This is the first post in a series on what I call "Technique Cooking". I hope some of you will find it helpful and slightly inspiring in improving your own cooking. My objective in cooking ANYTHING is for the diner to say to themselves, after the first few bites, " Ah CONTENTMENT, this is the BEST version of .... I have ever tasted". I am certainly not always successful but that is where I am coming from in my cooking.
I believe the way to achieve the maximum in satisfaction and flavor development is very simple really. Start with awesome ingredients, marry them with harmonious other ingredients, and then use to proper techniques to fully develop the flavors and presentation. In other words - use good ingredients correctly and then avoid ruining them while preparing your meal.
Recipes are nice and helpful, a useful place to start. However any recipe that does not also have some very specific technique directions is almost useless. Be especially wary of recipes that use prepared ingredients i.e."semi-homemade". The flavor comes from the native ingredients well prepared. If you are going to use a specific well tested, highly rated (I use http://www.epicurious.com/) recipe that includes proper technique descriptions (or you know the proper technique) then either FOLLOW IT or know WHY you are changing it. One of the things that drives me crazy is to see reviews of well tested recipes that explain proper technique where the reviewer rates the recipe badly and then explains how they substituted stupid or low quality prepared ingredients or totally botched the technique. Then they say "I'll never use this recipe again". If you don't know proper techniques or what ingredients are UPGRADES to a recipe them PLEASE follow the recipe.
However, by knowing and practicing proper techniques and choosing and combining awesome, harmonious ingredients you can use recipes as a "reference point" to some really great cooking.