It’s one thing to be able to cook a great meal from a recipe on the side of a box, or even out of a cookbook, but it’s another thing entirely to whip up something delicious from the things you might have lying around your kitchen. In my opinion, if you desire to become a great cook, being good at the latter is a must. Becoming great in the kitchen requires a level competence in the fine art of concocting.
There are several different areas to pay attention to when learning how to concoct. The first, and most obvious aspect of concocting is paying attention to flavors – which flavors will play well or compliment others and which flavors won’t. But there’s more to it than that, as anyone who’s ever eaten a soggy pizza knows.
An often overlooked aspect of concocting is the issue of texture. Paying attention to the textures of different foods and what they’ll feel like together can sometimes separate a good dish from a great dish. If a concoction has great flavor, but has a boring texture, it loses something. On the other hand, even a dish with a mediocre flavor but a really interesting texture, can be a marvelous concoction!
And lastly there is the detail of visual presentation. Paying attention to color and shape – how your creation looks – can help your concoction be mouthwatering even before it meets any tastebuds. If something looks like mud, it’s less likely to be enjoyed to the fullness it may deserve. Even if something has dull flavor and a mediocre texture, if it’s presented well, the anticipation of the one to whom it’s served will play a part how the dished is ultimately perceived. Presentation is often viewed as an unnecessary detail, but it can greatly enhance the experience of any meal.
Nailing any one of these three parts of concoction-design can make for good food, but when all three are working well together, you have the makings of a fantastic meal!
That being said, when concocting, it’s important to realize going into it that what you create might not be your greatest creation ever. In fact, some of your first concoctions may likely be some of the worst things you’ve ever tasted. It’s ok. You’ve just learned what not to do. Thomas Edison famously said that he never failed to make a working light bulb, he simply first had to figure out all the ways to not make a light bulb. Failing is how we learn. Don’t get discouraged. Believe me, I’ve definitely made some meals fit for the garbage can.
This dish is my latest concoction. It has three distinct components and combines a total of 7 ingredients plus seasonings. I call it, … um … dinner! Ha!
What you’re looking at is sauteed yellow squash with black beans set on a base of coarsely mashed potatoes with sauteed onions, topped with a fresh marinara made from Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, and jalapeno. It’s not the most beautiful (I didn’t have anything to garnish it with), but it is very flavorful. The savory body of the potatoes & onions mixed with the slightly crisp texture of the yellow squash, flavored by the deliciously spicy goodness of the marinara will make your mouth dance for joy! If you’d like to know more about what it is, and even taste it for yourself, you can find the recipe over in the recipes section under Dinner Concoction #1.
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By the way, if you’re unsure of your concocting abilities, stick to recipes for a while. Using recipes is a great way to learn how different foods behave on the stove and in the oven, and how different flavors mix with each other. If you pay attention to details such as these, you’ll be concocting in no time at all!
Concocting is indeed a fine art and a great skill to have! Good for you for working on that skill and sharing it with others. The only tricky part for me sometimes is trying to replay a certain concoction when I don’t really know what went into it due to the random additions.
That is the tricky part. What I’ve found is that if a concoction is worthy of a repeat, it’s a good idea to stop right when you realize you’d like to make it again, while your kitchen is still dirty and bears the evidence of what was done, and the process is still fresh your brain, to write down a quick recipe. Often times, I’ll just use the memo app on my phone to quickly record a winner for later use.
I’ve found the trickiest of all concoctions to repeat is chili. I don’t think I’ve ever made the same two chili’s… Ever.