Play This Game, Plan Your Dinner
February 7, 2019 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Food52 has created Mad Libs-like, printable recipe templates for a variety of meal basics which lets you build a recipe with ingredients of your choice.
posted by Room 641-A (12 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
The only phrase I remember from playing Mad Libs is "I had to stay after school and wash the potato," so this is appropriate.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:46 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]

OMG this is fantastic. It's a real aid to breaking through the indecision of what to make for dinner. Thanks for posting it!
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 12:33 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

1, Cook 1 pound of butt in very salty water so it's al dente.
2, While it cooks, grate butt cups of butt in a big bowl.
3, Mix with butt and add butt and butt, if you like.

OK seriously though this is a clever idea.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:04 AM on February 8 [16 favorites]

I have always wanted to be the kind of cook where I can open my fridge and say "Hmm, I have a little bit of leftover potato-and-mushroom stew, not enough for a full serving but I bet it'd be an interesting omlette filling" or "I know, lemme round out that last bit of chicken by throwing it in a casserole with those carrots I need to use up" or whatever. I do a lot of cooking but I'm kind of chained to my cookbooks (I have over 100). I'm only just now starting to feel comfortable enough to branch out into the kind of experimentation where you can improvise a recipe out of what you have; just with soups thus far, and I'm trembling on the edge of stepping into quiche (the quiche base is 3 eggs to a cup of milk or mixed milk and cream, bung in a cup or so of whatever extra stuff you want, throw in about a half-cup or so of shredded or crumbled up cheese, throw that into a pie crust and bake).

As things stand now I end up trying to find a recipe that will use up the ingredients I have that need using, but sometimes finding the perfect recipe takes time, or I don't have some other ingredient so I put it on hold for some someday "later" and ultimately I don't do anything and whatever I was trying to use up goes bad and I have to start over, all because I am looking for a recipe. This sounds like the perfect way to get me over that initial wedded-to-a-recipe hurdle.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:35 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

This is basically how I cook these days, although the Mad Libs are in my head. I don't claim to be a great cook – but I manage to feed myself, and occasionally to produce something scrumptious. It's a good technique for everyday meals, especially if you're cooking for one.

I became comfortable with improvisational cooking by going through a phase where I was really, intensely into cooking (from recipes). If I decided that I was going to prepare a particular [ingredient|dish|cuisine], I wouldn't just find a recipe and make it. I'd find five or six highly rated versions of that dish, and study them carefully. What do they have in common? Where do they differ? What is the purpose of each ingredient and step? I'd usually end up synthesizing my own version of a dish from two or three different sources, taking the parts I liked and leaving the ones I didn't.

This is a really good way to figure out the bones of a thing – the underlying Mad Libs. I'd really like to see more people teaching cooking this way.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:13 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]

Nice idea to get the gears turning.

On the food front, I'd love to see someone create a photo series of the Mediterranean Diet. Each picture would be one day of meals and snacks, with clear cues to scale/amounts.
posted by dancing leaves at 6:47 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Recipe mad-libs are like the opposite approach to Foodie Dice. I think the dice are pre-grocery shopping and the mad-libs are post-grocery shopping.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:57 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Isn't mad libs supposed to be a surprise? Like they ask you for "fat", "protein", "seasonings", and "acid" and suddenly you're making chorizo & parsley empanadas with a balsamic dipping sauce. If you know what the recipe is supposed to be for, what's the point?
posted by mosst at 1:30 PM on February 8

The point is to get people who think they need to follow recipes slavishly to start feeling comfortable with experimentation. Like, "hey, you don't have to use a specific kind of meat in this pasta bake, just go with what you have, it won't make your pasta bake explode or anything."

Or, the point is to give people a tool to help them use up the random bits and bobs in their fridge that aren't quite enough for a single thing on their own (I say this as I am tucking into a pasta dish using their formula, which also used up three different kinds of too-small-for-a-single-thing cheese, two hot dogs and some frozen spinach).

I mean, if you want to really fly blind go for it. So long as you let people enjoy things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 PM on February 8

There’s a buzzfeed listsicle 31 ways to dress up a pound of chicken” And I recommend it a lot to people who are amazed that i just “throw together” marinades and salad dressings.

The 31 suggestions are not just good for chicken. In my opinion, some are maybe better for shrimp than for steak, but I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.

Bonus ideas from my kitchen - I think of this as Mad Libs style with the “sauce” filling in different steps of various recipes.

1-2 tablespoons gochujang paste
1-2 teaspoons fish sauce
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons honey
Garlic or ginger, to taste

Have juice of one lime on hand for finishing (you can use lemon or orange juice too)

Whisk together, taste, add more of what you want more of

Pour “Sauce” over a can of rinsed beans, marinate for 3 or more hours, eat on a salad of romaine hearts, goat cheese, sliced yellow peppers.


Put a “Meat” (such as whole pork tenderloin), marinate the meat in the “Sauce.” Cook as you wish. Use the remaining “Sauce” to make a pan sauce. I add chicken stock and corn starch to make extra gravy to serve with potatoes.


Mix up the “Sauce.” Add the lemon. Serve over wilted cabbage with pre-cooked chicken pieces (maybe you pre-cooked them, maybe you didn’t. I’m not judging), juicy slices of peach, and crunchy jicama.

If you’re in NYC, drop me a line. We can cook this together and I’ll send you home with some of the gochujang paste. I have 1/3 of a tub left.
posted by bilabial at 5:51 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

I seldom use cookbooks anymore. I usually hit the Wegmans a few times a week and grab the produce that looks best whilst composing a dish in my head. Sometimes it's good. The Missus likes my cooking, so there's that.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:50 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Memailed, bilabial (although I realize I didn't definitively say "yeah, let's cook together" because I had other intrigued questions).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on February 9

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