Recipes and Religion...can be really bad when blindly followed.
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
There are millions of recipes out there and nowadays probably half as many food blogs churning them out. Most of them are garbage so you shouldn’t be surprised when your food comes out accordingly.
Real cooking is not an exact science. You have to treat recipes like religion.
Recipes (like religions) can be nice guidelines, but if you take them too literally, well, according to a popular religion we’re all inbred from just two people. Twice, if you buy that flood story. Your food is also going to taste inbred if you’ve got the measuring spoons and cups out and you're just going to do exactly what the book says.
½ teaspoon of cumin is not always the same. Sometimes you can barely taste that much cumin, sometimes it will gag a mule. Where did it come from? When did you open it? Every brand is different, even the same brand varies and spices always lose their potency over time. And it’s not just the cumin. Everything that nature produces is wildly variable.
You need to taste your ingredients, not just chuck them in a pot according to what some hack wrote on the internet.
What recipes and religions also have in common is that you really should have a look at more than one. Like religious works, recipes and food blogs are written by people with a motive. I suspect that most people that write them can’t even cook. Some sources, like Bobby Flay and that douche-bag Alton Brown, are fairly reliable.
But, even their recipes will often come out flat or funky if you just do exactly what they say and don't use your senses.
Have a look at several recipes to get some ideas of what might belong in your dish. Read the ingredients in all of the recipes and close your eyes and try to imagine how they will taste and if that's a flavor that you want in your dish. Try and figure out which parts of each recipe you like best, take them apart and put one good one together. If I’m cooking something for the first time I look at half a dozen recipes and then bastardize some sort of Frankenstein recipe according to how I want the dish to taste.
If you can’t imagine the flavors, try harder. Get the ingredients out and sniff them. Put dry spices together and taste them. Taste everything but the raw chicken.
Learn to use your gustatory cortex. If you really can’t, go out to dinner. Learning to use your taste imagination is essential to good cooking. Your food will always be hit or miss, and sometimes awful, if you don’t.
That said, when you read a ‘recipe’ that I write don’t expect to see any exact measurements. Rather, I’ll give you rough ideas and tell you when to taste things and when to sniff things and what should be happening. Good cooking is all about real practice. The more you try to really learn and understand what works and what doesn't, the better off you'll be.