I was 21 years old and in my first apartment. I decided to make a stew since it was winter and that seemed like a cozy idea. I got all the ingredients that the word "stew" conjured up in me - onions and garlic (of course!), plus meat and vegetables. I came home and began preparing my stew, without benefit of a recipe (of course!) I had the pot sizzling on the stove when it dawned on me that stews had some kind of liquid in them. I didn't have a clue what that might be, so I called a friend of mine who was a good cook and asked him what I should use. He asked me if I had any kind of broth. No. Boullion cubes? Nope. What about wine? I had had some friends over the night before, and that was all gone. Well then, it looked like water was my option.
That seemed so.........plain. Uninteresting. I scoured my fridge and found a couple of bottles of beer that someone had left from the night before. Oh well....I didn't particularly like beer, but since it was the only liquid I had other than water, I decided to give it a try.
Incredible! I loved the result! I called my friend back and told him of my ingenious solution. He was pleased with it, and told me that stews were based on a principle. You have some sort of meat, some kind of vegetables, whatever herbs and spices you like, and a liquid. Any of those ingredients can change from one recipe to the next, but the principle remains the same.
So the next time you look at a recipe that intrigues you, and perhaps it's snowing out or raining furiously, or you're just feeling too lazy to head to the market to get all the necessary ingredients, try experimenting. If the recipe calls for wine and you only have beer, don't let that stop you. You won't get the exact same results, but you'll probably wind up with something delilcious. Recipes are great starting places, and sometimes they're worth following to the letter. (I do that when I bake.) But lots of times you can create a fantastic meal without having to be so precise in your approach. Remember, it's supposed to be fun!
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