I Followed The Recipe Exactly, Except... - Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist Blog at Allrecipes.com - 236714

Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist

I Followed The Recipe Exactly, Except... 
May 21, 2011 11:49 am 
Updated: May 22, 2011 12:12 pm
How many times have we seen those words in a recipe review, or have we typed them ourselves?  I have to chuckle every time I see it.  With the exception of baking, and then only sometimes, a recipe is simply a guideline.  Recipes do not necessarily have to be specific, prescribed ingredients, portions and/or methods.  Certainly , there are time honored traditions regarding the “right way” to make certain items.  But even those traditions in your family/culture were likely modified by your grandmother, great uncle Sal or by a famous TV chef from some other previous recipe.  Most everyone, especially on AR, puts their own spin on things.  Sometimes that spin is due to lack of an ingredient, an ingredient that you don’t particularly care for in a recipe, a preference for a lighter or moister texture, an allergy, dietary concerns like dairy or gluten intolerance, or simply wanting to avoid fat and calories.  All very good, solid, legitimate reasons to make modifications to recipes…to suit YOUR tastes or those of your family, or in some cases, your clients. 
Three personal examples come to mind just in the last few days:  a broken Bernaise sauce and the “recipe” for how to fix it, the hash my chef instructor at LCB prepared for class this week and one of my new AR friend’s Hazelnut Shortbread recipes. 
Yesterday afternoon the wind finally died down enough in Las Vegas (yes…it can be really windy here in the Spring apparently) for me to hit the pool for a couple of hours.  I tan, I study, I read and yesterday, I met some of my new neighbors.  I got to yacking with them (very cool people by the way – moved to Vegas from Detroit a little over a year ago – victims of the slacking auto industry in Michigan) and found that we had a bit in common – loss of 20+ year jobs mostly.  As time is ticking away, I realize that I am starving so my partner in crime and I pack up our pool gear and head upstairs to get dinner started.  Its Friday night, we picked up some lovely Ribeye steaks, did grilled asparagus (olive oil, salt, pepper – toss it on the grill), sautéed mushrooms (herbs d provence and a bit of chopped shallot and garlic) and popped open a nice bottle of Washington wine (red, of course).  Those of you who have read my blog in the past pretty much know that this dinner is a theme for us.  Its probably once a week because we both love a good steak, my partner is “the master” of the grill and I can’t get enough asparagus as long as I live.   Usually, this is my go to dinner when I am feeling especially lazy as most of the hard part is done on the grill and I can take the night off.  But last night, I was feeling especially generous and thought that I’d whip up some Bernaise to go with our steaks (and asparagus too).   If you look up how to make a Bernaise (or Hollandaise) Sauce online or in a cookbook, every recipe you find will give you a different set of proportions and directions on how to prepare the sauce.  “Don’t add the butter until the eggs have heated”,  “strain the shallots and  tarragon vinegar reduction before adding the eggs”, “you must use Chervil” and “never use dried tarragon”.  I use a very simple Hollandaise sauce recipe and add fresh chopped tarragon to it at the very end.  Its simple, its tasty and there are no RULES about how you can make it.  I was feeling a bit adventurous last night and tossed in just a pinch of Ancho Chile Powder – it added “a little something” but Julia Child is probably rolling in her grave. 
But…then…the unthinkable happened…my sauce broke!  For those of you who may not know what that means,  it means that the butter and the egg yolks separated from the emulsion and I was left with a greasy looking slimy mess.  Now what?  I’ve never had a sauce break on me before and I was frantic to “fix” it.  I had read about these things, but didn’t pay too much attention because “that could never happen to me”.  While still whisking my glob of sauce frantically, my partner searched the internet for “how to fix a broken Hollandaise sauce”.  Meantime, I remember…whisk in an extra egg yolk.  So I try that…end result: more greasy looking slimy mess.  In retrospect, I think that might have actually been the solution for a broken mayonnaise,  but I know it will fix something someday…just not my Bernaise.  While my PIC (partner in crime)  is searching for the answer, he ever so gently reminds me that he uses just a couple drops of ice water to bring his sauces back together…end result:  cold coagulated greasy slimy looking mess.  AHA –he finds a video (not sure where because I was busy whisking) online that says to whisk in just a few teaspoons of boiling hot water to bring a broken sauce back together.  End result:  SUCCESS.  My creamy smooth sauce is back.  The moral of the story is…you have to go with what works for you.  I’m not a fussy cook by nature so I take a practical approach to cooking.  If a “true Bernaise” with its shallots and Chervil, and tarragon vinegar reduction and straining is too much bother, you’ll get a 99% result with a simple hollandaise and a little bit of fresh tarragon.  And if someone tells you that you can’t fix a broken Hollandaise or Bernaise sauce, ignore them and try the hot water…or the ice water…or the extra egg yolk.  The answer is…the one that worked for you. 
