Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jennaism Cooking?

I've been getting a lot of recipe requests. People wanted to know about things like my pumpkin pie, naan, and pies in jars. I have the link for the write up about jar pies here, and my apple pie recipe is on Huffington Post. But generally, I do not use any sort of recorded measurements or recipes. I learned to cook through the building blocks of a single recipe and from there its all experimentation and luck. For instance, for last night's curry I steamed a pile of chopped summer squash, red pepper, and cauliflower with a bit of salt in a large basin like pan that was a hand-me down from my friend Jim. It's a semi-wok so I steamed right there in the pan and then added my yellow curry paste, some cream, some honey, and cheese curds. It was a pretty farmy curry for late harvest but it was good. I served it over basmati rice with naan and no one left the table hungry. But nothing is written down. It's all just "doing" and as frustrating as it sounds I think that going freelance is how most of us learn to cook.

I do however, have the easy naan recipe from online I used as my base of operations. You can click here for that. I didn't use a lot of the ingredients they suggested, like minced garlic, melted butter or milk. I just read how to do it changed it up in a way that seemed more appealing. Here's a Jennaism change: after I fried them in olive oil in the smoky skillet I would butter them with melted butter via a cook's brush and then gently sprinkle sugar and sea salt over them. It made a savory/sweet combo that was pretty boss if I do say so myself. I find with naan people either want to use it as a rice/meat scoop (like me) or eat it as a side dish. So I offer it up in a basket and let people decide, but there is always more honey and salt on the table if they want a flavor boost.

I adore cooking, but most of the time my recipes are just me saying things like "add some flour until it feels *just* sticky enough to be annoying and then stop even when you want to add more because it won't get in your fingernails" That isn't really specific. I could write Jennaism recipes though, but they'd be more like a narrative with food than measurements and rules? Do you want some of those? Does anyone else cook like this? You must.

40 Comments:

Blogger Maria said...

Hi Jenna, I cook like that all the time.....by feel, by eye measurement, but nothing truly measured - just what looks good. Most of the time it works....sometimes, it doesn't! But we learn that way!

October 25, 2012 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

We do a hybrid of this method. I'll try a new recipe following it closely. I'm still learning new methods and techniques of cooking, so this helps build my skillbase. Then while were eating, we critique the recipe. What we like, don't and how we can make it better. The next time I make I go off memory and improv. This normally results in the creation of our favorite dishes that get worked into our daily rotation. I for one would love more "jennaism" recipes!!

October 25, 2012 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger eidolons said...

I cook that way. It drives people crazy when they ask me for a recipe. Or when I try to explain to my husband how to make something when I'm not feeling up to it. (:

October 25, 2012 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

My wife totally cooks like this. And, having eaten at both of your tables, I heartily approve. It's not my own style. I'm in charge of cooking anything that requires careful measurement, timing, or doing things exactly the same every time. I make the best cream of wheat in the world, if I do say so myself. :)

October 25, 2012 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Deltaville Jamie said...

Recipes are only a starting point for me, and I rarely measure anything exactly. If there is a spice or flavor I'm fond of, I add more of whatever it is. Sometimes I add things until it "looks right". Drives people nuts when they ask for recipes.

October 25, 2012 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

I live with a chef. Your recipes sound perfect to me. :)

October 25, 2012 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger sequoia rose said...

I would love to see some "Jennaism" recipes! I often alter recipes that I find and never measure out the exact amount of ingredients that they call for. Sometimes the experiments are wildly successful and other times my family silently nibbles at the sorry outcome.

October 25, 2012 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger jules said...

We do a little of both down here. I cook recipes mostly by the book, especially new ones. But, like Jamie, we critique it and end up changing it up to suit us. My Husband, on the other hand, can throw together anything we have and make wonderful food for us.

I would LOVE to read "Jennaism" recipes. I'd like to be able to just put things together and make them good.

October 25, 2012 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Amy Patterson said...

It would be fun to read Jennaified recipies. Please post :)

October 25, 2012 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I cook exactly like this. It makes people nuts. :)

October 25, 2012 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Helena said...

