Follow and convert a recipe for one … well, kind of follow and sort of convert

I was in a cooking mood tonight, and willing to do a little extra for a treat. Salmon. I had one piece left in a package of frozen salmon pieces. Needs something lemon to go with it. I had frozen, cooked millet. Let’s go.

I don’t like to follow recipes when I cook. I don’t recommend that people learning to cook, religiously follow recipes. Note: If I am baking, or you are baking, recipes are important. The proportion of ingredients, bake temperature, etc., is important.  Tonight I sorta, kinda followed two recipes retrieved through the magic of Google. The first is a recipe for Salmon Bites, an appetizer, and found here. The second recipe showed up when I searched millet and lemon. This site gave me the rest of the meal, even though I didn’t follow the recipe at all, just the idea.

First, the salmon. The recipe was for 2 lbs of salmon, enough for 12 appetizer portions. I needed one, and the piece of salmon I had was probably only three ounces (that’s why I searched for a recipe for bites — food chopped into small chunks always seems like more). When you are cooking for one, you can’t just divide the recipe by the total number of servings, in this case 12. If you did, you would have ridiculously small amounts of each ingredient, and the fractions would send you screaming to the corner deli. For example, the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of both soya sauce and saki. Straight conversion would mean you need 1/24 cup of each for one serving. I do a lot of cooking, and I can tell you I don’t work in 1/24 cup increments.

I suppose there is only one term that can describe what I really do when I am converting, and that is … , let’s call it proportional guessing. For the salmon recipe, you mix six ingredients, then boil the mixture down to a glaze texture. To make that process possible, I need good volume for the liquid from the start, so I decided that the 1/2 cup measures would equal 1 tbsp. That covers the saki and the soya sauce. The rice wine amount is 2/3 of a cup, or, a bit more than a half. I used a tablespoon measure and let it run over a bit. The recipe calls for 2 tbsp of both sugar and honey. Using the previous ingredients as a measure, that is 1/4 as much as 1/2 cup, which is now equals a tbsp, or a little less than a teaspoon. There are three teaspoons in a tablespoon. Close enough for me, 1 tsp of each it is. The last ingredient is ginger at 1 tbsp. I like ginger, and find most recipes have too little flavour for my taste, so … I used almost a tbsp just for the one serving.  (It was perfect.)

It’s not an exact science by any means, but, with a little practice, you can convert on the fly.

The millet and vegetables didn’t need a recipe, and since the original cooked the millet from dry, and I had cooked then frozen millet, I was on my own. I had to grill the tomato and asparagus, and came up with the idea to put the millet on the small broiler pan from my toaster under the veggies. The millet went straight onto the pan, and the vegetables rested on the broil rack just above the millet. One pan, and easy to watch while I made the salmon.

The process I described above is more often than not how I cook. Following recipes religiously takes far too much time, and it is not fun. Being mathematically perfect when recalculating recipes will drive you right out of the kitchen. Using estimation and guessing will save time, and reduce frustration. Do I ever get it wrong? Once in a while I’ll adjust, and it turns our I really did need that much or that little. That is rare, however, and the time I save on every other dish is well worth one that falls a bit short of perfect now and then.





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