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This was great ... "By the way, how did I come up with it?"

We all have set out to make a simple say for example, chicken, then we add this and that, and this and that and soon it becomes a whole dish. Next you know ... it amazingly a great dish!

What are your breakthrough dishes? I look through cookbooks and magazines, but I never use them. I like to use concepts and ideas and change up with my ideas and twists.

Tonight was a great asparagus scallions and light soy and rice wine vinegar sauce sauteed with fresh wild mushrooms and chow mein noodles. Maybe not very gourmet ish, but is sure was good and very pretty. Dinner changed last minute as I need to work from 8 till probably 3 or 4 tonight. So I wanted something good and some what healthy. Pared with fresh grilled salmon it was great!

SO ....TELL ME ABOUT YOUR "JUST BY ACCIDENT" THE BEST DISH EVER CREATIONS ?? Ones that you would be proud to serve to others.

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  1. I do this all of the time. Don't have any particular "recipes" that I can think of but my mother always asks me(when I cook for them)- do you think you'll remember how to make this again?

    1. We had some left over Armenian pilaf and left over spaghetti sauce. Suddenly Spaghetti Pilaf appeared! ;-) Surprisingly it was good.

      1. Born out of a desire to... not wash another pot: while stir-frying veggies to go with a nice filet of fish, decided to use the steam from the cooking veggies to cook the fish. Threw the filet on top of the half-cooked veggies, put the cover on, and let it go; a few minutes later the fish was perfectly steamed, the veggies cooked, and I put it on top of some rice, with the fish topped by the vegetables - delicious. Now it's one of my favorite regular dishes.

        1 Reply
        1. I've yapped about this before on CH. One of my best friends made a chicken pot pie from scratch. Rolled his own dough, put a little bit of this, little bit of that...all freehand, nothing on paper. It was, without a doubt, the best chicken pot pie either of us had ever eaten. We mmmm'd and ahhhh'd all the way through the meal, not able to shut up about how good it was. Well, that was probably 15 years ago. And, to this day, my dear friend has yet to replicate that magical pie. We joke about it still--I call it "the lost chord." On the other hand, I went home and wrote down what I put in when I made it the first time, using what I remembered of his recipe as a base. I still tweak it here and there even now, but at least I have something to go on. :)

          2 Replies
          1. re: kattyeyes

            I have a shrimp stirfry I made once, same thing. I wish I could remember everything Mom and I put in it. We were working together and it was perfect ... Haven't got it right yet. :)

            1. re: kchurchill5

              Same story but with Thai pineapple fried rice. The Spouse basically just cleaned out the fridge, used up the leftover rice, some fresh pineapple, and a bunch of other things that were lying around. It was awesome and we've never been able to replicatte it again.

          2. I wanted to make Korean short ribs that my SO really liked at a restaurant. I looked at recipes online but didn't like anything - so I went through the cupboard, marinated it for 24hr and then grilled them - excellent - not the same as the restaurant but SO said they were better! That is what cooking is all about - sometimes the experiments work well sometimes not.

            2 Replies
            1. re: juliewong

              juliewong, have you tried hannaone's short ribs? he is a pro, and is prolific with his recipes. the short ribs recipe is here... http://www.chow.com/recipes/11380

              was your recipe similar to hannaone's?

              1. re: alkapal

                That looks divine, gonna make it soon.

            2. I don't think I'm creative when it comes to cooking, not like y'all are anyway. I'm a creative person, a trained musician, but I seem to need a recipe as a BASE, an idea to work with.
              Maybe I can work on this!

              1. Ah, here is one of my latest “concoctions”...

                The other night we cooked a steak, not a real good one, just an average cut of meat. It turned out to be extremely tough. We were disappointed, but I was not going to feed it to the dog. Here’s what I did:

                Thinly sliced the leftover, cooked steak; sauteed a chopped onion and a green pepper until soft; added one can of whole kernel corn. Added my meat strips when the corn was heated and crumbled two cubes of chipotle bouillon into the mix, plus a little ground pepper. Heated the whole thing through until the meat softened a bit. It would have been good over rice, but I eat so much rice I didn’t want it again, so (and here’s where you guys will throw your shoes at me) I served it over oyster crackers.

                I must say, it was delicious! I was really surprised!

