I’m usually inclined to follow Dorie’s recipes exactly, especially until I feel comfortable with the result. This week, though, I had several reasons for making some signficant changes. Dorie Greenspan‘s navarin printanier sounded worth a try, but I have never been a big fan of lamb, and since the three pounds of lamb for this meal would have cost me three times as much as the same amount of beef for the stew, I opted for beef. I suppose I really made boeuf printanier, a riff on Dorie’s classic lamb stew.
My only other small change was to use three cups of beef stock instead of four, subbing in half a cup of sherry and half a cup of water to make up the volume of liquid. Gorilla Girl pronounced the carrots the best she ever ate, and we all enjoyed the “sauce” and Monkey Man called it — while also demanding more for his beef and rice. I suppose this qualifies as a success. With the cheaper cut of meat, this stew is quite reasonable, and it has provided us with three substantial family dinners.
Perhaps my willingness to veer from the recipe on this one comes from my growing confidence in the kitchen, and thus my ability to play with the recipe — to adapt, change, make it my own. Perhaps when you start with a solid foundation, a few tweaks here and there to the base give you room to let your creative juices flow.
I’ve been thinking about adapting, sampling, and reclaiming pop all week, in part due to my recent acquisition of Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball, which has (thankfully) replaced Taylor Swift on the CD player in my car, and which has been on in my kitchen while I’ve been cooking. Springsteen’s new album, called a “sonic smorgasbord” by Anne Powers at NPR, banks upon this notion that we all bring our creative impulses, our desires and hopes, to the music or art that we make. As an admirer of music, but not a maker, I have to take Springsteen’s urging about flexibility and redefinition of “classics” to heart in other areas of my life. Cooking, though perhaps not for me the creation of great art, is certainly a means of expression, a creative outlet, and a means of connection to family and friends. Of course, like a good musician, I have to master the basic chords before I can create my own riffs.
When it comes to my cooking adventures, and for that matter, the many other adventures in which I’m creating, I’ll take Springsteen’s message to heart: “There is no right way, no pure way, of doing. There is just doing.”