Two months ago I pulled one of the many cookbooks (all given to me as ‘wife to be’ presents) down from my shelf and decided it was time to defeat my fear of cooking from a recipe.
You see, it’s not cooking in itself that held the fear, but the daunting recipes with all their specific ingredients, exact measurements, and precise temperatures.
Yes, yes, I know that baking is the prude in the kitchen, the one who must have everything exactly perfect, but cooking is the flexible one, willing to go of course and try new things, I’ve been told this over and over again, but still, I was fearful.
Anyways, I was ready to demolish that sucker and gain a victory.
I opened Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics, thinking I’d find something, well, basic. That was hopeless. Nothing looked simple so I went for the easy to follow route instead. I picked Chicken Bouillabaisse, a recipe that could be done in one sitting and didn’t have too many complicated steps or fancy ingredients. (I found out later that this was not a recipe for mediocre cooks.)
I went to the store and gathered together everything I needed…
- a whole raw chicken
- dry white wine
- tomato puree
- saffron threads (which, I will add, are super expensive!)
- fennel seeds
- rosemary leaves
- baby yukon potatoes
- a butt-load of garlic cloves
- pernod (I couldn’t figure what or where this was, so, I didn’t bother)
- and some other “general” ingredients
I went back home, hobbled up the stairs to my house, arms full of groceries, and laid out all the ingredients on my tiny square of a counter. (Random Natalie Trivia: I never go back to the car for a second load unless it’s completely impossible to do in one trip.)
I looked down at the recipe book at Barefoot Contessa’s smiling face and said, “Let’s do this thing!”, then I turned the page and began phase one, cutting a whole chicken into 8 separate pieces (it’s dirty work people!)
After successfully producing the creamy tomato base and almost destroying the lemony rouille topping sauce, I quickly learned that, surprisingly, all you have to do is follow directions and try not to cut yourself or set anything on fire, and you’ll do fine (basic kindergarten principles).
In the end, I actually produced something worth eating. My one big mistake was beginning this task around 8pm. (Clearly I’m an amateur.)
We didn’t eat till midnight.
I will say though, it wasn’t the terrible train wreck of an experience I was expecting it to be.
The kitchen was a disaster.
My fingers smelled like garlic for days.
I won’t buy saffron ever again.
Most importantly, I finally was able to lay down my fear and make a home cooked meal for the man I love.