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Bad recipe! No biscuit!

...Or at least, badly cooked biscuits.

Writing recipes is not a form of writing I usually think much about, except when it's done badly. Here is your forum for complaining of recipe-writing errors, confusions, or just general weirdness. The two examples that come to mind from my own experience are:

1) A recipe for Greek meatballs, which called for a couple of fresh tomatoes, "shredded." How, I ask you, do you shred a fresh tomato? (The sad thing was, I actually tried. Don't. Just don't, ever.)

2) Recipes that wait until the last line to tell you something that would have been best to know in the early stages. For instance, a buffalo wings recipe I used recently included the recipe for the sauce, of course, and listed those steps after the whole chicken preparation part. That'd be fine, except the last line? "Cover and chill [sauce] for 2 to 4 hours." Would've been good to know two to four hours ago, thanks.

What are your recipe complaints?

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
scholargipsy
Feb. 4th, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
1. Poor grammar that renders it unclear on which food items one should be performing a particular action (e.g. "brine chicken and chop cilantro, then combine with diced garlic") -- drives me nuts.

2. Vague or nonexistent amounts. I know many cooks, myself included, like to muck with spice ratios and intensities, but I've seen recipes that have simply said "Add ginger" or "combine with leeks" without specifying how much or how many. I mean, at least give me a recommendation I can ignore if I want more or less of X than you suggest.

3. This is idiosyncratic, but I dislike the paltry amount of spice/heat many American recipes specify. I almost always treble or quadruple anything that contributes astringent intensity or heat to a dish. But that's just me, I s'pose.
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
Yes, good ones! Or, somewhat similar to your first and second items, I hate when a recipe puts an ingredient in their list, then never tells you where to include it. The onion, when do I put the onion in??

It does amuse me when recipes use "chili powder" to add spiciness. To me, most chili powders are really only for flavor, not heat. Reach for the cayenne if you want heat, man.
kalquessa
Feb. 4th, 2009 11:40 pm (UTC)
This isn't so much a case of catastrophically bad writing, but it annoys me that many people seem to think that you have to cook so much separately. I'm a big fan of dishes that incorporate two or more food groups, and I love stir-frying, and SO MANY of the recipes I find for stuff that is basically chicken or beef stir-fried with something else are very weird about cooking the meat first, taking it out, cooking the vegetable or starch or whatever, and only then putting it all together.

You could just as easily cook everything together, starting with whatever's going to take longest to cook, and adding ingredients in order of how long it'll take them to cook. That way everything flavors everything else and you don't have to have extra dishes sitting around with components going cold in them. I pretty much always cook everything together, even when directed to do otherwise. (This belief that I know better than the recipe occasionally forces me to call my sister and beg for help but I've never had a problem altering a cook-separately recipe so that everything is cooked together.)

(Edited because sometimes my sentences only make sense inside my head.)

Edited at 2009-02-04 11:43 pm (UTC)
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Yeah, amen. If the recipe explains very well *why* you should separate the components, I'll sometimes take their advice. But the difference is usually subtle enough in the end that it doesn't matter unless you're in a cooking competition.

I hate multiple-bowl recipes. I'm famous for not sifting the flour and baking powder together first in a separate bowl (gasp! shocking, I know).
naill_renfro
Feb. 5th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
I once mixed up a batch of brownies from a recipe on a box of cocoa powder: Cocoa, flour, eggs, butter, baking soda, salt. It's lucky I let the kids taste the batter before I cooked it; after they were done making faces, one of them pointed out "These might be better with sugar."

In London for a while I had a roommate from Italy, not fluent in English, who one day took a frozen pizza and, following what he thought were the microwave instructions, put it in the microwave on high power for thirty minutes. The result was, to say the least, not edible.

For a while I was keeping a folder of recipe errors and corrections. (Then I realized I had more important things to do, like track down all the times Harry uses or tries to use the Cruciatus Curse -- what is it with that boy, anyway?) But here are a couple of favorites:

1. Last week's recipe for Superbowl Salsa should have called for two jalapeño peppers, not two cups of jalapeño peppers.

[Actually, I might like the two-cup version better...]

