Cooking with intuition: Tomyum clams

Hello and happy holidays. I hadn't been seen in a while. I've went into hibernation. Thank goodness! It's the new year in a few days and am getting back the writing momentum. Days passed so quickly and seems like I've done a lot. Traveled, shipped my dog back, redo my room, changed job. Everything except cooking and writing.

Even those days when I did cook. It was really simple. Most of the time is something straight out of the fridge that I can put into my mouth in 5 mins, minimum prepping. There were a few times when I wanted to cook but didn't know what to put together. I am sure you have, one time or another, peered into the fridge, opening and closing the door and asking yourself this question what should I cook? Something italian? Thai? perhaps a Chinese style?  This happens to me quite a lot… That day, looking blankly into the fridge until the it the door beep ushering to shut it and open again. Finally, finding left over chardonnay, a pack of fresh parsley, a jar of almost expired tomyum paste that was use a year ago for hotpot. Clams that I bought in the morning but had not a clue to how to deal with it. What the heck! Gastronomically, everything goes.

Do you use a recipe merely as a guide and let your own intuition and innate culinary compass be your ultimate guide?
I remembered having this chat with a friend. Who's passionate about cooking and spent a lot of time religiously taking up classes after classes at a cooking school. My reasoning was that he had acquire a huge knowledge of fundamental skills, such as why canola oil beats olive oil for searing (its higher smoke point allows a much hotter pan, and therefore a darker crust on meats) or the trick of placing a towel beneath your cutting board so it won't slide around. It's time to explore the other part of cooking and not be bounded by cook books or recipes. But then you see, cooking with intuition requires you to have a knowledge of food- its taste, texture, pairing and how to use and cook them. You must be familiar with your ingredients and sauces so flavors clash on purpose, so that even before you start prepping the mis en place, you would have already know how the end result will taste.

Cooking with intuition - that's the fun of cooking at crossroads … everything shall collide!

Thomas Keller's Cooking Lessons: 5 Steps to Becoming an Intuitive Cook
1. Start with your all-time favorite recipe from your favorite cookbook. Cook it by the numbers, following every instruction.

2. No more than three days later (so you don't forget too much), take out a piece of paper, write out the simplest version of the recipe that you believe you can work from and cook from that.

3. A few days later, write an even less detailed version—a few sentences at most—and cook the dish again.

4. Over the next few weeks, cook the dish entirely from memory at least several times, but make a small change each time (swap out a spice, change a vegetable), so that the recipe becomes a rough template, not a fixed set of rules.

5. As you repeat the process with other recipes, experiment with skipping Step 1 and then, later still, Step 2.

That is the excitement of cooking so that a recipe "becomes yours." because it's not, like…  3-4 garlic, finely minced, 10 small shallot, finely chopped, ½ glass white wine, 1½ tablespoon tomyum paste, 1 teaspoon sugar, a bunch of parsley, roughly chopped 5-6 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped, 1 kg clams….

White wine
Kaffir lime leaves
Tom yum paste
Roma tomatoes
Olive oil

Heat olive oil in large saucepan or a wok over medium heat. Sauté the shallots with the sugar until translucent. Add in the garlic and stir about until the shallots starts to caramelize. Add the tomyum paste and fry until fragrant then toss in the tomatoes and add the kaffir lime leaves. Let the juice reduce a little and deglaze with wine. Add the clams, stir though, cover with lid. Cook until the clams are open. Discard any that are not open. Turn off heat and add the parsley.

Serve immediately with some crusty baguette.

Happy New Year!

Till next post, ss

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