this and begin researching on line. Often I've found recipes that are very similar to what I have in mind and I look at the ingredients others have used. From there I build a recipe. Initially it's a guess as to how much of a spice, herb or liquid will go in. It's all written on paper first, transferred here to my blog, printed and I head to the kitchen.
All in all I find the results good. The flavors are there but sometimes - and this is where the "tweaking" comes in I need to add more of an ingredient or add something else to pull the dish together. If I've found that there was too much of an ingredient I adjust the amount in the final recipe that I post.
What I or others who cook and blog think has amazing flavor may be right in alignment to your taste buds and sometimes not so much. As James Beard said, cook it the way the recipe is written the first time then make adjustments to suit your own personal taste. Tweak it, play with it and make it your own. That's what cooking is all about.
Be on the look out this week for a left-over make over recipe and a couple or a few other goodies to come out of my kitchen.