How to Read a Recipe
Recipes have their own conventions and assumptions. Not knowing what those are can leave you stuck in the middle of making dinner.
Read the Recipe
All of it. Start to finish. A recipe is not a new video game or a piece of Ikea furniture where you can grab the instructions part way through if you can't figure it out on your own. All of the recipes on this site follow certain conventions you should know. These are widespread, but sadly not universal conventions.
I give you the title of the recipe in Asturianu
I also provide an English language translation, equivalent, or explanation
I briefly explain how and where it fits into Asturian gastronomy in general
I give you a list of ingredients in the order they will be used in the instructions, along with any prep instructions you need to do before you start. They follow a simple pattern:
[QUANTITY] [ITEM], [PREP INSTRUCTIONS]
For example, the ingredient line "2 eggs, separated" means you need two eggs with the yolks and whites in different bowls before you begin the recipe. Likewise, "100g pecans, chopped", means weigh out 100 grams of pecans, then roughly chop them before you start cooking your recipe.
Almost always I will give ingredient quantities in either simple counts or metric weights. Volumetric measures are the devil. I do not use them, and you should not use them either. One cup of salt can weigh twice as much as a cup of salt from a different brand. This is no way to live your life, and it is absolutely no way to cook.
Recipe measurements on this site are in simple counts, metric weights or liquid volumes. Where appropriate, I have provided US Customary weight equivalents, but I recommend you look up any unfamiliar equivalents. And buy a kitchen scale for your own sake. You'll thank me later.
I provide pretty atomic instructions. I try not to jam too many steps into one item here. I also try to explain why the instruction exists, if it is not straightforward.
I do not include instructions for mise en place. If an ingredient in the list tells you to chop it, then I expect that you have chopped it by the time you get to the instruction that uses it.
If there are common alterations to the recipe I talk about them here. I also tend to give some hints on how I prefer to serve or use the recipe, especially if it differs wildly from the accepted use or presentation in Asturias. For instance, many of the dinner recipes here I serve for breakfast because as an American they seem more like a breakfast recipe to me.
The sidebar contains a picture of the recipe as I cooked it myself, and more information about the recipe. What meal or course it is traditionally served during, the main ingredient(s) used, the cooking technique(s), dietary restrictions, subjective difficulty, and origin of the recipe are all here, along with a nutrition label.
This sidebar also includes a time guideline for how long it should take you to prepare the recipe. I am pretty generous with the times I include here, but with one caveat. I do not include the prep time, only the active cooking time. I essentially measure the time of the recipe from the moment you turn on the stove. Prep time is variable from person to person, and it is up to you to judge your skills with various techniques and understand how long it will take you as an individual to get all your ingredients ready to go.
Mise en Place
Mise en place is the religion of all good cooks. — Anthony Bourdain
Mise en place is the process of making sure all of your ingredients and equipment are ready to go before you begin cooking. If you always prepare your mise en place, you will never get caught in the middle of a recipe missing something.
This is when you make sure you have all the right equipment and proper quantities of ingredients. Actually measure your baking pan to make sure it matches the recipe. Open the fridge door and count the eggs. No one can remember everything. Substitutions and ingredient "hacks" are completely unknown to the devotees of mise en place.
The safest way to do your mise en place is the way line cooks in restaurants have been doing it for donkey's years. Get a nice big sheet pan and go around your kitchen collecting all of your tools and ingredients onto the pan. When you have assembled everything, find a nice flat surface to work on and make your way through all of the ingredients in your list, preparing them as the recipe instructs. You know all those little ramekins and bowls TV chefs always have their ingredients in? It's not just for show. It's to make sure everything is absolutely ready before they begin assembling the recipe. That is mise en place. Learn it, love it, join the church of proper prep.
A Note on Baked Recipes
Most baking recipes call for a pre-heated oven. However, there are two things to be aware of:
- Built-in oven thermometers are garbage
- Heat rises
When the pre-heat light on an oven turns off all that means is that the air temperature near the probe in the oven has reached the desired temperature, assuming that the thermometer is right - which it often is not. When you open the oven door a large part of that heat energy comes billowing out and, because the oven walls are still relatively cool, the oven takes between five and ten minutes to recover to its original temperature.
The solution is also two-fold:
- Buy a good oven thermometer and put it in your oven where you can see the temperature without opening the oven door
- Allow your oven to sit (unopened) for fifteen to twenty minutes after the preheating light turns off (or the thermometer you bought shows the proper temperature) to allow the oven walls to absorb heat, thus reducing recovery time.