Well, the first thing you should do is date someone who subscribes to about a million food blogs and can find like eight interesting recipes for anything you want to cook just by searching her Google Reader.
Okay, that might not be an option for everyone.
So, when I want to try a new dish, like you I usually check out trusted sources first (Cook’s Illustrated or googling “[food item] + thomas keller” are perennial favorites), but sometimes that doesn’t work and you have to turn to a brute force search. The onslaught of recipes online can be pretty daunting, so I have a simple rule for weeding through them. I look for recipes that include one element I know how to do, and one I don’t.
For example, I wanted to make lentil soup a while back, which I had never tried before. I searched Epicurious, which gave me a stupid amount of results. I could have picked a soup that uses yeast (?) and features “date balls,” which I’m sure is delicious but is totally unfamiliar to me, but instead I went with a simple French lentil soup. It’s just classic tomato soup, which I know how to do, plus lentils. At this point, it’s basically a science experiment: I’ve controlled for tomato soup, both in preparation and taste, so the only variable is lentils. I learned a lot about how they cook and how their flavor affects a soup just from making this one easy recipe.
And now that I’ve got that one under my belt, I kinda wonder how it would taste with yeast.
Alright, I’ve got a question for you. You mentioned food blogs and, specifically, how they’re full of pretty pictures. Why is this so appealing? Isn’t it basically the same technique that fast food commercials use? Is it, ultimately, somewhat deceptive and shallow?