I used to be quite obsessed with copying and adapting recipes, organizing them and amassing a collection. But I have to admit that I have lost interest in that aspect of cooking, which may help explain why this blog has been so lamentably neglected as of late. It has become clear to me that I really no longer need to expend my labor in copying or collecting recipes. The age of the “just in time” recipe is here. Via my relatively small cookbook collection, I have access to over 20,000 recipes (according to my library on Eat Your Blogs), and once I go online, that number expands exponentially into infinitude. If I want a recipe for something, anything, chances are I can find it within seconds. There does not seem to be much point in writing down recipes anymore.
Lately, I have become much more interested in combining recipes into menus — menus that are both interesting to eat and easy to execute. Rather than recipes, it is menus that I have been playing around with, collecting and organizing. Neither my cookbooks nor the online world seem to provide more than the most basic guidance on how to create a successful menu. Yet most recipes don’t alone make a full meal. Each meal requires a new menu.
I am starting to come up with some rules for what makes a good menu. The first rule is that the menu must encompass no more than four separate dishes. Four seems to be the greatest number of dishes I can make without frustration in one cooking session. Three dishes is an ideal menu, in one of these combinations: a starter, an entree and a side; a starter, an entree and a dessert; or an entree, a side and a dessert. For a lighter meal, I can definitely get away with a menu of only two different items.
Another rule is balance. Of course, different kinds of foods, tastes and textures should balance one another. But to save the sanity of the cook, it is also necessary to balance complexity of dishes. If I am making one elaborate dish, the rest of the menu should be composed of relatively simple recipes. A simple entree, such as roast chicken, calls for a more elaborate side, though, in order to keep the meal from becoming boring.
I will try to post some of my more successful menus here, with links to the recipes, of course.