When I first became interested in cooking, I painstakingly relied on recipes - following them exactly and panicking if I did something wrong. I gradually stepped off that train and began to experiment, using various recipes as foundations for my own cooking. I wasn't whipping up anything particularly special on my own, but generally I could make a meal out of whatever I had in the refrigerator and it would taste all right. It felt like an accomplishment.
I like this confidence of being able to do things without recipes, but recently I've started to miss them. Often I'll look up a recipe that sounds delicious, but start substituting ingredients so quickly and ferociously that the dish turns out nothing like what I'd originally found compelling about the recipe. Also, there's the flavor issue. I've gotten the hang of a handful of different flavor combinations, which is great, but pretty quickly all of my food kind of tastes the same. I mean, it tastes good, but I'm not exactly challenging myself.
Alas, I'm trying to turn back to recipes, try out some techniques that I haven't tried before, break out some spices I haven't used before, and keep learning. I think this ebb and flow of recipe use and non recipe use is important. Doing things on your own gives you confidence and helps you nourish the things you've learned so that they become second nature. But challenging yourself with recipes brings in new ideas, flavors, and techniques that you otherwise might not step out of the box to try.
I didn't particularly challenge myself by deciding to make Tyler Florence's [quite simple] Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Shallots, but following his recipe reminded me why it is important to follow recipes. I looked through his cookbook and was drawn to this page, both because the picture looked delicious and because I already had mushrooms. Now, I could have closed the book, picked up some shallots, and done it my way, just using his basic flavor principle. But I kept the book open and followed along, and I'm glad I did, because there are about three steps I would have added in there had I been doing this on my own. I also would have used a lot more olive oil, which definitely would not have been necessary. So thank you, Tyler, for reminding me to follow along and trust you, rather than falling back on dishes I've made before.
Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Shallots
Adapted from Tyler Florence
1/2 chicken, in parts (I cut it up myself, you could also just use two bone-in breasts)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Handful of mushrooms (I used button)
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup white wine
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat up a pan on medium-high and add oil once hot. Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken pieces, then add them to the pan, skin side down. Do not touch them, just let them brown for about 5 minutes. They will sizzle loudly, if all is going well.
3. Slice mushrooms. Prep shallots by cutting in half vertically (you can then cut into quarters if using large ones).
4. Once chicken has browned, place it into a roasting dish (or, if you are using an oven proof pan, just flip it over in the pan and use that). Add your vegetables and the rosemary. I tore up one spring and spread it around, then just placed the others on top. Add a little pepper on top of the whole pan.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked through and the vegetables are soft and roasted.
6. Remove everything from the pan, and make a quick sauce by heating it on the stovetop and adding the juice of one lemon and the white wine. Stir with a wooden spoon to get all of the caramelized bits off as you bring it to a boil and then to a simmer. Let it reduce until thick, or until you are so hungry you can't take it anymore. Let me tell you, this dish will make your apartment smell amazing!
By the way, the picture is from before the dish went into the oven. I was too hungry to snap photographs after.