As many of you know, I started culinary school this week.  The first week of the 9 month long program you basically learn the “history of cooking”, lots of French terms (I KNEW I should have paid attention in Jr High) and you spend hours and hours and hours practicing your knife skills on poor innocent potatoes.  In the culinary world, knife skills, apparently are highly valued so I spent A LOT of time this week unlearning bad habits and learning from the beginning how to properly hold a knife, “the claw” and cutting to EXACT measurements.  You can imagine that watching a dozen of us slice, dice, chop (or should I say “tournet”, “batonette”,” julienne” and “brunoise”) potatoes for several hours a day can get a little boring for the chef instructors.  So the chef decides to save a few of those potatoes for us, add some onion, mushroom, green pepper, garlic, chives, dill and salmon and make us a little Salmon Hash for breakfast.  No matter what you think, there’s not actually a lot of EATING that goes on in culinary school.  There’s a lot of TASTING, but not much eating.  It was an honor to have our instructor cook for us.  He is a certified Master Chef and has been “in the business” for 50 years.   Of the dozen people in my class, several did not care for the Chef’s creation.  One student added additional salt and pepper to it before even tasting, one student said that the hash “tasted too much like vegetables” and another said that he needed to add “a lot more spices.”  I’m sure if we have taken a poll, every student in the room would have had a comment or “suggestion” regarding the chef’s hash “recipe”.  Fact is, we all have different tastes and preferences and we tend to make things that match those tastes.  Almost all of us can find a way to make things “better”.  Meaning…better matched to our personal tastes.  And that’s OK.
I wrote earlier in the week about Candice’s Oregon Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies and I said I would try and find the recipe.  Well…Candice did me one better and provided it to all of us via MauiGirl.  Here it is…untouched, unmodified, as written.  P S – they are yummy!!!
 Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies
 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
 1 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1 cup butter, softened
 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pour all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. With hand mixer at low speed, mix until blended. Scrape bowl, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until well blended. Divide dough into 2 portions. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
On a lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll out one portion of the dough into a 9"x 6" rectangle.  Keep the remaining portion in refrigerator. With a sharp knife, cut dough lengthwise into 4 long strips, then cut each strip into 6 1 1/2-inch squares.  Place cookies, about 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove cookies to a rack to cool.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
But, of course, I had to put my spin on them.  Mostly because I had no Hazelnuts and I especially did not have any fresh off the tree Oregon Hazelnuts, so I substituted Pecans that I toasted lightly in a dry pan before finely chopping.  Plus…I LOVE Shortbread and I LOVE Pecans.  I remember Pecan Sandies from “the elves” when I was a kid.  I used to ask my Mom to try and find a recipe for them.  She never did (she probably thought I didn’t need MORE) and I haven’t looked for one online…I’m sure its out there somewhere.  However, I have no need to now…I have the recipe for Candice’s Yummy _____ Nut Shortbread.  I won’t review Candice’s recipe because I haven’t made it, as written, but I will say that the cookies I made from her recipe with the slight modification of a nut substitution, were very tasty, light and crispy.  Because I toasted the nuts before chopping (or is that brunoise?), they had a great “nutty” flavor.  These are great with coffee or tea for a mid-afternoon pick me up.  I will also be serving them alongside Strawberry Sorbet (another AR recipe) that is chilling in the fridge as we speak.  More on that later. 
Before I found AR, I thought I was unique in that I always tinkered with recipes.  I rarely made them exactly as written and I often took a lot of heat for that.  In one of my first blog posts, I tell the story of my PIC’s secret family recipe for Danish Pastry and the fact that when I suggested alternate uses of the pastry dough as a savory item in lieu of being used only as a sweet, I was nearly ostracized from his family.  But now I find that I am just one of thousands and thousands of you who test, tinker, create, learn, show and share.  And I am proud to be in that kind of good company. 
Up next, my take on celebrating National Strawberry Month.  I “picked” mine at the store yesterday. 
May 21, 2011 12:02 pm
EXCELLENT job CUAS! Loved this and am so glad that you not only got a chance to start school this week, attend a gathering last weekend, and discovered that yes indeed, you are in good company with us recipe tweakers and adjusters.
May 21, 2011 12:12 pm
Now I know what I can send my cousin Janny for Christmas, or for Tuesday, since I never send out Christmas gifts. I'll make the kids run out to the orchard and pick a bag full of hazelnuts, who knew?
May 21, 2011 12:36 pm
