My favorite genre of internet criticism is the recipe review that lists all the modifications the home cook made to the original recipe and then goes on to offer a glowing review as if the dish the commenter concocted has anything to do with the recipe. Epicurious, the Condé Nast food site that compiles recipes from Bon Appétit and other pop-gourmet magazines (including, well, Gourmet), is a particularly great source for these, possibly because it’s just sliiiiightly pretentious. (Exhibit A: I’ve already had to type “é” twice in this short paragraph.) Most Epicurious users seem blithely confident of their abilities to freestyle it Ruhlmann-style, and they are not afraid to tell you about it.
To be clear, I’m not opposed to making do with what you have on hand while cooking; every home cook does this around the edges of recipes, and why not? You don’t have turnips; you use potatoes. No thyme; toss in some rosemary. Your rural New Hampshire grocery store doesn’t know what queso fresco is; crumble up some feta. What cracks me up is when a person does this 10 times in a single recipe, tweaking her way all the way to a new, and often disgusting-sounding, foodstuff and then still feels the need to weigh in about it online as if this could possibly be useful.
Here are three of my favorite comments on recipes that I make frequently, with my own comments in brackets within.
1. Review of “Buttermilk Biscuits,” Bon Appétit, October 2000, review by user stephineprine from Olema, CA:
really good and pretty fool-proof. I had hardly anything in the house because we’re moving out [cool story, bro] so I used bread flour [recipe calls for all purpose flour] some not butter butter thing [I don’t care if you’re moving, you should never have this in your house] and a mixture of old sour cream [probably fine], greek yogurt [sure] and milk [recipe calls for buttermilk, which you can make with milk and vinegar, and now it is clear you have milk on hand. If you have “some not butter butter thing” surely you also have vinegar, so what on earth is going on here?] instead of the other ingredients. The 1c liquid is pretty short [weird, the recipe writers must have made a mistake!] I added little bits of milk until I got the consistency I wanted, which was fairly moist and not crumbly as they said in the recipe. I mixed until moist and turned out onto a board and kneaded about 30 secs [recipe does not call for kneading] and rolled dough out folding in half a few times to make flakier. They came out soooooo gooood! Light, flaky and moist. YUM!!!
Ed. note: This recipe is ultra-simple, and the result is a biscuit so perfectly biscuit-like that it looks like the biscuit that would come up first when you google-image “biscuit.” But stephineprine seems even more enthusiastic than I am, so next time I will use old sour cream and some not butter butter thing, I guess?
2. Review of “Chicken and Fall Vegetable Pot Pie,” Bon Appétit, October 2009, review by user blonke:
Used leftover “fried” chicken boiled in chicken broth and garlic [recipe calls for fresh bone-in chicken breasts, and no garlic], then shredded [recipe calls for chicken to be cut into pieces]. Leftover onions [recipe calls for no onions, only shallots and leeks], red and gr peppers [recipe includes no peppers], carrots,peas [recipe includes no peas], beet greens [recipe calls for turnip greens]. Used some leftover beef gravy I had [recipe calls for a fresh chicken-based gravy] and added coconut milk (due to dairy allergy) [good Lord, woman] for the sauce. Margarine and leftover(was used for breading the fried chicken) spelt flour used in the crust [I don’t even know what to say at this point] . Mixed it in my f.processor…maybe too much because the dough was very “greasy” not in lumps as it should have been. Could not even incorporate the water. [Weird that the recipe doesn’t seem to be turning out right!] Due to time constraints [Even skimming the recipe should make clear it takes hours] I just made “patties” [recipes calls for full crust] and plopped them on top of the already hot filling [recipe calls for filling to cool before adding crust]. Baked for 40min.at 400. [recipe suggests 50 minutes]. I thought it was really good. Husband and son not so thrilled but they don’t like pot pie at the best of times so… The crust is just that, a crust [your crust that has nothing to do with this recipe, so…] …it is not dumpling, cobbler, or biscuit type. Just a thick crust which tasted good [I find this very, very hard to believe]. Next time I’ll reduce the amount of shortening/butter/marg. Pardon me for deviating from the listed recipe but I do love to hear how other people use what’s on hand to make a yummy dish even if it doesn’t follow the recipe exactly.So this post is for those type of people. [Fair enough, blonke. Fair enough.]
Ed note: This recipe, exactly as written, is perfect but time-consuming. Make it for a casual winter dinner party. Do not use leftover beef gravy, coconut milk, or spelt flour, please, I’m begging you.
3. Review of “Deviled Salmon Cakes,” Parade magazine, October 2002, review by user “A Cook from Maryland”
Mixed cracker crumbs into the patties [recipes calls for mixing 1/3 of the crumbs into the patties and then coating them] and didn’t add the egg [recipe calls for egg]. Didn’t use the corn or celery either [really the only other main ingredients in this recipe, besides salmon, onion, and a few condiments, are corn and celery]. Really nice flavor!
Ed note: This recipe, exactly as written, is a great weeknight dinner: fast, flavorful, and cheap. I probably make it more than once a month. Serve with homemade tartar sauce, rice, and salad or peas. OK, you know what, I admit it, I use panko instead of the crushed-up saltines. Today, we are all A Cook from Maryland.