Thursday, October 02, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Recipe Use Suggestions

I was working on my 14th notebook when I wrote this article in May 2005. Since that time, my use of journals has risen sharply from one or two each year to four or five. No. 47 carried me through the end of summer camp season in August. Today, I'm 83 pages into journal no. 48. 

Chefs use cookbooks for a variety of reasons. Most of my professional acquaintances use cookbooks to garner fresh ideas for their kitchens. They don’t view the recipe as a hard-fast formula. Instead, chefs use them as a starting point for their next creation.

These recipes are written to my tastes. They're here to give you an idea of how I cook in camp. It's up to you to try the recipes and to adapt them to your likes and dislikes. There's plenty of room for change.

Use the recipes as a guide. Experiment and try different approaches. Alter a few ingredients if some are not to your liking. For example: I can’t stand celery. The stuff gags me. I can’t get past its stringiness and rough texture. But there are recipes that benefit from its nutty flavor. Unless I can strain it out of the dish out of the dish, I add whole stalks and fish them out later.

Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Before your camping trip, select several recipes and test them at home first. Unless you’re already an experienced camp cook, it’s wise to try each recipe in a familiar kitchen. Once you've figured out each recipe’s idiosyncrasies, you’ll be better equipped to prepare it in camp.
  • Read each recipe twice. With a little practice, you’ll soon visualize the finished product in your mind. This is valuable to see if it’s the dish that you want. It’ll also aid in preparing your grub list and set the instructions in your mind so you don’t have to keep referring back to cookbook while you’re cooking.
  • Gather all ingredients and cookware before starting. A bowl full of flour, salt and spices is useless when an empty can reminds you that you used the last of the baking powder last week. Sometimes, you can make a quick substitution. You can, for example, substitute baking soda with an acid for baking powder in most recipes. But you’re stuck if you discover that you didn't pack the baking soda.
  • Take notes. I keep a camping journal. And since food has been my professional life, you might expect to find more notes about our camp meals than other topics. Even if you just use the journal to chronicle you cooking adventures, it’s a valuable tool. Use a journal to record: what works and what doesn't; what you liked and didn't like about a dish; ideas to improve a dish’s flavor; and creative menus for future meals. And, if you decide to write a cookbook, you’ll already have a notebook (I’m on number 14) bristling with recipes and stories of your culinary adventures.

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