Merciful heavens. . .you could be talking about ME. I admire your bravery to go to cooking school. I too call a recipe a "guideline" for the most part. I always thought they would make you follow directions in a cooking school so I was doomed to fail. You know, like they made me stay in the lines in regular school?? I would have to sub another nut for those delicious hazelnuts also. Pecans would be the likely choice. They were sooooo good!!. . .Infact, I may make them today. It was so nice to meet you CUAS!! And I love your blog :)
May 21, 2011 12:39 pm
I'm glad to know how to fix a broken sauce! Yay! Very well written and right on the mark, CUAS! It's so nice to know you now!
Mary C 
May 21, 2011 12:41 pm
Jan! glad you got this written before the world ended! (and I'm glad we're not the only cousins who call you Janny). You are fabulous - Thanks for keeping us entertained! Say "Hi" to your PIC...
May 21, 2011 1:04 pm
Loved the sauce thing. If you read my profile, Bearnaise was one of my triumphs. I now use this recipe that is similar to one I got out of betty Crocker years ago.Blender Hollandaise Sauce I needed a quick easy sauce bearnaise, so I substituted tarragon vinegar for the lemon juice & added 1 tsp. dried tarragon to the egg mixture. Had a bit of trouble getting the sauce to thicken, so I microwaved it for 15 seconds & whisked briskly. This turned out very nice...smooth & velvety. Next time I think I will double the vinegar to tart it up a bit. Thanks, this will be a keeper. Feb 14, 2008 Sorry that was my review......here it is http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Blender-Hollandaise-Sauce/Detail.aspx?prop31=1 This is beyond simple and lends itself to all kinds of tweaking from lime and lime zest to dill weed. YUMMY!
May 21, 2011 2:53 pm
This sounds so good. I'll be over ss soon as I get he house in order, to taste all the good things you two make.
May 21, 2011 8:02 pm
Loved those cookies! Would probably use pecans also. Keep up the good work with your classes and the blogs!
May 22, 2011 8:58 am
Good Sunday Morning CUAS! I so love reading your blogs! You've inspired me to try making a Bernaise Sauce. Because I now know I can fix it if I break it! LOL! Steak & asparagus plus baked potatoes is one OUR go-to dinners as well. Only now I'll be adding the B-Sauce. Thanks. I'm just so honored that you tried my recipe for Shortbread Cookies. I've made them with Pecans, walnuts and of course Hazelnuts. I think you have made a point that's been needing to be made about tweaking recipes and taking heat for it. I tweak every single recipe containing dairy. Not because I think I have a better idea... I have to due to intolerance. And, sometimes due to preference. You have without condeming explained why sometimes we tweak the original. A great point eloquently made. I so glad I met you Jan. I'm learning alot.
May 22, 2011 11:53 am
Avon - Thanks for chiming in. I've heard a lot about you...all good, of course. I look forward to hearing more.
May 22, 2011 11:55 am
Yakapovich - Where'd you get that one from Joe? Welcome to AR. I'm sure your camping recipes will be much appreciated. I challenged Beth to make your Mom's Mouthwatering Potato Donuts a couple of months ago...wonder if she ever did? I will be looking for the nutty gift package in my mail soon.
May 22, 2011 11:58 am
Lady Sparkle - I am lucky in that my instructor tests us on staying inside the lines and knowing how things are SUPPOSED to be done, but he knows that in the real world, that's not how things work. I;ve always been a bit of a rebel so I know where you are coming from there. BTW - your dishcloth has been used since the day I took it home. It washes up very nicely and has already gotten quite a workout. Thank you!
May 22, 2011 11:59 am
Marianne - Well...one of those three ways should work. I hate to throw things out so I was frantic to make it work. I'd try the hot water method first, but don't let my PIC know that I said that. Very nice to meet you last week.
May 22, 2011 12:01 pm
Beas - Or..."Mom" as I usually call you. Since the rapture didn't happen, you will have to finish putting the house back in order and plan your trip to come and see us. Better hurry before the heat sets in.
May 22, 2011 12:03 pm
Mary - one of these days I am going to blog about your commitment to your new eating lifestyle. I hope its going well, you sure do post some interesting recipes on your FB page. I am reading a book right now called "Real Food - What to Eat and Why" and I am liking it a lot.
May 22, 2011 12:05 pm
MG - I'm all for easy. I will have to look that one up. Isn't it fun when you find out that something you thought was "hard to make" turns out as a success for you? I always feel like giving myself a little pat on the back when I master something new. That's whay I always keep that "things to try list".
May 22, 2011 12:06 pm
MagB - Its not often that I eat something and then rush home to make it, but Candice's cookies were outstanding. Thanks for the words of encouragement. I enjoyed meeting you and hope we will do so again soon.
May 22, 2011 12:12 pm
Candice - I was actually thinking of your lactose intolerance issues when I was writing. A number of years ago, I had chemical pneumonia afterwhich lingered a virus that caused me lots of issues when I ate too many dairy products. I suffered from it for over five years before the virus "cleared up" and suddenly I no longer had issues. Five years was a long time to suffer and I know how difficult it must be to deal with it everyday.
Click to Change your Profile Picture
Cookin Up A Storm

