December 07, 2010

What I Learn From "Just Okay" Recipes

Each issue of Cook's Country features a "30-Minute Supper" section, featuring a number of short, quick recipes.  Though most of them really can't be made in 30 minutes by most cooks, they're still pretty quick to make, and they're also pretty good a lot of the time.  During last week's menu planning, I wanted a quick dinner, so I flipped through the most recent issue of Cook's Country and saw one that sounded pretty good:  Creamy Pasta with Lemon-Pepper Chicken.

Pretty basic recipe, really.  Cook some pasta, saute some chicken, slice it up, mix the chicken into he pasta along with some lemon juice and zest, Parmesan, ricotta, parsley, garlic and a bit of the water used to cook the pasta, and bingo,  you've got a chicken and pasta dish with a creamy cheese sauce.  What could go wrong with that?

Nothing, really.   The result was okay.  Not really exciting, perhaps even a bit bland, but still not bad by any means.   With the addition of some broccoli, it made for a good dinner, and while we weren't impressed enough to make me likely to make this one again, it's the kind of recipe I like to tinker with.  So, while I probably won't make this particular dish again, or at least not in the form of the published recipe, the odds are pretty good that at some point I will either make something based on it, or use some elements from this recipe to make something quite different.  Most likely I'll use the idea of combining ingredients directly in with the pasta to make a sauce instead of making a sauce and adding it to the pasta.  That's not a completely original idea - I've seen some recipes for carbonera and other pasta dishes that do essentially the same thing - but until I made this recipe, I didn't realize how potentially versatile that basic technique is. 

By looking at recipes in that way - figuring out how they work, or what parts of them work, and then thinking about how else I might apply that knowledge - I've found that even dishes I don't particularly like can give me some good ideas I can use to make things that are more to my liking.  Figuring that out has opened up whole new vistas of cooking for me.  If you don't already look at recipes in that way, I recommend you try it out, and see where it leads you.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like this recipe is only missing a little sherry to deglaze the pan after cooking the chicken. And maybe a little nutmeg. Sherry or cognac make a world of difference - even white Worcestershire would have helped.