Thursday, September 30, 2010

3. understand prep vs. production

(Part of The Cookbook)

In nearly every recipe, there's a crucial point to observe: The time it's OK to take a break. This magic time occurs between the preparation of ingredients for cooking and the beginning of the actual cooking (a.k.a.: prep vs. production). Most recipes omit this detail. In most of my recipes on this blog, the prep work is listed in with the ingredients (e.g.: "1 head garlic, cloves peeled & sliced"), and the first step of the instructions marks the beginning of production.

The idea is that first, you wash and cut your produce, cut any meat, and get everything else physically together that you will need to make the dish. Once you've done that, you can take a little break. Or a long one. Sometimes you can prep a day or two in advance, if the quality of your ingredients won't suffer. This is what cooks do in restaurants; it's why you can get pot roast that needs to be cooked for 3 hours on your table 15 minutes after you order it, or risotto that takes 40 minutes to cook in the same 15 minutes. The pot roast was cooked already and cooled; it just needed reheating in some delicious sauce, which was also made in advance. The risotto was cooked 2/3 of the way, cooled, and finished when the cooks got your order. This is how you can make cooking at home easier. Even a short break makes the whole experience nicer for you.

So, once you've got everything in your dish washed, cut and assembled, take a rest. And do whatever you can do in advance. You'll have more fun cooking.

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