A question of Time(r)


It should be a no-brainer but sometimes even the most enthusiastic cook forgets to set up the timer on time. As I always say when I am teaching, if there’s a recipe for disaster in the kitchen it’s probably related to excess or lack of baking and cooking time. 

A minute might be enough to define the result of a dish: In less than 2 minutes a cake might burn, a tragic mishap for a birthday. In 3 minutes be prepared to say farewell to soft core cookies: they probably became biscotti. Five minutes less and chicken might still be raw (hence the genius need for a thermometer, always), and beans _ and your palate and digestive system _ also resent being less time dancing in hot water thand they should.

It’s mainly in the oven that things can go terribly wrong. Remember that charred Boeuf Bourguignon of the movie Julie and Julia? The fact it is away from us, and the best ovens can conceal smoke inside before it becomes a warning sign. But not setting the timer also doesn’t forgive on the stove top, as some mistakes are irreversible. Think about pasta. Can you reverse floppy to al dente? Last time I cooked pasta I was thinking about the magic number 11 minutes. Some of my favorite pasta shapes call for 11 minutes as the al dente point to perfection; when the durum achieves the texture that defines good pasta to mediocre pasta.

Saying that timing is the quintessential factor in cooking is an understatement. Even when multitasking in an immense kitchen of a client I also had both of my mechanical timer, cell phone and apple watch available to be used for the many things being prepared at the same time. Worst case scenario I would also use the timer on the microwave and if available, the oven one.

Here’s my recipe for success: 

1.  Before start any recipe, make a note of the time, not a mental one, and read the whole recipe.

2.  Trust the package. Please read the cooking instructions, even if you trust that every pasta and rice cooking time by rice, time may vary, repeating… just trust the package.

3.   Set the timer precisely when you put things inside the oven, not before, not after.

4.  My designer sister Ana Be told me that there are little creatures who live around the clock needles, altering time. The image is always in my head. These creatures are the ones who probably make sometimes time to feel different when you are in the kitchen. How long are those 45 minutes when you are baking a brownie because you want to eat it?


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