On “Fuck It” Cooking: warning: this post contains perpetual profanity that is not meant to be insulting but rather a stylistic descriptor.

4 Jul

Too many people ask me if I use recipes when I cook, and if not, how do I go about it?  My answer is that no, I really don’t ever use recipes.  In uncharted waters, obviously, a seaman (haha) may need a map, but for previously endeavored voyages, he will probably jibe and tack as he sees fit.  And so it is with cooking: a handful of basic methods, nearly infinite ingredients, and hope result in a finished product that can be enjoyed and improved upon next time if need be.  This post is meant to inspire those that are too engrossed in the maps to get in the boat—or, in this case, recipes and the kitchen.  Instead of trying to plan ahead every day, try my “fuck it, let’s do it” approach.  The easy steps include the following:

  • What am I feeling today? 
  • What is in my pantry/fridge? 
  • Getting started
  • Oh, shit—I don’t have that
  • Going to the store or, preferably, choosing a substitution
  • Completing the cooking
  • Figuring out what it is that you have made

With these six simple steps, you should be able to cook something without really needing a recipe.  If you are confident enough, go ahead and use the fuck it method for a dinner party.  I prefer it for impromptu breakfast items, baked goods, or just-for-fun cooking.  Let’s take a look at how to go about the process.

What am I feeling today?

What am I feeling today is about getting to the core of your mood and figuring out what you crave.  If Saturn is in line with your sweet tooth today, maybe you want to bake.  If you have insomnia, maybe you should decide on a shorter project that doesn’t involve waiting for something to come out if the oven (often you will fall asleep and burn it).  Perhaps you have a bottle of wine or beer to kick with some friends and you want some light apps to go with it.  What are you feeling today?  Let’s say I wake up at like 5 AM feeling something fried and I know I have some chicken around.  You may think this is a disgusting plan, but I sleep haphazardly, and I really never know what ideas will hit me, so I try not to question these things too deeply.  OK, so 5 AM fried chicken.

What is in my pantry/fridge?

What is in my pantry/fridge is about scouting around your house for ingredients, especially leftovers and esoteric condiments or other items you otherwise would not use.  Continuing with the chicken example, let’s say I want to bread and fry the chicken and make a pan gravy to go with it.  I’m looking around my fridge and I find some coconut milk and curry paste.  That’s cool, that’s cool.  What else?  Hm…some fish sauce, mustard, grab eggs for that breading…oh, check it out—half an onion from that guac I made yesterday…word.  Aha! Half a bottle of Saison beer I did not drink last night for some odd reason…let’s amp up that gravy a tad…

Getting started

Getting started involves beginning the cooking process and not worrying if you don’t have everything yet.  In fuck it land, we just sort of find what we need as we go.  So for this chicken dish, I would grab a pan (probably that old faithful cast iron), and heat up my oil to fry the chicken.  Then, I would grab my chicken, bread it, and get ready to fry.

Oh shit, I don’t have that

Oh shit, I don’t have that is the essence of why fuck it cooking is awesome.  When you find you do not have what it is that you need, especially something key (this is even more hilariously beautiful in baking, where precision is a little more desirable), you must either put things on hold and go to the store (not as cool), or choose a new ingredient to substitute.  Let’s use an example: so I’ve found a tub of lard in the back of my fridge (this is somewhat typical for me, I guess), and I’m melting it and bringing it up to temp for the chicken in that cast iron pan.  I beat up the eggs to dip the chicken in, but then I realize I don’t have flour or bread crumbs for the breading procedure.  Crapmonkey. 

Going to the store, or, preferably, choosing a substitution

What do I do?  Well, this is not really much of a dilemma.  I know I can coat that chicken in whatever I really want, so why not think outside the box?  Check it out—I have Captain Crunch AND Kix in my pantry, so I will grind them into crumbs in the food processor and use that instead.  Gross?  Think again.  DELICIOUS.  As for the flour, I found some potato flour kicking around in the pantry from Passover 2010.  Why not?  Does anything from Passover go bad?  Don’t think so, or at least I hope not, since suddenly I wonder why all this Manischewitz business has been here so long.

Problems solved, people, and I didn’t even have to go to the store dressed in boxers, moccasins, and a concert t-shirt, like a washed up hippie/Pocahontas hybrid.

Completing the cooking

Now, I have my 350-degree lard and my cereal-crusted chicken, and I’m ready to fry.  I fry away.  As the chicken fries, I chop up the random onion.  After it is done, I pour off most of the fat and sauté the onion.  Next, I add in a little potato flour to thicken the gravy (not as ideal as wheat flour, but fuck it), and then whisk in a little curry paste, the beer, and coconut milk.  Adjust with a little fish sauce and maybe even a little mustard.  Season to taste.  No salt?  Why don’t you have salt?  I always have salt.  If you don’t have salt, which you should have had to season the chicken before breading, you should cry bitter tears, which will, in turn, season your gravy, I suppose.

Figuring out what it is that you have made

What have I done?  Well, I have made cereal-crusted fried chicken with curry gravy.  It is strange.  But it tastes so good…But strange…But good…And thank god I don’t have to look at that stupid jar of curry paste in the fridge anymore…

 

See?  Fuck it cooking can result in strange but delicious things.  More often than not, this cooking method forces creativity.  Most cooks/chefs would tend to disagree, arguing that starting with a plan is the key to successful cooking.  To their credit, when cooking specific items or large quantities, especially under time constraints, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan.

But fuck it cooking frees the mind.  Too many home cooks spend way too much time going through recipes to find dishes that include ingredients they have.   You don’t need a recipe for that.  Just a will.  And then, as we saw with the weirdo-delicious-o fried chicken concoction, there will be a way.

Happy fuck it cooking, and happy 4th of July.  May you concoct creatively.

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