Let’s start with this: I like to cook. I am not a great cook, but I enjoy doing it principally because I enjoy eating and, more specifically, enjoy eating things exactly the way I like them.
To me, there’s two types of people that can cook: those that can cook off recipes and those in that Chopped subcategory, where they can take a few random ingredients in their pantry and make something out of nothing.
Outside of a few dishes, I’m decidedly in the former camp. It’s really just in the last few year that I’ve woken to the idea that I don’t need to be a slave to the exact specifications of the recipe. For years, I’d continually add in elements of a recipe that I either knew I wouldn’t like or actively hated–shit like okra to gumbo–and finally I woke up one day and said, “I fucking hate okra, I am making this gumbo literally for only myself… ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”
Okra-beef aside, my point here is that even in my newly-freed state of mind I still will often go to a recipe when trying out a dish I’ve yet to make. Sure, it’s more of an outline now than it was a few years ago but it’s still a framework I’m following—someone else’s framework.
A lot of times (I’d argue, most of the time), if carried out even remotely properly the recipe will turn out pretty solid. Let’s be fair: most of the people putting recipes on the internet or in books are pretty good cooks. You might even say they’re professionals.
But, rare is the instance when it goes from good to great. When you make something that you expect to be good and it blows your doors off. This recipe for chicken tortilla soup is a perfect example of that. For whatever reason, this specific recipe really hit me in the right spot. I’ve made versions of this soup dozens of times, with a number of similar recipes. I can’t explain why… this one was way better than the rest.
If you cook even semi-regularly, you know exactly this feeling. Your day is nearing its end, you’ve found a recipe to make for dinner that night and you’re excited but in that way that’s more about the fact that you are happier about not having to eat leftovers than anything else. You get home with the ingredients, begin going through the steps and before you know it, the meal is ready to go. You’ve had a sneaking suspicion this might be better than you anticipated but you won’t know until that first bite.
Of course, suspicions confirmed.
Bonus Feeling: Finding a recipe for a thing you really like that a restaurant or store makes and now you can make a version of it at home. The hell with retail, son.