I adore cookbooks, those colorfully-bound culinary instructions manuals, these days disguised as coffee table books, full of lavish photographs of delectable food. They inspire even as they instruct. They generate hunger while at the same time promising to satisfy it. Whenever a new cookbook arrives, I scoop it up greedily, tuck myself in a comfy corner of the sofa, and page through it, occasionally pausing to muse, “Oh, THAT looks good,” or “What a great idea!” If I’m feeling truly inspired, I’ll read several of the recipes from start to finish or perhaps stick a strip of post-it between the pages to indicate a recipe I’d like to try my hand at someday. However the process plays out, the conclusion is always the same: I close the book, hum happily to myself as I walk to the cupboard where the cookbooks live (okay, maybe I don’t always hum), and I place the new acquisition on the shelf with the others, where it stays.
The problem I have is that ever since this little invention called “The Internet” hit the scene, I find myself consulting actual, hard copy reference books less and less often. With instant, 24 hour access to dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and so on, it’s so much more convenient to consult the web rather than saving all of my questions for a time when I am able to consult my home library. When it comes to cooking, a basic search of any of the myriad cooking sites can pull up thousands of different recipes, including any tweaks and embellishments added by their writers. For this reason, I not only rarely cook from a book, I seldom even cook from single recipe. I have a tendency to scan a few of them online, acquaint myself with the basics, and then wing it. (Not always successfully, I might add.)
And yet I still collect cookbooks. Why? I don’t really know. There’s just something about them that calls to me, that convinces me that, honestly, this time will be different. This time I’ll use the crap out of this cookbook. But I don’t, and frankly I think that’s a damn shame. I think it’s a shame that all of the hard work on the part of the author, the photographer, the recipe tester, the publisher, the printer, and so on is going unappreciated in my home. I think it’s a shame, too, that I’ve spent money on something that’s sitting on a shelf, unused.
Therefore, as one of my goals for 2013, I have decided to cook at least one recipe a month from an honest to goodness, real live cookbook, and at the suggestion of a friend, I’m also going to blog about my adventures. As part of that endeavor, I am also challenging myself to follow the recipe as completely as possible. I have a bad habit of skimming the instructions to get the gist of them before forging on ahead however I see fit, but imagine how many neat tips and tricks I could be missing out on by doing so! A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, an industry professional, asked me to help test some of her recipes. When recipe testing, my job was to follow the instructions to the letter to make sure that it worked, that it made sense, etc. If I had skimmed the recipe as I tend to do, I might never have learned how to supreme an orange, or the safe way to add liquor to a hot pan, or how long it *actually* takes to caramelize onions (hint: ten minutes ain’t gonna cut it!). So I am putting myself at the mercy of the recipes I choose to make. Who knows what exciting things I’ll learn!
The first proper entry for the recipe cooked in January 2013 will be up in a few days, so be sure to check back. In the meantime, here’s a little hint as to what I made: