Lately I've been spending a day a week playing in the kitchen. It may not sound that exciting to you, but it's my favourite day of the week! Because I meal plan for clients, and each client is a new person or family that I get to work with, I like to spend my time creating meals that challenge the status quo in taste-bud land, or in real world prep-and-cook ville. I completely understand that it's challenging to put together meals on busy and/or hot and/or exhausted days, and that is why I do what I do.
Today I played around with a slow cooker sweet-and-sour chicken skewer, pan fried mahi-mahi, and created a chicken and pepper quesadilla. I used some new-to-me flavour combinations on the fish, and some tried and true stir fry favourites in the quesadilla. The chicken skewers taste good- but not as good as my amazing fish, and not an improvement on my original recipe, so that test is out the window. I used smaller portions to test this week and really regretted that decision when the fish was ready to sample.
I've been asked how recipe development works, and it's hard to explain. Some people find their creativity in painting or decorating. Some find a great deal of pleasure in gardening, crocheting, or quilting. Recipe development, for me, takes comfortable spices and herbs and combines them in a way that is new, or puts them to use in unusual or different food pairings.
Spice blends are a large part of my recipes. I always mix the spices separately, tasting as I add each one. If the food is still raw, adding spices before you know how they taste together can be a dicey situation- most herbs and spices taste better when given the chance to cook with the meal. If we wait to see how it tastes after the meat is already cooked, adding more herbs and spices at the end doesn't give the food enough time to absorb the flavour, and the spice or herb enough time to mellow into the meal.
Tasters are important to me, too. It's actually the third day of recipe development this week, as I can only make so many foods in a day when the rest of life is happening as well. I get challenged by ingredients just as anyone else, so when I challenge myself to create an amazing meal with a less comfortable ingredient, I rely on my testers to confirm my taste buds aren't biased in my favour. Sometimes the meal works, and sometimes it doesn't, but it's never wasted effort- just an opportunity to grow my repertoire and expertise. I usually have my meals tasted by a few different people. My husband, always, because he's got very sensitive taste-buds. I have a few friends that I call when I need someone to taste something new. And my kids, often. My youngest isn't the most tactful person, so I often get a really love-it or hate-it specific response from him- anything from "That's the worst thing I've ever tasted" to "Mom, thank you for this amazingly delicious meal! You're the best cooker ever!"
I'll fill my fridge with containers labeled with scribbled notes to remind me what I'm doing. Ingredients, or things like what time I started marinading, and so on. I'll work through those ingredients and keep what works, and toss what doesn't.
Today, as I was noshing down a bowl of amazing salad I created, my husband asked me how work was going. "Great!" I said, "This is part of my job!"
Best. Job. Ever.
Enjoy your day, friends!
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