Improvisational Cooking

Improvisational cooking is all about creativity and fun, experimentation and pleasure. It’s about gaining awareness of a recipe or dish and then allowing yourself to recreate it in a whole new way. To improvise is to inventory the ingredients on hand and playfully bringing them together into an edible (and hopefully tasty) meal.

The purpose of this post is to encourage the comments of others – to create a place to share ideas that you have used when you improvised in the kitchen. To get things rolling for the uninitiated, the following is a list of 5 ideas from a few expert improve cooks.

Use the comment area below to add to the conversation – and thanks for reposting and sharing this site – we will all gain from the sharing.

Five Tips For Improvising in the Home Kitchen

Figure out what flavors you like, and also which ones pair well together. But remember that not every ingredient tastes the same each time. Also, know what ingredients taste like before they are cooked — it will help you to spot the flavor in a dish. “Taste real sour cream and low-fat sour cream and describe the difference,” says author Sally Schneider. “A whole world of senses opened up,” which helps one know how to improvise with a dish.
Focus on Techniques
Using the right kind of oil or heating the pan to the right temperature is going to result in a better piece of meat than any amount of fancy spice rub or marinade, says’s Marc Matsumoto. Learn some of the basic skills, such as how to beat eggs or sauté vegetables, which you can apply to multiple dishes. Also, cook different vegetables and meats so you get a sense of cook time for various ingredients – this will come in handy when throwing together a sauté or adding extras to a pasta.
Learn to Make Versatile Bases
Most stocks and sauces that come out of a jar are easy and cheap to make. Cook yourself a big batch at home, and you can freeze it use in a variety of dishes. For example, instead of throwing away chicken bones, turn them into a broth that can then be made into a soup or used to make risotto or a flavorful pot of rice. Or make a marina sauce that can be used in a variety of pastas, pizza or egg dishes.
Substitute Ingredients
Beans are often interchangeable, cauliflower can usually take the place of broccoli, and chicken can many times replace pork. This is how new dishes are often created. Experiment!
Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Most every dish started out a mistake somewhere along the road, where someone threw ingredients together and adjusted to meet his or her own tastes, says cookbook author Mark Bittman. If you don’t make mistakes, you’ll never know what works — or not.

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