Monday, May 14, 2012

Traveling for Cheap

One thing that I love is traveling.  There's nothing quite like slipping away from the dull routine of life and experiencing something new and exciting.  Unfortunately, traveling also costs money.  Sometimes lots of money; so much that you can't visit someplace you really love for many years at a time.  One thing people often fail to realize is that it's easy to travel on the cheap right from your own kitchen.  Many times the memories we build while traveling revolve around the food we enjoy at that far off destination, and it can be an insatiable craving when you're reminiscing about a wonderful trip you once had.  That luxurious pasta you had in Europe, the rich curry you tried at that Indian restaurant in Japan, or simply the chicken paprikash you had at the local Hungarian restaurant; all of these can be created right in your own home, and after a little experimenting you can get surprisingly close to developing those exact flavors.

I often draw inspiration from dishes I've had elsewhere that I can't get at home.  It's a fun way to strengthen your chops in the kitchen and test your palate and memory.  So what are some tips for imitating a recipe when you're starting from scratch?  First I like to make a list of ingredients that I know are essential and positively part of the recipe, which can sometimes be astonishingly simple.  The same goes for processes, such as making fresh pasta or rolling meatballs.  If I'm really stumped at nailing down some elusive flavor I will sometimes scour the internet or cookbooks for help. Make sure you are prepared so that the process runs smoothly.  After reviewing the ingredients and processes I will develop a mental plan of execution, and set up my mise en place.  Finally, it's critically important when developing any recipe to TASTE your food throughout the cooking process.  You're working on developing a distinct flavor from your memory and from scratch.  Making adjustments is naturally part of the process.  The real work comes once you sit down to enjoy your creation.  If successful, you will be surprised at how wonderful the achievement feels as you are transported to your favorite getaway.  If it didn't come out just right, enjoy what you've made and learn from it.  Perhaps you missed an ingredient, overcooked a component, or maybe you just need a little more practice rolling out pasta dough.  Don't become discouraged, you can always try again. (Remember what I said about family members as guinea pigs???)  Either way you can be proud of your final product while enjoying how short and cheap the trip back to that tiny Italian restaurant on a sunny afternoon in Germany really was.  All for the price of dinner afterall...

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