RECIPES ARE NOT PERFECT—HERE IS HOW TO FIX THEM.
Nach Waxman (pronounce “Knock”), founder of the revered bookstore Kitchen Arts & Letters in NYC, sadly passed away in the beginning of August.
Known as a “‘kitchen anthropologist,’ he created a mecca in Manhattan for chefs, writers, scholars, everyday cooks, and anyone else who is, well, hungry for culinary knowledge.” The following quotes are from the New York Times obituary written on August 13, 2021, by Sam Roberts:
“Mr. Waxman witnessed the growth of the internet. And though digital food editors today might disagree, he maintained in 2008 that the web was no substitute for cookbooks.
“It will, indeed, provide you every imaginable variety and conception of ‘peanut butter,’ ‘jelly,’ and ‘sandwich,’” he said in 2008, “but in the end it will still only be offering you a list; it will not have a viewpoint. It will not assist you in evaluating this massive compilation of what happens when these three food ideas intersect.”
“Similarly, he argued that recipes should serve as directional cues that encourage creative detours rather than being mimicked precisely, like a road map. . . . coddled by the printed recipes that encourage obedience and conformity at the expense of knowledge and understanding, we have become a generation of cooks that does not know how to cook.”
These quotes are powerful in their accuracy and probably describe most people’s cooking experience. Without knowing basic techniques, you are forced to follow recipes. But recipes are not always exact or accurate. Even if you follow the recipe precisely it may not turn out as well as you imagined it would.
There are differences in kitchens, in the ingredients used, and the way the food is prepared. And it is also possible that the recipe just isn’t accurate or you won’t like the flavors you’re creating. That is normal. Recipes are not perfect nor are they meant to be. They are guides that need adjustments to make certain that the food you are making tastes as good as you can make it.
I am talking about cooking not baking. Baking is different; it is an exact science that in order to succeed needs to be done precisely. That being said, even in baking it may take a few tries to master the recipe you are following and it may be necessary to try a few different recipes to achieve the results you are looking for.
Here are some tips to make sure your recipes are the best they can be.
Recipes are not perfect! If you expect them to be you’ll be both frustrated and disappointed and you’ll wrongly blame yourself for your lack of success. That’s why it’s important to learn how to cook and not just how to follow a recipe. That is the reason I wrote Le Kitchen Cookbook: a workbook. I wanted to explain the different cooking techniques, explain the different types of ingredients, how to add flavor, make sauces and thicken liquids so they are an integral part of the food. When you understand the components needed to create really good food, all it takes is practice. The benefit to all that practice—you’ll be eating really well.
This is Nach Waxman’s recipe for Brisket of Beef. It is considered to be one of the best brisket recipes by people in the know. I haven’t made it yet but I’m going to.
BRISKET OF BEEF
Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total time: 5 hours
Preheat oven to 375°
From The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes by Stephanie Pierson. Copyright © 2011 by Stephanie Pierson. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.
Thank you Nach for all you’ve done to inspire us to learn to cook, truly a worthwhile endeavor.
What about you?
Are you a timer cook? Do you taste as you cook? Do you make adjustments as you cook?
When you try Nach’s recipe let us know what you think, I’ll do the same.
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