                1. I have to admit, I rarely cook. But in recent months I've been going through some financial and personal issues that have forced me to try to be more economical across the board. This has led to my new desire to create large dishes that I can eat throughout the week. I've also discovered that whole grain rice is pretty cheap. I was never much of a rice eater before.
                  This past week, I made a large batch of brown rice and then started throwing in whatever I had leftover in the fridge. This meant I sauteed some asparagus and leeks. Threw them into the rice. Toasted some pine nuts. Threw them into the rice. Grilled some peaches, threw them into the rice. Then I added a little dijon mustard and some fresh lemon.
                  It was delicious.
                  I spent the rest of the night slowly consuming it with very wide eyes, like I had just discovered fire...

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: hyacinthgirl

                    I made a peach coleslaw years ago ... that was totally by accident I hate some savoy, some cucumbers, pecans, some red peppers and fresh peaches and made an amazing coleslaw. Now I make it all the time. (my friend came down from GA and brought guess what ... pecans and peaches). She decided to stay for dinner so I made this spicy bourbon citrus BBQ over a combo of ribs chicken and pork loin (we didn't have enough of each) some coleslaw and sweet potatoes mixed with regular potatoes, onions and mushrooms. Talk about throw together. To this day it was one of the best meals ever. The bottle of bourbon with a little seven didn't hurt either :)

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      oh that sounds awesome! What sort of dressing do you make for that slaw?

                      1. re: hyacinthgirl

                        I blend in a mixer, food process mini or large, 1/2 cup of canola or olive oil and peaches, then about 1/4 cup lemon and honey and some mint (according to taste), season with salt and pepper after it is purred. Immersion works too. Anything you got. I even add like to add a few red pepper flakes for a light twist.

                        It is very summer like, sweet but not too sweet. I love it for picnics or BBQ's no mayo

                        1. re: kchurchill5

                          thank you, I'll try that. now I'm hungry...

                          1. re: hyacinthgirl

                            It is a good slaw, simple but good. Jicama would be great too in this. I love it because of no mayo and just fruit. It is sweeter but the cabbage keeps a nice texture. I make it for BBQ's a lot but also just a small batch for me now and then. I keep bagged coleslaw in the house all the time.

                            I use it in salads, over meats, in tortillas, over burgers, etc. Great go to cheap and easy food to use in lots of stuff.

                            1. re: kchurchill5

                              I just for the first time tried fresh water chestnuts (and ate all the ones I'd started peeling for a recipe). They are a lot like jicama, with some young-coconut-juice vibe and sugarcane vibe. That could go in a slaw, also shredded green papaya if you like. Have been reading up on Thai papaya salad (an addiction) and made it a couple times. Apparently they made that salad with all sorts of random veggies, whatever was on hand, before being introduced to papaya from the West some time centuries back.

                              1. re: Cinnamon

                                I have never had green papaya but have wanted to try it. I love water chesnuts. I think they are so under used. Thai salad sounds really good.

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  It's called variously Som Tam or Som Tum or a variation on that. One recipe with pics is here:

                                  The dried shrimp are fairly crucial... easy to find in little tiny packages at Asian (and sometimes other) markets, easy to crush into a powder so they're not obviously little shrimp.

                                  This has some more of the naming/origin info and is kind of interesting.. the variety I have had and like is with the recipe above, not the Laotian way described here:

                                  1. re: Cinnamon

                                    Thanks, I really have to give it a try

                                2. re: Cinnamon

                                  hey miss cinnamon! i never realized papaya was a new world fruit. i too am a som tum addict! (put it in my tum!)

                                  i can see using green mango, too, but i've only made it wth the green papaya. i don't care if it has the green beans or tomatoes, either.

                                  i've found the dried shrimp at my local shoppers food warehouse.

                                  my fave restaurant version leaves tiny chunks of the shrimp as a textural interest, and it does give a little different flavor than grinding it all to a powder. what i want is one of those tools that gives you the veeeeery long threads of papaya (or carrot, or whatever). <but i don't want to spend much money. has anyone got a cheap-o version that works? i already have a julienne shredder and a mandoline.>

                                  and...as kattyeyes would say: checky checky this thread on laotian foods: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/619726

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    I'd been meaning to look more at Laotian, they know some stuff.

