What Makes a Recipe Memorable and Repeatable?

Kitchen Diaries: Kate in New York City

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This week, in an attempt to regain an ounce of kitchen enthusiasm, I cooked dinner three times and even baked once. Although I may have totally failed on the self imposed breakfast challenge from last week, perhaps I can forgive myself since isn't dinner so much harder than breakfast anyway? Everything I cooked up turned out beautifully (if I do say so myself!), in part because these meals were variations on a classic Kate theme.

It got me thinking — what makes a good recipe one that I remember and draw on for years to come?

We all have these recipes — the ones that we've made hundreds of times or those that just stick with us for some reason. For me, the mark of a good recipe I'll take a second stab at definitely begins with repeatability. If I can pretty much redo the whole thing two weeks later, only pausing to glance vaguely at the measurements and temperatures, I'm happy as a clam.

Not only is the result hopefully delicious, but it means I've taught myself another set of skills or processes. These recipes get added to the mix of go-to recipes that I often hack together, remix, and convert to be simpler or something different altogether. Sometimes two recipes might merge or inspire a fresh take on a dish. With a few tweaks, the grape/olive/rosemary part of my favorite roasted chicken recipe stands on its own as a chunky side to top crusty bread in a sweet and briny bruschetta. Or even more often, classic sauces or dishes — the classic Italian puttanesca for example — weave their way into something far beyond their original intent.

This week, recipes a mishmash of recipes tangled together in my brain led to three great things to rock my tastebuds:

  1. Citrus drenched, spicy shredded chicken tacos
  2. Kale, red pepper, and chicken sausage pasta that made me weak in the knees for the magic that is white wine sauce with a touch of cream.
  3. Poppy seed shortbread with lemon glaze

This method of experimenting in the kitchen with an ever-growing library of tools and skills most often yields great results. Sure, there's an occasional bump in the road like say, accidentally scrambling up the egg when trying to make a variation on carbonara. Typically when there's a success though, the level of gratification is sky high. To me, there little that's more satisfying than dreaming up something and actually concocting it well.

What are the recipes you go to again and again, either in full form or to co-opt for another dish?

(Image credits: Cicada Studio)

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