Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Where Do Recipes Come From?

I'd like to say that I just dream up every thing I cook with no help at all. But, I don't, and frankly, even the best chefs don't either. All the things that go into creating a recipe are the things we learn as we go. The greatest dishes on menus at four-star restaurants draw from the same principles as those in use for hundreds of years. Chances are, each of us has created, or at least recreated a recipe without even realizing it.

Whether it's that extra bit of cinnamon in your sticky buns, or adding a pinch more of this and a pinch less of that, it's all part of the process. Some recipes here in the site are inspired and really original, many are just me saying, hey, you could make this healthier if you just added this and used less of that. There is no magic trick.

That said, I invite you to create your own adjustments to a recipe. I started with the one for Basil-Corn Pudding from Gourmet. Their version used an entire cup of cream, four eggs, a cup of milk — so as much dairy as there was corn. I lightened it by taking away half the cream, using only 3/4 cups of two percent milk, and one less egg. To keep the body with less pudding in there, I used kernels from an additional ear of corn, plus 1 tbs. of corn meal, and an extra bit of sweet using 1 tbs. of honey. It's a basic enough dish that you can really create your own version easily.

So, experiment. Go spicy with green chiles instead of basil, go sweet with more sugar or honey, add back the butterfat for decadent, whatever. Post a comment and let me know what you came up with. With fresh corn in season, sweet and cheap, it's a great time to play around in the kitchen (okay, maybe next week AFTER the 100-degree heat wave is over ...)

Baked Corn and Basil
Kernels and milk from seven ears of fresh corn
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup two percent milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup basil
1 tbs. corn meal
3 tbs. flour
1 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. honey
1/2 tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350.

Pulse half the corn in food processor until chopped fine, but not total mush. Add basil and pulse a couple more times until chopped. Put back in bowl with other corn. Add the dry ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, cornmeal and pepper. Mix. Add honey. Add the eggs and cream and milk and fold together. Pour into a two-and-a-half quart shallow baking dish. Bake in oven for about one hour until edges are puffed and brown and center is set. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. You can also use individual ramekins to make this a nice dinner party dish.

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