Home Town
Fergus Falls, Minnesota, USA
Living In
Santa Cruz, California, USA

Member Since
Mar. 2010

Cooking Level

Cooking Interests
Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Quick & Easy, Gourmet

Gardening, Walking, Photography, Music, Wine Tasting

Go Pro!

In Season

Fresh Summer Meals
Fresh Summer Meals

Enjoy the bright days of summer with easy recipes.

Do Healthy Your Way
Do Healthy Your Way

Low-fat, low-carb, paleo, vegan. Get recipes for your lifestyle.

Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

Delicious recipes, party ideas, and helpful cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for just $7.99!

About Me
I am a mid-life career changer who has enjoyed cooking (and eating) good food all her life. My Mom went to work when I was in the 5th grade and most days when I got home from school, she'd have left instructions for me to get dinner started. Cooking never felt like a "chore" back then and it certainly rarely feels like one now. During my 20 plus year career in IT, I traveled all over the US for work. And for fun, I traveled internationally. I have a fairly broad knowledge of food, but when cooking, I tend to stick to comfort foods and pretty much anything Italian. I have a big collection of Asian or eastern foods in my arsenal and I absolutely love their flavors. I am a professional chef who runs her own personal chef service.
My favorite things to cook
Comfort foods, soups, chilies, baked goods, candies at christmas, anything Italian, pizzas, homemade dressing for big salads when good veggies are at their peak, potstickers. Anything I can bake that's bad for you like doughnuts, coconut cakes with whipped cream frosting or fresh artisan breads slathered with butter. When I cook for clients, I am forced to move out of my comfort zone and I love trying new things. I especially love coming up with streamlined ways to make seemingly complicated food easy and accessible for everyone.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Mom's Potato Doughnuts - she's frying them as she was going into labor with my younger brother and then wasn't home to monitor how many I was eating over the next several days. I rarely stray from the Thanksgiving basics I grew up with. I do switch up the veggie dishes each year, but the basics remain pretty constant. My own tradition (not one I grew up with) is making Turkey Wild Rice soup from the leftovers. No better way to extend the taste of the holiday for me. Making Chili on a cold winter weekend, in honor of my Dad who made a batch nearly every weekend in winter as I was growing up. I don't use his recipe (too much Chili Powder and Dark Kidney Beans for my taste), but I do think of him when I make it.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering Gnocchi - so light and puffy, they are like clouds. A killer Vodka Sauce - never ever have I tasted one better. It took me a lot of tries to get it right. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes - from the book of the same name. Fresh bread...anytime. I always keep a few batches (Wheat, White, Semolina) in the fridge. Heat up the oven, shape the loaves, bake...yum. Homemade Caramels at Christmas time. I make both Vanilla and Chocolate Caramels and they are to die for. I give the Vanilla ones away as fast as possible, as I cannot stop myself from eating them.
My cooking tragedies
So many to list, such little space to write in.
Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States