Ever wonder how a recipe developer goes about creating a recipe from scratch? Like any creative process, each person has a different approach. You just have to find what works for you. I used to work with a person who was very organized when it came to making up a recipe. She would basically type out her recipe before she even got near the stove, imagining how the process would go as she sat at the computer. Then she'd print out her recipe prototype and start cooking, filling in the details and finessing the recipe as she went. That's what I'd call a structured approach, and it really worked for her. Me, I'm not so organized.
When I set out to create a recipe, I hit the kitchen with a blank sheet of scratch paper, a pencil, my ingredients, and a general idea of how I'm going to cook the dish. I guess I feel like I might limit my options if I put anything on paper too soon. I start cooking by instinct, and I scribble down what I'm doing as I go. Over the years, I've developed a kind of short-hand for for my note-taking. Can you guess what I was making from the notes pictured here? No? Sorry then, but you'll have to wait until the February/March 2010 issue of Fine Cooking to find out.
Once I've essentially bushwhacked my way through the recipe for the first time, I type it up in an orderly fashion, using proper recipe style. If I'm being really good, I'll cook the recipe from this version to make sure I remembered everything, but sometimes I'm in a hurry and the recipe goes straight to a recipe tester. And that leads me to an important point: No matter how good you are, you can't test your own recipes. Someone else has to be able to successfully recreate your dish from your recipe before you can consider it done. Lots of times, the testing reveals mistakes, omissions, or ways to improve the recipe. And if that happens, we just keep testing until our editors all agree that the dish is great.
Update: The wait is over. Did anyone guess my notes became the recipe for Pan-Roasted Sunchokes and Artichoke Hearts with Lemon-Herb Butter? Enjoy!