Yup, 2016’s almost in the books. And we’re quickly looking down the barrel of 2017. I’m thinking to myself, what I my biggest cooking-related goal for 2017? I can think of SO many things I want to do better. It’s easy to have tons of goals. But, I thought I’d challenge myself to make ONE goal my priority for next year. I wanted to make it practical, yet challenging. I wanted something that could make my life better on a day-to-day basis. So here’s what I chose. I want to learn FIVE fundamental recipes that I can make on a regular basis - and then create several variations of each one. I want to become so familiar with these basics that I can make them well almost without a recipe.
One of the almost daily challenges I face is what to prepare for my family’s dinner each evening. It’s easy to have dinners become redundant and boring. But what if I could perfect (ok, perfect might be too strong a word) a set of recipes that can be changed to introduce different flavors and even different types of dishes that can keep things interesting. I plan to make those several base recipes over and over until I know them by heart - preparation, technique/method, temperature, timing, doneness testing, etc. Then I will begin tweaking each one in a variety of ways until I have a set of recipes based on those basics.
My inspiration came a few months ago when I spent the day in a commercial kitchen with a local restaurant's staff. The baker had a set of recipes in a small binder, but he referred to it pretty infrequently. He had made a number of the basic recipes so often he could make them almost without looking at a recipe. Only once did I see him double-check the measures (and measurement and weighing ingredients is super-important in baking) in a recipe. Other that that he was almost on auto-pilot. Now that's not to say his recipes were boring - far from it. He could take those base recipes and make different baked goods from them. He could make many different variations of scones or croissants. But they all started with a few basic recipes; recipes that he knew by heart. I thought that this was a great idea to apply in our everyday cooking.
An example. Chicken breasts are one of the most versatile foods around. So, being able to cook a great dish of chicken breasts is a really good core recipe to have in your collection. But roasting (or baking or whatever your chosen method is) those chicken breasts can certainly get boring if prepared the same way time after time. But what if you introduce different herbs, spices, and/or coatings? What if you make your chicken breasts recipe and use it shredded or diced in a chicken salad, a casserole, or some other dish? It would be pretty easy to come up with a lot of recipes that begin with chicken breasts as their base.
So my PRIMARY goal this coming year is to focus on that basic set of recipes - and then using those basics to expand to other dishes. My hope is that before I'm done I'll have a very solid stable of 20-25 recipes that I can turn to again and again.
So, what's your one MAIN goal for 2017. I suggest you narrow down your list and name it. And then put a plan in place to achieve it. As 2017 continues you will see your cooking continue to get better and better.
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