Every once in a while I receive an email letting me know that "the recipe just didn't come out right". Not often, but it does happen.
First of all, let me say that about half of the recipes I post are my own, I created them in my own little head. And the other half are from well known PAID chef's, cookbook authors, newspapers and cooking magazines and I always give credit where credit is due.
So let's discuss some of the reasons why the recipe may not have worked.
1. Cooking tools.
My friend Liz made my Veal Milanese recipe in a nonstick frying pan. Why didn't it come out like the dish she eats at my house?
Because you can't use nonstick cookware when browning meat (it's fine for omelets and fish). Instead of the veal getting a nice crisp crust, it was steamed in the pan. Also, nonstick pans don't reduce sauces properly. Mystery solved!
Using good pots and pans makes all the difference in cooking. Buy the best you can, and this goes for knives too. Buy one GOOD knife, instead of a set of cheap crappy knives, and one good Le Creuset or All Clad pot instead of a bunch of throw away pans.
2. Quality of ingredients.
You know how I feel about ingredients. Only buy sausage from a butcher you know. Try and cook what is in season. Use fresh tomatoes in summer only, when they taste best. Don't buy a package of supermarket mozzarella that looks like a block of solidified wax, when it is so easy to buy fresh mozzarella packed in water and REAL cheeses from a reputable cheese monger. It may cost a dollar or two more, but it will be well worth it in the end.
3. Substituting ingredients.
My friend Stephanie (you notice how it's all of my friends who do the complaining?) made my FANTASTIC favorite sausage ragu, and wondered why it wasn't so fantastic? Well, when I quizzed her, I found out she used lean turkey sausage.
In this dish, it's all about the pork sausage. Substitutions can be made (like walnuts instead of almonds), but don't be shocked when the recipe doesn't come out as it should.
4. Oven temperatures vary.
My mother in law has an evil oven. It cooks too high, and she tries to regulate the temperature accordingly, but many cakes just don't bake right and come out wet in the middle and that can result in throwaway cakes. Waste of time and money for all those ingredients.
Cooking at the right temperature is very important, except in roasting, when 400F or 425F doesn't make that much of a difference.
5. Maybe it's just an off day.
One of my favorite readers wrote that "the chicken w/ fennel and olives didn't come out that great, it was dry. First time I didn't like one of your recipes, Stacey". Well, it's Eric Ripert's recipe not mine, he's making the big bucks, though we loved this dish.
Ok, so maybe it's just not a great day to cook, you weren't in the mood, and you probably should have gone out or made omelets. Maybe you had one too many glasses of vino while you were stirring the pot and left it on the stove too long. And sometimes, even cookbook recipes don't come out the way we want them to.
C'est la vie.
Though my complaint line is always open and I am happy to hear from you (and I like hearing more about recipes that DO come out great!), I am feeling generous and will be giving away 2 copies of The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond, not my style of cooking, but it is a best selling cookbook and if you don't like her recipes, then complain to her!
Winners will be announced on 3/9, so please check back!
10 hours ago