I'm not a natural cook. I'm definitely getting there, and I've got a few meals down cold now that if I were to have friends or family over I wouldn't be entirely intimidated. But, I am definitely still rocking my proverbial training wheels. And in the day and age of the internet, I get about 95% of my recipes from the world wide web (the rest are usually from my awesome but greedy Mother who kept all of the cooking genes for herself). I've got a few blogs such as NoblePig.com and ClosetCooking.com that I know I can count on for good ideas. I've learned that going to AllRecipes.com is generally much too intimidating for me (how the hell do I know which of the 692 recipes for alfredo sauce is the best?) but if I end up there, I know I've got to read the reviews and the comments. If people are saying it's too salty, sweet, dry, wet, etc., it probably is.
And sometimes, I figure out a recipe just based on my own dumb luck. Take last night for example. I played hooky from work and decided to do some cooking for the week and made a few meals that taste just as good as leftovers. One of them was Sweet and Sour Pork which I've shown on this blog previously and was simply amazed at how much I loved it on the first try. As I was making the sauce, I got together my ingredients and absentmindedly took out both my rice vinegar and my white vinegar. But as I read the recipe, I realized neither were listed. I distinctly remembered using at LEAST the white vinegar last time...and why the hell do I even own rice vinegar if it wasn't for this recipe? I was perplexed.
I found the original recipe and read that three times. Definitely no mention of white or rice vinegar. So I went with the balsamic vinegar as listed. I instantly noticed the sauce was much darker than the last time I made it (and coincidentally?!?! closer to the color of the sauce from the original blog). I went ahead and finished the dish. By this point I figured I had just made a mistake last time, and I assumed I would love it the "correct" way even more. But I was sorely mistaken. I practically hated it this time. The flavors didn't seem to mesh well to me this time and I felt like I could taste the separate parts instead of a single sauce. What the hell?
I already updated the recipe on my blog to note that white vinegar can (and in my opinion should) be substituted for the balsamic vinegar. Who know my initial mistake would be the key ingredient for the whole meal to my taste buds? This just proves the rule that cooking (unlike baking) is an art, and not a science.
I still have no idea why I own a bottle of rice vinegar.