09 December 2009

On Recipes

I was listening to The Splendid Table, Lynn Rosetto Casper's NPR radio show on food this weekend, when one of her guests started talking about the unreliability of recipes on the internet- specifically in the blogosphere. My ears perked up immediately, as the internet is my main cookbook and I write a food blog with recipes. Her guest made some valid points but his main bone of contention against blogs is that the recipes are not tested multiple times, as would a recipe from the late and great Gourment magazine. I will be the first to agree that having an army of professional cooks test a recipe again and again times to tweak it and make it perfect is a great way to make sure the recipe will work every time; however, I have made recipes from such august publications that have been bland or even downright unpalatable. Even though an army of chefs and cooks labored over it for weeks it just wasn't any good. I have also made many recipes that I have found on blogs by home cooks writing about what they made for dinner that have been fantastic. That's not to say there aren't a lot of bad recipes floating around the internet, but to dismiss food blogs out of hand, as the guest (if only I could remember his name) seemed to do, is too harsh for my taste. So much of a recipe is about trust- you are trusting that the author of the recipes has given you a set of instructions to allow you to recreate his or her dish. You invest your time and money into this and you want it to pay off with a delicious tasty product.

It's been a few days since The Splendid Table broadcast and I've continued to think about the idea of recipes. There are certain cookbook authors/chefs that I trust implicitly. Take Marcella Hazan, author of The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Her recipes are detailed and precise without becoming burdensome. Her tips enlighten and, most importantly, I have never made anything from The Essentials, that wasn't absolutely delicious. I've expanded my palate to new things, because I knew I could trust her recipes. She is the kind of cookbook author you want on your shelf.

While I don't think many food writers in the world could compare to Marcella, there are a few blogs that I cook from with the same confidence. Chocolate and Zucchini, the very first blog I ever read, is one. Clotilde explains things so clearly I never fear that I've gone astray and she cooks the kind of food I want to eat. Another blog I know I could make anything from is Tartellete. Granted, Helene is a professional pastry chef, which helps, but I know every recipe on her blog would work.

All this brings my back to my blog. I have made every recipe I post her at least once, sometimes twice, and in a fewspecial cases, six or seven times. I endeavor to make sure that my recipes are clear, concise and functional but I don't really know if they are. I like to hope so, and there have been many times when I have turned to the archives to make a recipe again and they seem to work.

This week Kat at A Good Appetiteposted about her intention to make my
Chicken Saagwala and I got nervous, really nervous. Had I written the recipe correctly? Did I forget a key ingredient? Did I defrost the spinach before adding it or not? I'm not sure about the answers to any of these questions but I do hope I got things right and that Kat and Matt enjoy the dish as much as I did.

I'll end this post with a request and a question. If you have to make one of my recipes, or your own version perhaps inspired by what I have done here, please let me know how it's turned out. It if works great- if it's a failure even better. Let me know where I could have been more clear and what went wrong and I will try to fix it. I'm not sure I can offer realtime assistance, but if you're cooking and things aren't looking so great, send me and email and I'll try to help. Thank you in advance.

I've told you a bit about what I think about recipes-- any thoughts you'd like to share? Are the any cooks/books that you trust implicitly? any that you think are terrible?

1 comment:

kat said...

I'm sure your recipe will be just fine! We're having it this weekend so I'll let you know.
You would have enjoyed a conversation on Twitter awhile back about recipe pet peeves. Mine were ingredients not listed in order used & not telling how many servings a recipe makes.