                                    So here I am sitting with the empty box from my leftover som tum to my left (really, mouth still burning) and the cookbook "Cracking the Coconut" to my right. In it, Su-Mei Yu writes: "Patpong Road, Bangkok's red -light district, is one of the best places in Thailand to get spicy green papaya salad. This is because many of the women working in the bars and brothels are from Northeast Thailand, where the dish is a regional classic. In Bangkok, stands are set up like salad bars, with an array of seasonings from which customers may choose. ... It calls for seasonal vegetables pounded with seasonings. ... Green papaya is the latest addition. The fruit was introduced to the Thais in the seventeenth century, when it was brought over from the Americas through the Philippines." (And says use a big Mexican papaya, not a Hawaiian one.)

                                    Here's a video on shredding a papaya using just a knife (the instructor starts with a peeler but knife is easy for that part)

                                    There is a papaya tool over at templeofthai.com but it looks like a PITA to use.

                                    This is the best video of a street seller making som tum - you will be hungry after watching it.

                                    1. re: Cinnamon

                                      the spanish introduced it, i wonder...... edit: yes! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaya

                                      my sister and brother in law have a papaya tree down in sw florida, so when i'm there, i can easily find some green ones! i made the salad for them, but i think they found it a "little" hot. ha ha!

                    2. Welcome to my world. Unless I'm baking, I don't follow recipes exactly, and never measure. The other day, I was teaching my daughter how to make French toast, and my wife commented that it was unusually good. She asked if I tried something new, or did anything different. Darling daughter piped up, "He didn't measure ANYTHING, I'll tell you that much!"

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ricepad

                        HA HA HA, that's priceless! Out of the mouths of babes, as it were. ;)

                        1. re: ricepad

                          I have to force myself to write things down. With catering I want it to be the same but mostly I NEVER measure. I just wing it.

                          1. re: ricepad

                            I hear you on that. I really prefer to tinker vs. measure. My husband always measures, so he's good with the exacting recipes and on new things. I get good in categories, and sometimes have breakthroughs of terrific. There are some experimental failures though, ala Sorcerer's Apprentice.

                          2. Adding coconut milk instead of water to jasmine rice during the 10 minutes it's steaming off the burner, and sticking some lemongrass in that. Then with the leftovers, frying a little shallot in coconut oil and throwing the rice in for a little refresh, topping it off with copious cilantro toward the end. That with a little salt is something I could eat again and again, so good.

                            Once I let a small watermelon rind dry out a little. I randomly then peeled the outside off and cut it into slices and stir-fried it. THAT was great... a veggie with its own natural sugars.

                            Once I made some bundt cake recipe, and flavored sections of it with different additions and liqueurs ... not quite like Italian tricolore cookies but that general idea. Came out great. I remember maraschinos were involved, probably almonds, things like that.

                            Oh yes.. and what doesn't simply arise out of puttering arises out of desperation. Nothing to eat in the house that didn't have to be made. I wanted something warm and tasty and sweet. We had some fruit. It happened to be nectarine. I put some butter in a pan, sliced that thinly on top of it, browned it, flipped it, took it off the flame and poured in a little rum that I lit and burned that off. Then I put it back on the burner and randomly mixed flour, baking powder, milk and egg and threw it on enough to make a big pancake. As I recall several more followed, and I've made that with various fruits several times since.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Cinnamon

                              i love the watermelon rind idea. i have a watermelon sitting outside that i need to cut up and eat. maybe i need to pickle some rind, too. does anyone do them hot and spicy? (like the okra?)

                              1. re: alkapal

                                If you stir-fried with some chilies you'd get that sweet-hot thing going. (But would try both ways - I really loved the flavor even alone.)

                            2. I think this is the dilemma for the, um, "creative" cook.... I use cookbooks only for the pictures and inspiration, but inevitably end up riffing on ingredients, tossing this in and that, and generally add up with good stuff, sometimes exceptional. Save for some of my routine dishes, those exceptional results are difficult to recreate...

                              A great example is a very simple pasta dish I threw together once for my man and me with a bunch of very ripe tomatoes, some garlic and onion sautéed in olive oil, and basil. It was fantastic. I basically made the same dish (no-brainer, right?) for an Italian-style dinner party that included various salumi & cheeses, salad and bread... and the pasta. It was lame. Under-seasoned perhaps, who knows. Underwhelming -- definitely.