December 27, 2021
3 No-Recipe Recipes From New York Times’s Sam Sifton
As an editor at The New York Times and in particular as the founding editor of NYT Cooking, our digital cookbook and cooking site, I spend a lot of time bringing together cooks, reporters, chefs and critics to lay out strict instructions for how best to prepare specific dishes. These recipes take a particular form: a list of ingredients and measurements followed by step-by-step directions for how to use them to result in a finished dish. I think of these recipes as sheet music, a form of notation that allows home cooks to recreate the cooking of others, just as a printed chord chart allows Mike from Sheboygan to play the Beatles’ repertoire in his den, passingly well.
But I don’t just cook with recipes, and I am not alone. Indeed, cooking without recipes is a kitchen skill, same as cutting vegetables into dice or flipping an omelette. It’s a proficiency to develop, a way to improve your confidence in the kitchen, and to make the act of cooking fun when it sometimes seems like a chore.
Since 2015, I have included one of these no-recipe recipes — an invitation for you to improvise in the kitchen — in every Wednesday edition of What to Cook, the newsletter I write for The Times. What follows are some highlights from that archive, suggestions for things you might cook yourself or for as many people you have or don’t have at the table, any time.