I cook like that a lot, but I don't bake like that. Baking generally requires more precision since, as my husband says, a lot of it is chemistry.

October 25, 2012 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Kelsie said...

This is how I cook everything except baked goods (cakes, muffins, etc). I find more exact measurements are needed there, though I did recently make excellent buckwheat pancakes purely by instinct on a camping trip a few weeks back. I can't imagine standing in the kitchen and measuring things out, though, for the most part. Soups, stews, pastas, curries, and other dishes are all made via instinct and the knowledge gleaned from studying recipes. It worked for my grandma, and it works for me! :)

October 25, 2012 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

I was taught how to cook by Southern women (and some men) at a young age (around the age of 5 or 6 with basic things), so I cook like this as well. There are so many variations of recipes between my myself, my mom, and grandmother. My mom is really big on making up recipes, but she tends to stick by hers each time she makes something. I make them up and vary them almost each time I make a dish. My grandmother changes up as well. My husband hasn't been cooking as long, so he tends to strictly stick to a recipe at first. In my opinion, though, he has a better palate (or maybe he's just more adventurous) than I am, so after making something for a while, he'll go and make something completely different and awesome out of it. I get bored of the same old food easily, so this style works for me.

And yes, would love to see some of your food "recipes."

October 25, 2012 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I definitely cook like this and would love some Jenna recipes.

October 25, 2012 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

I find Elizabeth Zimmerman's knitting patterns are like that too. Verra organic. If you were going to read only 1 of her books, I'd reccommend the Knitter's Almanac.

October 25, 2012 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

When I left to live on my own, my mother got a nice little beginners cookbook and edited each recipe. There are ingredients and instructions crossed out with comments in the margins like 'Use butter instead." and "Why bother with all this angst, just dump it all in a pot and cook until it smells good." It still makes me giggle, but yes, I cook like that, too.

October 25, 2012 at 11:55 AM  
OpenID notherethenwhere said...

My husband wants to learn to cook, but is finding that having me teach him my basics is really frustrating because I cook this way too. He wants measurements rather than approximations because he has virtually no experience with this kind of thing.

October 25, 2012 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger chesapeake said...

It's the only way to cook! Recipes piss me off.

October 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

It'd be fun to see some Jennaism recipes! We cook the same way :)

October 25, 2012 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Sonya said...

It drives me bonkers when someone tells me to had a dash of this and a pinch of that..lol I need measurments because my feeling for sticky or smooth could be different from someone elses. However once I try a recipe as stated I will then do my own thing the next time..following correct measurments of course..lol

October 25, 2012 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

I cook like that all the time - my motto in the kitchen is typically, "Recipe? We don't need no stinkin' recipe!"

Thank you for the link to the pies in jars post (not sure how I missed that one). I will definitely be trying it!

October 25, 2012 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I hardly ever follow directions for anything. Except, I did hear once that if it's a new recipe you've never made befroe, do it like the recipe says, then you can do your own thing after. So I do that if it's new. Otherwise, I am throwing stuff together and using what I have on hand. It most always turns out pretty good.

October 25, 2012 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I love "Jennaism" type recipes! You should read "Food That Really Schmecks". It's a book about mennonite cooking in Ontario, and is written more like a narrative about old mennonite life, and many of the recipes are more toward your style.
I just posted a recipe for stuffing pie that I made up last night on my blog, here: http://pinandpurl.blogspot.ca/2012/10/stuffing-pie.html

It was a total crapshoot, but it turned out great! I just took what I had, looked up a basic recipe for the crust, and cooked off the hip from there.
I always think after I cook this way and it turns out well, man, I should write that down. But it always ends up being more of a story than a recipe, because I have no measurements for anything, either.

I think we'd all welcome more Jennaism recipes, please! Thanks for sharing!

October 25, 2012 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Josh and Haley said...

I definitely like recipes - especially for new recipes. And, I've never roasted a chicken before, so I would LOVE your recipe! :)

October 25, 2012 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Megan, Rudy's mom said...

