The Recipe Box

An antiquated version of keeping all of one’s personal recipes together in one place, the recipe box is still a term widely used by all chefs as to where they go to find their own list of ideas, creations and notes on what works and what doesn’t.

I would keep them like this, but my handwriting is just so messy…

And I don’t seem to have one.

Well of course there are recipes that I have typed up on my computer – since I have to give my students something when they come to my classes – but there is no one central location for where all my my recipes are located.

There are the collections of recipes from my classes, and then my collection of recipes that other people have sent me that I’ve played with, and there’s of course the collection of recipes I’m putting together for my cookbook. But it was a class I recently taught at Open Kitchen that really shined a light on how much I needed a centralized “recipe box.”

The class was on the topic of Spanish Tapas – and uses a collection of recipes that we had used many times before. Over the many classes that I had used these recipes, I had improved them since some of them were just flat-out wrong in the order of steps and procedures that are listed in the creation of the dishes. So I re-wrote them, improved them, and sent the corrected versions to the person who maintains the recipes.

Well here we were many months later, and when I arrived at the event, there were the old, outdated, wrong versions of the recipes in the packets for the students…

Now there was little I could do for that event, but it made me think about my own recipes. I would hate to give my students an out-dated version of a recipe, but how do I prevent that? After a class, if I have an idea on how to improve a recipe, I make the changes to that class’s list of recipes, but the next time I offer the class, how do I know I’m pulling the most recent version of this recipe?

Pictured: The fun life of a chef.

And thus I have begun the monumental project of pulling EVERY SINGLE ONE of my recipes out individually, and creating a master recipe box for myself. Each recipe is housed as its own entity, with source information and notes about how it was created and other variations as well. Additionally, I’m making a spreadsheet of my classes which lists which recipes I need to pull when I’m compiling the handouts for a class.

Sure, it makes good sense, but the one thing that I’ve realized in the process: I’ve written a HELL of a lot of recipes in the past few years. I had no idea.

Maybe I should write a cookbook. Oh wait…

Chef Matt

P.S. Since this article is about writing recipes, and I mentioned Tapas, I figured it’s only fair I share one of my tapas recipes with you. So here you go:

Patatas Bravas

Arguably the best tapas recipe out there

Yield: Serves 4-6 as a tapas

For the Potatoes:
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
3 cups water
3 Tbsp salt
½ cup olive oil
To Taste salt, pepper, smoked paprika
For the Tomato Sauce:
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ ea white onion – diced
2 cloves garlic – minced
1 ea 15 oz can diced tomatoes (or whole tomatoes, crushed)
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
To taste salt and pepper
For the Aioli:
½ cup mayonnaise
4 cloves garlic – minced
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

– Leaving the skin on the potatoes, cut the potatoes into 1” cubes – irregular shapes are fine – and place in a sauce pan with the water and salt. Heat over high heat stirring every once and again until the water just starts to boil. Strain potatoes, allow to dry some in the air.
– While the potatoes are cooking and cooling, make tomato sauce by heating olive oil in a small sauce pan, adding the onion and the garlic and sautéing until onions are translucent.
– Add the tomatoes, vinegar, paprika and cayenne, allow to simmer for 10 minutes, season to taste with salt and pepper.
– Make the aioli by combining mayo, garlic and oil in a small bowl – set aside.
– When the potatoes are cooled to room temperature, heat the ½ cup of olive oil in a large skillet, and fry the potatoes in batches until nicely golden on all sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Keep batches warm in the oven if need be.
– To serve, place a small mound of potatoes on a plate, top with a dollop of tomato sauce and a small dollop of aioli. Garnish with more paprika and/or chopped parsley if desired.

Note: You will likely have leftover tomato sauce. Save it for future batches of Patatas Bravas, or use it as a topping in places where you would normally use ketchup.

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2 Responses to “The Recipe Box”

  1. Katie says:

    Hey Matt, Ed’s sister here. This looks great! What would you recommend (if anything) as a replacement for the mayo? My husband HATES mayonnaise, but otherwise I think he would love these.

    • Chef Matt says:

      Hey Katie, So glad you like the look of these. They really are a fabulous dish! So “Aioli” really is nothing more than a garlic mayonnaise. I would have included the full recipe for making mayo from scratch here, but I figure most people making this need a shortcut.. Anyway, as a substitution for people who can’t get past this, I have two recommendations:

      1. Mix the aioli and the tomato sauce together in a 50-50 mix. Many recipes for patatas bravas do this. I prefer to keep the two separate, but they can be blended, and this might “hide” the mayo enough for your husband. If not, then try:

      2. Substitute Sour cream, Creme Fraiche or Greek Yogurt for the mayo. None of these are as good as the mayo of course, but any one of them could do in a pinch to overcome the “mayo hurdle”.

      Hope that helps! If you make it, let me know how it goes!