As a firm believer that cooking is art and not science, this post on bad recipes is odd. I don't think I have ever substituted a recipe's judgment for my own, especially when it comes to meat: if it is not yet cooked in the time allotted (for whatever reason), the meat gets more time to cook; if it looks like the meat is about to burn, then it's done. This extends even to stir-frying: 30 seconds may be the ideal, but if you're adding mushrooms, the time it takes them to cook will make them release sufficient liquid to throw off the balance unless you cook everything for longer, so... adjustments have to be made.

But really: read a recipe all the way through, probably a few times. Figure out what its main stages are supposed to be, and why the author is doing them in the order proposed. Then it's possible to figure out which stages are essential and which are a matter of preference, and alter the recipe accordingly.

And, importantly: if I can't figure out how a recipe is supposed to work, I don't make it.

(Example: Marcella Hazan's tomato-and-anchovy sauce is a Troester household favorite. But I like adding garlic, and we like adding italian sausage. It's unbalanced when you first cook it because the sauce is thin and the fennel from the sausage does not play along with the anchovy flavor. After a day? The garlic absorbs the excess water in the sauce, and the anchovy flavor mutes the sausage, which otherwise tends to become spicier as the days go on. Basically perfect, but only if you can recognize which experiments will pay off.)


Katherine said...

We almost always follow a new recipe as written the first time, then correct, if necessary, next time. I guess I'm confused about the BA recipe though--my rule is turn chicken once and don't pierce the skin. Voila! Juicy chicken.

Nicholas said...

Yeah, I usually follow the recipe, but if I were to think (like the person in the post) that there's no way olive oil would hold up under the heat advised, or leave the chicken in for what seems like far too long, I would assume there's probably something wrong in the recipe, whether a typo or something else, and look for independent verification I should do what they suggest. Or, you know, not let the chicken burn.

Also: skin? On chicken? Do they do that now?

Katherine said...

There you go again--being sensible.

Walter Guyll said...

I often stray from the recipe. Cookies and cake usually need more spice than called for and small onion means large onion and hey, let's add some red bell pepper while we're at it.
Sometimes I get burnt. All part of the process.