On my journey to becoming a real cook (see definition below) I rely on a variety of tools – questions to other cooks, classes, cooking shows, reading and journaling. Since I didn’t grow up at my mother’s side everyday learning the ins and outs of cooking (in this day and age very few people have had that fortune), these tools help me catch up.
Journaling is a wonderful tool that can be used for many purposes, and cooking is just one activity I apply it to. In addition to keeping my cooking journal, I have a dance and yoga journal, as well as a personal reflections journal.
Real Cook n.
1. A cook with an old school style, yet modern flare.
2. Someone who prepares food from scratch using fresh, quality ingredients and rarely relies on boxed and canned processed foods. A real cook can quickly make a tasty meal due to the skill acquired from years of practice. The real cook knows timesaving shortcuts as well as how to fix mistakes, measure by sight, and make adjustments based on taste and experience. She or he knows ingredients and can taste something and tell you exactly what’s in it.
In my cooking journal I keep track of recipes that I’ve tried and write notes on what to do or not do the next time I make the dish. In other words, I write down what I learned from that particular cooking experience.
For example, the last entry in my journal was for an herbed cornbread recipe. What did I learn and write down to remember next time? Add two additional tablespoons of sugar, remember to let the melted butter cool before adding it to the eggs, and bake a few minutes less than the recipe states. You can also keep these kind of notes on the paper the recipe is written on (which may be in a book), but I find keeping such notes in a journal more appealing.
In addition to recipe notes, I write down recipe ideas, thoughts about something I tasted that I want to remember, as well as any thoughts or things to remember that I come across while watching a cooking show, reading an article or blog post or attending a food or wine expo.
Honestly, I don’t diligently write a journal entry for everything I make and not even always for every new recipe I try. Keeping a journal doesn’t have to be another chore on your already long list of things to do, but it can provide you with a useful reference as you explore and build your repertoire of dishes. And years from now once you feel that you’ve arrived, you can pass your cooking journal down to someone – a son or daughter, niece or nephew for instance – to help them on their journey to becoming a real cook. Just think of the wealth of information you would have if you had a cooking journal from your grandmother or great-aunt.
Another one of my latest entries in my journal is for Spicy Sausage and Rice. This is an easy recipe I wrote. Serve it with a side vegetable and you’ll have a quick weekday meal. Try it out to get you started with your first journal entry.
Do you already keep a journal of some sort? How do you keep your recipe notes? Better yet, do you have a collection of old family recipes with hand written notes? Leave a comment below and let me know about it!
Spicy Sausage and Rice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons tomato sauce (from 8 oz. can)
2 cups water
4 spicy sausage links (12 oz. package of fully-cooked spicy sausage: turkey, chicken, beef or pork. I prefer chicken or turkey. Use Italian, Andouille or some other spicy sausage)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup rice
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and jalapeño pepper and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes. Add Cajun seasoning and sauté for 1 minute more stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato sauce and sauté for another minute stirring constantly. Add water, sausage and salt and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir in rice. Once water comes back up to a boil, place heat on low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and sit aside, covered for 5 minutes. Fluff rice and sausage with a fork and serve.