When you make a recipe for the first time,you should apply your knowledge and thinking about the recipe in relation to the skills you have. In particular, you should determine the following points:
1. What are the basic cooking methods?
When you read the recipe for Sauerbraten (p. 345),you will quickly figure out that the cooking method used is braising (even if the word braise is never used in the recipe).Then you should review in your mind everything you know about basic braising procedures.
2. What are the characteristics of the ingredients?
If the sauerbraten recipe calls for bottom round of beef, for example, you should ask yourself,"What do I know about bottom round? Is it lean or fatty? Tough or tender? How do these traits affect cooking?"
3. What are the functions of the ingredients?
What does the vinegar do in the sauerbraten recipe? What about the vegetables? The gingersnaps?
When you have gained more experience, you will be able to easily answer these questions.You will know what ingredients contribute to flavor, to texture, or to body, and how they do it.
4. What are the cooking times?
Most of the recipes in this book do not give cooking times, except as general guidelines to help you plan production.This is because cooking times are too variable to be stated exactly.
Instead, you will learn how to test for doneness by observing changes in the product.You must be able to judge when a product has reached the right temperature, the proper texture or consistency, or the desired taste.
When you learn to cook with judgment, you will be able to cook with most recipes, even poorly written ones.You will be able to see what might be wrong with a new recipe before you try it and to make adjustments in it.You will know how to substitute ingredients or use different equipment. You will even be able to create new recipes.
Remember we said that some recipes supply very little information and depend largely on the cook's knowledge.With enough experience, you will even be able to cook from recipes like the following, a complete recipe for Fillets of Sole Bercy, quoted in its entirety from Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, a favorite book used by chefs in classical French cooking:"Poached with shallots and chopped parsley, white wine and fish stock. Reduce the stock, add butter, and coat the fish, glaze."
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