Au pif (“oh-peef”)

I love this expression, which is slang and which, when applied to cooking (as it most often is), translates roughly as “cooking by feel” or “by instinct.” Pif can mean nose, but cooking au pif doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with nose or scent. It’s more about just having a feel for a dish and cooking it without a recipe. If you take a look at the story about Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake (page 430-32), you’ll get a sense of what au pif can mean, since that’s the way she makes her cake. We’ve all got recipes that we cook au pif, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, like me, you count your au pif recipes among your favorites.

Dorie Greenspan