Adjust Recipes to Make Them Your Own!
Learning to cook from scratch should be an on-going process. If you can make a grilled cheese sandwich or scramble eggs, you are cooking from scratch. As your skills and confidence develop, you will branch out to more challenging and rewarding dishes. Eventually, you will want to have dishes you can call your own.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a professional chef. I just kinda fake it. I have a couple of recipes I have concocted all on my own, but for the most part, most “Tim’s originals” started off as somebody else’s original and over time evolved into my own unique recipe.
My barbeque spare ribs started out as a Steve Raichlen recipe. Later I added a little Paul Kirk and eventually, I ended up with a creation I call my own and friends and family rave over. Is that cheating? Yeah, I guess so, but who cares? I’m proud of my ribs and eating them makes my family smile. I suppose if I were to get my own TV show and claim to be a master chef, somebody could expose me as a sham (Hmm, I can just see my face plastered on the cover of The National Inquirer), but I’m just a guy trying to feed my family with yummy food, so I doubt I’ll see the paparazzi showing up any time soon.
How I go about making a recipe “my own” is I start with the desire to make something. For a long time now I’ve wanted to find a chili recipe that didn’t include “Billy Bob’s Chili Powder” as an ingredient. I periodically searched the web for chili recipes only to find a bunch of recipes which included some premixed chili powder or sauce as an ingredient. Finally, I found one which included its own mix of spices. Typically I would have made that recipe exactly as prescribed in the recipe the first time, but this time I skipped that step.
The recipe called for ancho and pasilla chili powders. I searched high and low and could not find them. Finally I found these two chilies in whole dried form at a local Mexican market. I put them in my spice grinder and made my own powder (oh, baby the braggin’ rights). The recipe also called for ground beef. No Way! Not My Chili! I grabbed a couple of tri-tip roasts, rubbed them in my home-made BBQ rub, let them sit in the fridge over night then smoked them for two hours before chunking them up to be slow simmered in my chili for six hours. BAM!!! Tim’s Original Smoked Chili!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Did I create this chili recipe all on my own? No way. Can I call my final product a Tim’s original? Yeah, I think so. How many Famous French Chefs make their own version of Coq au Vin? I don’t’ know, but I do know that recipe has been around for centuries. None of them created their recipe from nothing, they just put their own signature on a classic. Well, you and I are not doing much different than that, are we?
The key to making something “your own” is tweaking a recipe to reflect your own unique preferences. I knew I wanted chili with chunks of meat in it rather than ground beef. Being a BBQ guy, my next thought was, “why not smoke it?” If you’re not very creative, fear not. One way to “fake” being creative in the kitchen is to cook often. As your skills and experiences increase, so will your ideas on how to adjust other recipes. Give it time, it’ll come.
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