So what exactly do I mean by Improvisation? Improvising is cooking your roux just a tad longer than the recipes calls for so you can get that perfect color. Improvising is adding a touch of salt, or maybe less to suit your "taste." Ask any good cook and I'm sure they will tell you that they never really follow a recipe, they just cook. You ask for a dish and they get to work, ask them to write down the recipe and lets just say that takes a bit longer. I like to leave exact numbers for baking. Once you learn how to improvise things start to get a lot easier.
Recipes are not written in stone, they are meant to be played with. As I said before some recipes may just not suit your taste, others may just need a little improvisation. I have had dishes that I never thought would work, low and behold, three tries and a full belly later, I have a winner! You have to be confident with yourself. The more you start to play with recipes, the more you will learn to understand how flavors work. You will start to find your own "go-to" spices, and flavorings. You will learn how to dissect a recipe and make subtle changes to suit your own palate, next thing you know you will be posting your own recipes!
So where to begin is the question. These are a few tips that will make recipe following easy, and keep you from turning that home-run sauce into soup.
- Easy Does It - When it comes to adding ingredients to your recipe, whether its spices or broth, always add a little at a time. Taste as you go along, especially with salt and pepper, even if you can't cook very well, I'm sure you know what tastes good. If you added half the salt the recipe requires but it tastes good let it be, adding the full amount may cause the dish to become overly salty. Use the measurements as guidelines. Once you become efficient at this you can begin to eliminate measurements altogether, and begin to season all your dishes to "taste." Now your cooking!
- Patience - Good food takes time. Become a master of prep work. Take the time to cut your own fresh ingredients. Never rush the dish, especially with sauces. In the future I will be sharing some amazing sauce recipes which require slow cooking, and believe me, the extra time put into your food will be much appreciated!
- Cook For You - This is the best advice I can give when trying new recipes. I always encourage people to try new things. Often people will not try a recipe because they see an ingredient that is unappealing to them. Don't knock it until you try it. Different flavor combinations create unique tastes that just may pleasantly surprise you. If you try it and you still don't like it change it. Try to make it yours, add your own twist to it. It can be as simple as eliminating the the ingredient you don't like and replacing it with one you do, or you can rework the whole dish. You may end up with a masterpiece of your own!