Saturday, November 27, 2010

Improvising is my favorite method of cooking

When I started getting really into cooking about 6 years ago, I was very much about following the recipe to the letter: exact measurements, no substitutions, follow every instruction precisely. But that quickly became tiresome - mostly because that sort of perfection and precision does not match my personality. I'm more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of person - even in my classroom. I find that sudden moments of inspiration keep me excited and motivated to keep at it.

So lately I'm finding myself following fewer and fewer recipes than what I used to. I'll look in the fridge or the pantry, see what's available and think to myself, "This would taste great with that, and oh, I'll put some of this in for some nice crunch."

Yesterday for lunch, I did just that, and I realized while I was making the dish that it was a modified version of Giada DeLaurentiis's Orecchiette with Toasted Breadcrumbs. I've made this dish a couple times before, but it was a very long time ago - and, dare I say? my version was better than hers!

Here are the ingredients: (measurements are approximations)
  • 1 lb. dried orecchiette
  • 3 slices prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs (not the ones from the store that have the texture of sawdust)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 C shredded white sharp cheese such as Vermont cheddar or Gruyere
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 2 T chopped chives

1. As much as I love prosciutto, I have noticed that it can sometimes have a metallic taste to it depending on the quality. One of the ways to mask this is to crisp it up in a nonstick saute pan. Using nonstick prevents you from having to add any extra fat to the pan, so all you're doing is adding a crispy texture and a salty bite.

2. While prosciutto is crisping, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.

3. Using the same pan as you crisped up the prosciutto, add butter and EVOO. Once butter has melted, add garlic and shallot. Saute until fragrant. Add breadcrumbs and distribute evenly through the fat. Add the cheese. Take the pan off the burner and let the cheese melt just through the warmth of the breadcrumbs. Add chopped chives to top of breadcrumb mixture.

4. Once pasta is drained, mix together with breadcrumb mixture and then crumble crispy prosciutto on top. Enjoy!


  1. I wish I was better at improvising in my cooking ... I'm working on that! :)

  2. I think tghe real fun in cooking comes form understanding the this case Giada recipe...and then taking it from there, using maybe seasonal ingredients you have or things you really like.
    Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't and you learn for next time.
    This one looks like a winner.

  3. You and I are twins. I find it almost impossible to follow a recipe to the letter. I consider recipes to be suggestions. I do read a lot of recipes for inspiration, but when it comes time to make dinner I just hunt around the refrigerator and cupboards until I find a combination I like. I don't think I've ever been disappointed, so I must have a talent.

    I rarely food shop with a particular menu or menus in mind -- I buy what's fresh or what looks good or what I have a fancy for. I worry about how to turn those ingredients into dinner until after I get home.

    My one failing is that I never, ever write anything down, so all my dishes are one of a kind. Poor Mr. BFR, he often wishes for repeats of some dinners.

  4. Hi!
    It sounds and looks yummmy! Have a great day!

    Just Books

  5. I make most of my meals by starting with a recipe but I never follow it to the letter. Ever. This sounds intereting but I have no idea was EVOO is.

    I posted by first weekend cooking post yesterday but forgot to link it up till tonight.. oops. I have a giveaway too.

  6. Callista,

    EVOO = extra virgin olive oil (sorry, I watch Rachael Ray all the time and I just assume everyone knows what that stands for).

  7. Love this "recipe", aka guideline :) My husband gets nervous when I don't measure but he is never disappointed with the results! I can't to try this dish, thanks for sharing!