Oh yeah, I find the regular way things are written are not descriptive enough. Picked up the Old Sturbridge Village Cook Book over the weekend. How they wrote recipies down in the "olden" days is much different than it's now and way more helpful.

October 25, 2012 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

We love naan so we will have to try this version. Thanks! Not to be an alarmist but hurricane sandy is passing to the east of us right now, but predicted to be in your area in a few days. Keep eye on her. Take care!

October 25, 2012 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Kelly McMichael said...

Yep, that's how most of my weekday cooking goes. Even when I follow a recipe I don't really follow a recipe. I just use it for advice and guidance. I rarely make a recipe exactly as stated, though I love to read 'em!

October 25, 2012 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Cricket McRae said...

I totally cook like this, and you know who else does? Mark Bittman. I love his Kitchen Express cookbook with things like: heat some chicken broth, whisk some eggs into it, add some soy sauce and top with sesame oil or cilantro or sliced scallions or all of the above -- and boom! egg drop soup. So we'd love to see some more of your Jennaistic recipes!

October 25, 2012 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Mayleen said...

I usually think of a recipe as "guidelines" and go from there. I often choose spices by sniffing the food, then sniffing the spice, and see if it smells yummy together! My daughter does the same thing and came up with cinnamon and season salt in pinto beans 'n' rice - surprisingly tasty!

October 25, 2012 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Buttons said...

Oh I love Border Collies I miss mine so much they are such beautiful intelligent dogs..
I never stick to a recipe it usually turns out fine, or at least deliciously unexpected.:) B

October 25, 2012 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger lemontreelane said...

would love to see 'jenna-ified' recipes!

October 25, 2012 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

I do cook like that a lot sometimes I measure sometimes I dont new recipies I always measure old ones are by feel.... for instance we made your bread the other day and we made a braided loaf but we made a cinnamon and sugar version it was out of this world... I make your bread recipie about twice a week we love it and the pancakes oh my god... the pancakes... I for one would love some jennaism recipies you havent let me down yet ;-)

October 26, 2012 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger lemontreelane said...

I forgot to say that our weekly pizza night is made with jenna's recipe from a long time ago! And we LOVE it!

October 26, 2012 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger Christee said...

I cook like that as well. Friends will ask for a recipe for my spaghetti sauce and I learned from my Grandparents (Italian) without measuring anything. I usually just throw stuff together and see how it ends up.
I wanted to know more about the flour for the naan because bread and pastry type of items are not my forte. Dinner I can rock! So thank you for posting the link to the naan recipe.
Much thanks!
Christee

October 26, 2012 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

I totally cook like that! I find that when I write out recipes they turn out just like my voicemail - WAY TOO LONG!

October 26, 2012 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Goyle said...

Hmm... Jennaism cookery. I'm sensing a topic for a new book...

October 26, 2012 at 11:52 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Goyle said...

Hmm... Jennaism cookery... I am snesing a topic for a new book...

October 26, 2012 at 11:52 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I cook like this, teach like this, and learn like this. It helps me remember better. And I do this sort of thing to recipes all the time. (Its also why I don't bake much; I don't do precise measurements. Little measuring spoons are too annoying to clean.)

October 27, 2012 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Patterson said...

Unless it is a recipe for a food I have never tasted or for something I haven't made yet and don't have a good feel for how to compensate with I usually cook by 'eye and hand'. It took me several days to get a bread recipe into usable form. I kept starting off with comments like "You want the milk to be warm like blood for a vampire.", and "Check to see if the yeast is alive before you throw all that expensive stuff in". I wish I had kept a copy of the original.

October 28, 2012 at 2:27 PM  
OpenID catchexcellence said...

It's the way my grandmother taught me to cook. A dash, a pinch, a taste, a feel. That's the only way to make food your own. If I cook straight from a recipe it isn't nearly as good because it wasn't made just for me and my family. My biggest quick is I count. Especially when adding liquid ingredients. I have little side notes in my recipe journal that say "3 counts of EVOO" or "10 count of maple syrup" Because of course everyone will know what a "count" of maple is. . .

October 30, 2012 at 10:17 AM  

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