Sunday, November 8, 2009

I've got a theory

"Have your ever heard of cooking theory?

Way back when I was a young, apprentice in the kitchen, the sous chef of the Florida Keys resort to which I was indentured asked me that question on one of my first days there.
"If you understand cooking theory", he explained in response to the shake of my head, "you can cook anything without a recipe because it means you understand food and flavor and how to make them work."

It's a simple enough statement but it's always stuck with me. Especially when I write online about food I've been preparing or when I post food photos. I always get requests for the recipe and I can't begin to count the number of times I've had to respond with "I'm sorry, I don't work with recipes, I just cook".
Don't get me wrong, I do on occasion use recipes and of I course I write them as well. I do this for a living after all. But in general when I'm cooking, especially when at home, I'm making it up as I go. I guess I understand cooking theory. ;)
This is what I hope to pass on to others because when it comes to taking control of your diet and creating healthy, delicious whole foods for yourself; the ability to create meals out of what you have on hand or what is otherwise easily available, is key. That involves stepping away from recipes and embracing techniques and some basic cooking concepts.

Don't get me wrong, I love cook books. I own many and will continue to purchase more in the future. Trying out a new recipe can be a lot of fun. Although to be honest I rarely measure or follow amounts listed in a recipe unless I'm baking and that is a topic for a later time. I usually get the concept of what the dish is from the recipe and go with that. In fact I often make changes and adjustments along the way. True, I should probably try the recipe as written first and then alter again on a later attempt but what can I say? I love to play with my food. :)
There are a ton of cook books out there and many of them are great, even many of the healthy or "diet" cook books. Although, I do have some opinions about the approach many of them take. However, that is another topic for later.

I want to do something different than just collection of recipes. I want convey an understanding of how to cook what the reader likes. I want to share an appreciation for whole, healthy foods.
I want to teach cooking theory.

Tonight's dinner:
I had a few duck legs I brought home from work. I'm braising them with some yukon gold potatoes, onions and bolete mushrooms. I had a little red wine left over from last night and some black garlic so I used those as well. I keep chicken broth in the fridge and poured about a cup of that in too.
Why this combination? Because it's what I had on hand. And it's going to be delicious.

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