Your opinion of simplifying recipes for home cooks

Discussion in 'Cookbook Reviews' started by jellly, Sep 4, 2011.

  1. jellly


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    Professional Pastry Chef
    Let's say a chef has a very successful restaurant and is talked into creating a cookbook that is targeted towards allowing  homecooks  to recreate the dishes--  should the recipes be exact recreations scaled to work in a home kitchen?  Or should they be simplified to make them more realistic, but still able to produce somewhat similar results?  

    For those of us that work in professional kitchens, we all know there are some things that can be super easy to do at work, but take a lot of effort at home.  It is so nice to go into the walkin and have a huge variety of fresh herbs, quality stocks and such.  If I decide to tackle one of the recipes from Keller's Ad Hoc cookbook, I pretty much expect a long shopping trip is needed.  But I consider his recipes special occasion events where I know there is a lot of prep, but also expect a big payoff.  Most of the time I cook at home, I want simple and quick.

    So, if you ever buy a cookbook after eating at that chef's restaurant what are you looking for?  If it is a high-end sandwich shop, you know you aren't going to get the same results at home unless you make the bread from scratch, too.  But is that too much work?  Would you just want a recipe for the fillings and buy the rest pre-made?
  2. kyheirloomer


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    Food Writer
    There are several problems with chef-written and restaurant cookbooks.

    First is the issue you raise: Restaurant cooking and at-home cooking are not the same. So, in most cases, the recipes should be not so much simplified as properly adapted. You might be able to have ingredients simmered, broiled, pan-fried, and deep-fried all at the same time. But that's rarely true for the home cook. If those procedures are called for, they usually are done sequentially.

    More significant issues are that chef-recipes are rarely tested on home-kitchen equipment. This is frustrating, at best, for the home-cook, when instructions say things like "cook over medium heat, until reduced by half, about five minutes." Well, the simple fact is, "medium" on a 25,000 btu burner is a far cry from "medium" on one that only grinds out 6,000 btus.

    In a similar vein, ingredient amounts are, mostly, merely scaled-down mathematically. And often that doesn't work. Before publishing the recipe the chef should prepare the dish as it will appear in print. In other words, if it "serves six" it should be prepped and cooked strictly with that number in mind.

    Assuming the recipes are scaled down properly, tested on home-kitchen equipment, and adapted to the home cooking environment, there is one more potential problem: Most chefs do not proof-read the manuscript when it comes back from the publisher. There is many a slip between what (s)he wrote and what appears on the proof page. When there are typos in the final book, that where they mostly creep in.
    sweetie pie likes this.