What is a “good” recipe?
There are countless recipes floating around on the internet, cookbooks galore, cooking shows, millions of food blogs and numerous food magazines. Everyone has a cookbook these days. How do you decide which of these resources to trust for recipes? Have the recipes been made and tested by a panel of taste testers for feedback? Have they been prepared by several different people in different kitchens and settings to see if the results are the same?
Many chefs don’t have recipes, per se, so when they actually write down a recipe, they will tell you that it needs to be worked through and adjusted for home use. Their cookbooks require quite a bit of testing and recipe alteration for a home cook to have success with them.
How are the food magazines handling all of the recipes that they publish each month? Are they all tested by their staff or do they trust that the people submitting them are doing the due diligence? What happens when one falls through the cracks and isn’t tested? My cake from Christmas 2010.
What about some of the food blogs that crank out new recipes almost daily? Did these recipes work for them just once? Did they have anyone else test the recipe? Who is to say that they will work again that way or be successful for someone else?
Ingredients are expensive and time is precious. Neither should be wasted. I think that any of us writing about food and giving recipes to our readers need to be mindful of that. Whether you are “adapting” a recipe from another source or are creating your own recipe, it needs to be reliable. A recipe is about the food and not about the pretty pictures that accompany it, although those are important too. It needs to be good and it needs to work. Every single time.
I have heard some recipe developers, under time constraints, make a dish and after the dish is done they adjust the proportions of ingredients but do not make it again. They are guessing at what would improve the taste or flavor without testing it to be certain.
Some recipes are quite simple and require only a few ingredients. These recipes probably do not require as much testing. As long as you use great ingredients and the instructions are accurate, the flavors should be good with minimal adjustment. What tends to happen with many recipes that are more complex and require more ingredients, numerous steps and are designed to build layers of flavors, is that they seem to have more of a tendency to break down and the flavors get lost. This could be because the proportions are off, ingredients are missing from the recipe or the process of building the flavors is flawed. Whatever the reason, the photograph may be beautiful but the flavor is missing.
There are several cookbook authors and chefs whose recipes are spot on. Every time. I go to them when I know I want something dependable and am not in the mood to experiment or take chances. It is too costly to take too many chances, especially as our food becomes more expensive.
I spent a great deal of time, money and effort last evening to be completely disappointed with the results. Yes, I adjusted the ingredients and seasonings and added a bit more prosciutto, grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. I tweaked the sauce and kept tasting for salt and pepper, but the robust level of flavor I had anticipated was missing. It was flat. The flavors did not work together. At all. This was not a basic dish. This was complex and involved and I expected far more from it.
I often wonder if people visit websites and cookbooks to look at the pictures or if they visit to find recipes they will actually make at home. One of the great joys of writing a food blog is receiving emails and chatting with friends that make recipes from Bunkycooks and having them say how much they enjoyed it. I hope that the recipes you find here will live up to your expectations.
As more and more people enter into this cooking and blogging arena and more recipes flood the internet and bookshelves, what criteria will you use to determine your sources for recipes? What do you consider to be a “good” recipe?