Kristina's Blog: Commitment Issues
Posted: Sat 12/10/2011 01:00 PM
I’m a bit of a rebel. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe exactly as written. Reading one is typically followed by a daring snicker. I am taken aback by the recipe’s audacity to tell me what to do. The instructions stare back at me as if they are challenging me.If the recipe calls for half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, I smile and think, “Half a teaspoon? I’m putting in two whole teaspoons! Or maybe, just maybe, dear know-it-all recipe, I’ll nix the vanilla altogether and use almond extract. Yeah, I said it –ALMOND! Take that!” (As my husband will testify, I do actually have a habit of talking to both recipes and food. And yet they never talk back. Sad.)
It seems that recipes are the only part of my life where I have some serious, ongoing commitment issues, and I’m more than just okay with that. While there are a lot of chefs out there who don’t want their recipes altered, I’ve often said that it makes me really happy when people take a recipe of mine and change it up. I want to be more than just a cook who dishes out exact recipes. I want to be the type of cook who inspires people to let loose in their kitchens, to be creative, to rebel. The greatest compliment you can give me is to take one of my recipes and make it your own. It would mean that my recipe sparked an idea in you, and then you took that idea and made it even greater. I love that! And that’s what cooking should be all about. If cooking meant just following directions to a T, trust me, I would not enjoy it. Make your kitchen your playground, and look at recipes as a starting block, a foundation on which you can build.
One of my favorite desserts to make for company (or for my midnight snack) is my Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes recipe, but I rarely make it exactly the same way. I’ll add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon or ginger to the mixture, or I’ll flavor the cakes by adding white chocolate chips, jam, or a caramel chew in the center of the batter before baking them. I’ve even thought about adding bacon bits in the middle. Why not? Mashed potatoes aren’t safe either – I’m always changing them up. Sometimes I’ll toss them with crispy pancetta or flavor them with roasted garlic or horseradish (yum!). Most often, I’ll mix in whatever cheese is in my fridge (parmesan, gorgonzola, or – my favorite for mashed potatoes – goat cheese). And when it comes to making a sauce, I’m always altering things a bit, adding sliced oranges instead of lemons to a piccata sauce, or, rather than using dry red wine, substituting port wine for a richer, sweeter flavor in my steak sauce.
Recipes are the one area of your life where I encourage you not to commit. Look at them, but then feel free to let your mind wander. Don’t approach a recipe as a rigid, set in stone, list of instructions. Approach it instead as a suggestion, and let yourself color outside the lines. No need to commit to anything in the kitchen, other than actually cooking.