2. Do not follow the instructions for deworming your cat given in last week's Pets supplement, as this will cause the cat to die.

[NOW you tell me.]
nashira_black
Feb. 5th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
2) Recipes that wait until the last line to tell you something that would have been best to know in the early stages.

... or should at least let you know at the proper time. I hate having to read recipes back and forth over and over to get the right order in which to do things.

So how many times did he - Harry, I mean - use or tried to use the Cruciatus Curse? I can only remember the time he tried it on Bellatrix.
naill_renfro
Feb. 6th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
Three other times: Twice, unusccessfully, against Snape (HBP 602) and once, spectacularly, against Amycus Carrow (DH 593).

Cookie?
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:24 am (UTC)
Yeah, the ones where you have to read them over and over remind me of those annoying assignments in school, where they purposely tried to trick you by telling you to read the whole thing first, and then throwing in some surprise at the end that negates the whole exercise or something. Both for assignments and for recipes it's unfair. There's only so much short-term memory the brain should be expected to hold.
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:18 am (UTC)
Those are worthy of sending to Consumer Reports for their back page. Especially the "cat will die" one! Yikes.

The two cups of jalapenos reminds me of a time my sister made hummus for a high school project of some kind. She and my dad happened to be the only ones home that night, and neither of them was sure how much a "clove" of garlic was. So they decided it meant the whole head, just to be on the safe side. The resulting hummus, with its four heads of garlic, was, uh, garlicky.
neadods
Feb. 5th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
I've just been ranting at my journal over a book on cookoffs, but that's because I though the author was a something-else-off.

Recipes that use a tiny amount of some really obscure ingredient annoy me. What do I do with the rest of the kumquat?
laleonaenojada
Feb. 5th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
Yes! I use one tsp of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce about once a month. The rest of the can will not keep until the next time I am likely to use it. What do I do with it?
mollyringle
Feb. 5th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
Actually, that one I can answer. Put the rest of the chilies in a ziploc freezer bag, and freeze them. Small amounts slice easily off the frozen block when you need a little bit more. I've kept frozen chipotles for, like, a year that way. :)
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
Oh yes, I hear you on that. I've ended up with many rarely-used spices that way. I may need the garam masala, the tarragon, or the turmeric once or twice a year, but does that really justify buying the whole bottle of it?
neadods
Feb. 7th, 2009 12:30 am (UTC)
I've got 3-year-old garam masala. There comes a point when my attitude becomes "if I won't use it again, I won't use it at all" and either cook around it or not do that recipe.
bluesound
Feb. 5th, 2009 09:30 am (UTC)
My complaint is that you have failed to film yourself trying to shred a tomato and post your efforts on the internet for the amusement of the rest of us.

Molly must try harder in the kitchen, this level of disappointment cannot continue ;P
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
Well, that was several years ago. I'm much smarter than even to try it now. ;)
bluesound
Feb. 6th, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)
Nah, smart people would make a sarcastic video and stick it on YouTube!
(Deleted comment)
lalael
Feb. 5th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
I was watching Chopped on the food network channel a few nights ago and one of the final contestants used salt instead of sugar in his cake, losing out on a ten thousand dollar prize. So sad. I live in fear of the day I make a mistake like this (though it won't likely be for a prize). :-P
(Deleted comment)
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
Heheh. That *would* change the consistency and flavor of the cookies/bread/etc. quite a bit. I vote for pale pink for the powdered sugar. Just seems to fit it somehow.

Even baking powder and baking soda end up making a recipe all wrong if they get switched, and they're *awfully* similar in look, texture, and names.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:52 am (UTC)
Alton Brown
Alton Brown of "Good Eats" fame seems to think I have a lot more kitchen equipment lying around than I do. For example, he said it was very important that I use a 12-slice apple slicer instead of an 8-slice apple slicer to make his apple pie. The fact that the recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon of Grains of Paradise (who in the what now?) didn't help matters.
Tracey
mollyringle
Feb. 11th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
Re: Alton Brown
Hah, those take the cake (so to speak) for culinary obscurity. Never heard of Grains of Paradise myself, either.

I keep managing to make recipes that call for parchment paper without actually owning any. Aluminum foil usually works fine.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )