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Ruhlman on Recipes
- Recipes are not assembly manuals. You cant use them the way you use instructions to put together your grill or the rec room Ping-Pong table. Recipes are guides and suggestions for a process that is infinitely nuanced. Recipes are sheet music. A Bach cello suite can be performed at a beginners level or given extraordinary interpretation by Yo-Yo Masame notes/ingredients, vastly different outcomes.
- How to use a good recipe: First read it and think about it. Cook it in your mind. Envision what it will look like when you serve it. Try to know the outcome before you begin. Read a recipe all the way through not only to understand it generally, but to make your work more efficient and to avoid making errors or taking unnecessary steps. Perhaps a dough needs to chill for an hour in the middle of a preparation, perhaps meat needs to be salted for twenty-four hours, or a liquid must be simmered, then cooled. The recipe suggests adding the flour, baking powder, and salt one at a time, but perhaps you can combine all the dry ingredients ahead of time while youre waiting for the butter to get to room temperature so you can cream it with the eggs. Taking a few minutes to read a recipe, acting out each step in your mind as you do, will save you time and prevent errors.
- Measure out or prep all your ingredients before you begin. Dont mince your onion just before you need to put it in the pan, have it minced and in a container ready to go, have that cup of milk and half cup of sugar set out before you. Good mise en place makes the process easier and more pleasurable and the result tastier than preparing a recipe with no mise en place.
- If youre unsure about an instruction, use your common sense. Youve already imagined in your head what the goal is. Work toward that goal using all your senses.
- How to perfect a good recipe: Do it over again. And again. Pay attention. Do it again. Thats what chefs do. Often great cooking is simply the result of having done it over and over and over while paying attention. Great cooking is as much about sheer repetition as it is about natural skill or culinary knowledge. -
- Michael Ruhlman,
- The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen
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