One True Recipe . . . or a Rainbow Mosaic?

Sometimes people ask me, "What's your favorite food?"  which is ridiculously hard to answer, of course, as any EYB member knows. If we didn't love all kinds of food, we wouldn't have all kinds of cookbooks, and if we didn't have all kinds of cookbooks, we wouldn't need to know what's in them; ergo, we wouldn't be here.

Once you succeed in thinking of one of your favorite foods - say, carrot cake or roast cauliflower or bouillabaisse or veal saltimbocca or fried chicken (all favorites of mine) - you find yourself with another problem. What version? If you really love a particular dish, chances are you've tried it many different times and many different ways.

That's what I was thinking when I opened a package this morning and found Fried and True: More than 50 Recipes for Ameica's Best Fried Chicken and Sides.  In the days before I really cooked, I used to go hunting for the best fried chicken in Manhattan on the weekends (the best were at Pink Tea Cup in the West Village, and Sylvia's in Harlem, but I neer had a bad one).  

Later, when I felt comfortable enough as a cook not to be frightened of deep-frying, I started hunting for the best fried chicken recipe. Since I only make fried chicken once a year (on or about July 4th), this took a while.  I mostly use the one in The New Best Recipe, although it can use a litle tweaking (I find it benefits from an oven step, after the initial fry). The point is, though, I have a recipe that basically works, so I'll probably stick with it.  Fried and True may have many more versions I'd like, but what are the chances that I'll methodically test them all?

On the other hand, every time I see a roasted brussels sprout recipe, I feel compelled to try it.  Some of them are bacony, some are nutty, some are vinegary - I tried a cheesy one just last week.  I love them all!  How can you choose?  I suppose that explains the success of books like Fifty Shades of Kale, or Sheila Lukins'  Ten, which offers "ten perfect recipes"  for several favorite foods.  Great idea, yet somehow I find I never use the book - even though it's indexed.

Different approaches for different dishes I guess. Unles I'm testing, I only make one version of pad thai, wontons, carrot cake, royal icing, chard tart.  But I'm willing to re-invent the wheel any number of times for pork ribs, roast chicken, coconut macaroons, and any number of other favorites.  In another couple decades, will I have settled down so much that I'll have tried-and-true versions for 90% of my repertoire?  I doubt it - even if I'm not still a cookbook reviewer then.

How about you?  One version or many?  Tried-and-true or an ever-changing odyssey?

5 Comments

  • darcie_b  on  5/6/2014 at 2:55 PM

    I'm continually improvising and trying new recipes. I hardly have any recipe that is sacrosanct. Also, once I feel like I've "mastered" a recipe, I get bored and move on to another dish. This means that my husband never praises anything he really likes because he's afraid I won't make it again. :)

  • KarinaFrancis  on  5/7/2014 at 6:29 AM

    Spaghetti and meatballs is my ever evolving dish. I've fried them, baked them and just cooked them directly in the sauce. I love them all, time dictates the version I use

  • Rinshin  on  5/7/2014 at 3:05 PM

    I would say that 60% of my own cooking are already stored in my brain cell. We love them just the way they are. I sometimes try other recipes to see the new techniques, ingredients, etc, but most times I still find I prefer the ones I've been making all along. For example, I learned to make simple ground beef tacos from a Mexican-American neighbor when we lived on military base overseas. I was only 17 at the time and she showed me the fillings and how to make the Taco Bell type of sauce. They are still the ones we prefer above all else. You get used to certain taste just like your mom's cooking, and those are the ones we tend to love the most. We do not like going out to eat unless traveling so I do lots of cooking - lunch and dinner. That leaves me with 35-40% experimentation of other recipes.

  • Christine  on  5/8/2014 at 10:11 AM

    I could go either way on this -- there are some recipes that are my "tried & true" that I have no desire to improve upon them or seek out other versions. But then there are other recipes we've liked enough to make several times, but then get bored of. When that happens, I usually like to try out a different version the next time I consider making that sort of dish. I'm almost always up for an interesting twist on a favorite if I find one though.

  • hillsboroks  on  5/9/2014 at 1:04 PM

    I think if we were all only the "tried and true" type of cooks we would probably only have one or two cookbooks and would make the same thing over and over. I have friends and relatives like this and they think I am a bit nuts with all my cookbooks but they will happily accept a dinner or party invitation. I have my old standards that are great to fall back on when I am tired or in a hurry but I love nothing more than an excuse to dive into my cookbooks and/or EYB to search out something new and interesting to liven things up. I love it when I find a new combination of spices or ingredients that makes a boring dish new again.

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