2014 Resolution: Cook from Memory

2014 Resolution: Cook from Memory

Stephanie Barlow
Jan 8, 2014
(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

There's something romantic about cooking dinner without checking a recipe every few minutes. In this fantasy, I pick up ingredients on my way home from work without writing a list, come home to a clean apartment abundant with fresh flowers, and leisurely cook a delicious dinner with a glass of wine in one hand and not a care in the world.

Realistic? Maybe I'll just focus on the cooking part?

The first key to cooking without a recipe, and the one that's most difficult for me, is allowing some improvisation in the kitchen. I usually associate deviations from a recipe with disaster, like the time I substituted smoked ham hocks for regular ham hocks (which I couldn't find at my NYC grocery) for split pea soup which resulted in a completely inedible salty disaster.

Cooking from the heart suggests you've made the dish a number of times, so it's best to start with something you have cooked before (I had not, in fact, made split pea soup before). You should be familiar with the cooking process and be comfortable that the measurements won't be precise (a complicated baking recipe requiring exact measurements would not be a great choice).

Rather than attempting to memorize the exact measurements of each ingredient, it's easier to think about how the ingredients look in the cooking process. For example, I know that the green beans I use in Turkish lamb stew completely cover the meat in the pan, and then some. I think about this as I pick up about two handfuls of green beans at the grocery store.

And relax. Cooking from memory means you'll likely forget an ingredient or add too much of another. Start with these recipes that The Kitchn readers cook by heart.

What's your favorite dish to cook by heart?

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