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.
THE STORY OF THE BROKEN BERNAISE:
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.
THE STORY OF THE CHEF’S HASH:
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.
THE STORY OF CANDICE’S HAZELNUT SHORTBREAD:
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.