When I first started cooking, I always followed a recipe. Teaspoons and tablespoons were taken very seriously. And if I forgot to buy an ingredient at the store, cooking came to a halt until that tablespoon of marjoram was located! (And if I sent my husband, he’d come back half an hour later with a tub of Country Crock and then wonder why I was so upset. No offense, Sweetie. I know you mean well.)
It seems a little silly to me now, but back then I had no idea what I was doing and if it was written down (regardless of the author–I had this idea that the only recipes out there were good recipes) that’s how I would do it. And that was the right way, because I was still learning. I have since learned a great deal about ingredients, proportions, and techniques. Unless I’m baking or making candy, I tend to wing it. Honestly, I even wing it when making most breads. So when we were at the grocery store over the weekend and my husband said he’d like beef stew this week, I didn’t whip out my phone to find a list of ingredients. I knew we had carrots and celery at home, plus some leftover sauteed mushrooms that would be a nice addition. My pantry always contains a good stash of dried herbs, tomato products and broths. I had onions in the cart, and I grabbed some stew meat. Done and done.
Now, a lot of the techniques I have on file in my brain come courtesy of Julia Child, especially when it comes to stews. I haven’t managed to cook all the way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I’ve tried quite a few of her recipes and went through a somewhat Child-obsessed phase, during which I read her memoir, her biography, and a collection of her letters. I read Julie and Julia twice and watched the movie countless times, despite its reduction of the Julie character to a somewhat pathetic dud. I have two box sets of The French Chef on DVD. You could say I’m a fan. Continue reading “Bouef Bourguignon(ish): Improvising the Art of French Cooking”