I often say I don't cook from recipes, but there are a few favorites in our repertoire that require me to dig out a book.
They're not complicated. I should just give them a good study and commit them to memory.
But there's always that "He said what?" factor that requires me to double check the print.
In the case of Paul Prudhomme, it's that wacky mixture of dried spices. Gotta be dried, people. That's the way.
Cranky and I have been making his Red Beans (and rice) for nearly three decades, and I still use the book.
The first time, we misread something, and had to strain out the ham hock (still on the bone) from the gooey beans. Won't make that mistake again.
Cranky made this latest batch all on his own, and I'll bet he could walk into the kitchen tomorrow and do it again, solo and without a recipe. The time has come.
Even so, there is room for a little improvisation. We have long used poblano peppers instead of green bell peppers in this dish. Bell peppers are fine; they melt into unrecognizability. But I just don't like them.
Well. This time, the poblanos were packing heat. A lot! So Cranky short-changed the amount of cayenne called for and left out the Tabasco altogether. Good move.
The miracle (and why we faithfully consult the book, probably) is the flavor that results. Where did that little vinegary tickle come from? Why is it so beautifully thick without a roux? How come I always feel like I'm tasting Asian flavors?
I should tell you that we are shopping for a small bookshelf to nestle in the last available corner of the kitchen. I need more room for my cookbooks (and I do keep acquiring them).
Nothing wrong with a good cookbook for memory food, if you haven't memorized the recipe.