Cooking an old familiar dish -- piece o' cake. It may take me hours, but its familiarity makes it easy. Cooking a simpler one that I never made before -- much more productive of stress and weariness, not least because of the uncertainty of the result. Ever get a recipe for a dish that tasted wonderful at a friend's house, but turned out disappointing when you made it? ... you know what i'm talking about!
When making a more complicated concoction, I doubt that there's any quick way to bypass the much-repeated consultations with the written word. A recipe with a dozen different seasonings, from 1/4-teaspoon of cayenne to 1 1/2-teaspoon ground mustard to 2 tablespoons of sugar-free pancake syrup (as in a batch of barbecue sauce), calls for a lot of back-and-forth which frankly makes me prefer to let J grill steaks....
Reading a "new" recipe VERY carefully before starting it -- or even a recipe i've made a time or two -- complete with visualizing the process, can help me. In the former case, I can pick up possible errors in transcription. As hard as proofreading literature can be, proofreading recipes is REALLY tricky, and some people can't describe a procedure well to save their lives. If I've tried a recipe before and found it worth doing again, reading it through (with visualization) reminds me of what I thought should be done differently the first time.
Reading the new recipe can also remind you of something you've done before -- that makes it easier and less stressful! If I realize that a new chicken recipe is LIKE an old pork recipe in technique, but just changing herbs and adding cheese, I can pretty well just wing it.
Converting classics and childhood favorites to a lower-carb style requires a few different ingredients AND some changes in technique. When I first started LC, I was "doing" Atkins according to the book; their recipes in those days beat hell out of most diet recipes i'd used in preceding decades, and it was worth it to me to buy the old "bake mix" and shake powders, but those things disappeared from the market and I had to find other substances that could do the job. For a few years I used Expert Foods' thickeners and other special ingredients ... but THEY quit the business TOO! :-P Thank heavens their raw materials are known and available to retail consumers....
I've picked up several invaluable tricks from Dana Carpender:
- To thicken a liquid with glucomannan (konjac) flour, the process goes MUCH more easily if you put the powder in a salt-type shaker and sprinkle with one hand while whisking with the other. This doesn't keep me from over-thickening from time to time, but at least it prevents the lumps that I USED to get.
- In preparing shirataki noodles for serving, you can keep dishes from sitting in puddles of water by draining and rinsing the straight-from-the-bag noodles, then microwaving 90 seconds and re-draining them TWICE. That method seems to drive the water out without the stove-top heating that so often toughens them.
- Classic recipes with cheesy sauces often require making béchamel and melting cheese into it. This high-carb product can't be imitated merely by melting cheese into a low-carb dish, but by melting cream-cheese and cheddar (or gruyere, or whatever) together, you can get pretty close.
- To replicate the caramel flavor of brown sugar, she suggests using a tiny amount of blackstrap molasses to the artificial-sweetener of choice -- somewhere around a half-teaspoon, depending of course on the size of the recipe. Ever try to measure out a quarter-teaspoon of molasses??? :-) Dana recommends putting your molasses into an old honey-bear type of squeeze bottle -- I haven't done this yet, but it sounds like GENIUS.