Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Read a Recipe

I know what you're thinking. You looked at that title and wondered whether I thought you were an idiot, or perhaps you thought I was an idiot. I assure you. Neither of us are idiots, and some of this may seem stupid; however, if you can approach a recipe in the right way, they will do better by you. (Geez, that was a long sentence.) Basically, what we are trying to do by this method is have a complete idea of what is coming when we make a dish. Think of it like SQ3R, only far less picky.

First, read over the whole recipe, just to get a basic idea of the whole picture.

Next, you'll want to look over the ingredients list and take a careful look at what should happen to each of them. You don't want to get halfway through a dish and realize that deglazing liquid should be at room temperature or that onion needs to be diced fine or that chicken should have been cooked already or worse, those beans should have soaked overnight. Also, make sure you have all the ingredients before you begin.

Now take a look at what tools you will need. It may not say explicitly, but I'm sure you'd be able to glean that you need a pan in order to saute. Make sure all your necessary tools are near at hand to your cooking area.

Take a look at how long each step will take to make sure you have enough time to actually prepare the dish.

Next, start your mise en place. (French for everything in its place or something like that) Chop up your vegetables. Measure your liquids. Get out the right number of eggs. Get out all the herbs and spices you'll need. (If you're particularly anal, you can measure them out and put them in custard cups just like on TV.) Make sure all your ingredients are prepped and within reaching distance. I just let everything sit on my cutting board.

Now that everything is in place, take one last look at the recipe. There may be a teaspoon of salt hidden in the directions. (My Better Homes and Gardens cookbook does that to me all the time.) Or that cup of buttermilk may need to be split in half. Or the oven may need to be preheated. (I ruined many a pan of brownies with this one.)

Finally, you're ready to start cooking. It may seem like this takes a long time, but there are three reasons why it doesn't. 1) It will save you time because you won't have to stop in the middle of a recipe to cut something up or run to the store. 2) It will save you time by streamlining your procedure. 3) You only have to go through this process once per recipe.

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