I have a confession to make. I don’t follow recipes. Unless I’m baking, which requires a lot more precision. But when I’m cooking, the same dish never really comes out the same twice. And I hardly ever measure. When coming up with dishes to blog, I have to make the dish, sometimes multiple times, measuring and tweaking to get it into written form.
I have two general methods for cooking. First is completely winging it. This works really well for me when I’m preparing dishes and working with flavors with which I’m really familiar. My second method involves looking up recipes for the same dish in multiple sources, taking general mental notes, and then winging it. This is how I cook dishes or use flavors that are new to me.
So despite not following recipes, I definitely do use recipes. I thought I’d share my favorite sources so you can look for your own inspiration.
As far as cookbooks go, I have way more than any sane person should own. I am currently working on weeding them out. But there are two main ones that I think every home should have. The first is The Joy of Cooking. More like a cooking encyclopedia than a cookbook, it contains just about anything the average household cook might want to know. This is my number one go-to book when looking for recipes. It also includes conversion tables, menus, table etiquette, nutrition charts, substitutions, general information about ingredients, food storage, and how to select fresh groceries.
There are two editions of The Joy of Cooking. My parents own the original edition. It’s fun to browse because it has some very interesting information in it. Need to know how to skin and prepare a squirrel? Refer to the game section. I have the new, updated edition. Sadly, squirrel is no longer on the menu.
I also recommend that every kitchen have a general cookbook such as a Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook or Betty Crocker Cookbook. I have the BHG one; I believe Kimiko has the Betty Crocker. These cookbooks contain a lot of different types of recipes but aren’t as in depth.
In addition to cookbooks, I also reference a lot of recipes on the internet. Sure, you can Google any recipe you want, but I find this a bit overwhelming and only do so after I’ve exhausted my other resources.
The first website I visit for recipes is foodnetwork.com. I like finding recipes here because I know the cooking styles of many of the chefs behind the recipes. I know which chefs I like and which ones I don’t. My favorites are Alton Brown and Tyler Florence.
I also use allrecipes.com on occasion. I don’t like this site as much because you never know what you are going to get. It’s a site where anyone can post any recipes they want, and then other people can rate and review them. I have found some great recipes there, but you have to learn to weed out the bad ones.
One major problem that I have with allrecipes is the way users tend to rate recipes. Some people will give a recipe five stars but then say they made a bunch of alterations when they were making it. They deviated from the original recipe so who knows if it deserved the five stars. On the other end of the spectrum, Kimiko once saw someone give a recipe one star and then admit that they forgot to add the baking soda. If you are going to use allrecipe or other user-contribution sites, be sure to read the comments of others who have reviewed it and discern whether or not it deserved the rating it received.
On both foodnetwork.com and allrecipes.com, you can create a recipe box to save your favorite recipes. This is a great way to keep track of them without having to print them out and have papers to clutter your cookbook shelf.
And of course, there’s always neartonothing.com. Yes, I go to my own blog to get recipes. If I want something to turn out the same way it did before, I follow what I did when I blogged it. That’s also how I get Kimiko’s recipes so I don’t have to bother her to e-mail them to me. And who knows. Maybe there will be a Near to Nothing cookbook in the future. Anyone interested?