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Robin Garr

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Marsha’s Industry Standard: Recipe Schme-cipe

by Robin Garr » Wed Nov 29, 2017 10:41 am

Recipe Schme-cipe

By Marsha Lynch

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My long-suffering fiancée works in an office of seven people, including three vegetarians. The other night I was re-creating a Crockpot vegetarian green bean dish that I had made for last year's office Thanksgiving. They were a big hit even with the meat-eaters. I had to work really hard to make them rich in flavor and mouthfeel for everyone to enjoy, and I remembered just what I had put in them before. Naturally I hadn't written anything down. I just used instinct and memory to make them again. Then I went and bragged about it on Facebook. Naturally I got the inevitable request, “can I have the recipe?” A friend who has a vegan daughter-in-law wants to make green beans for for the holiday meal.

Unless I'm baking, I don't often use recipes at home. I might check a recipe for methodology, but I'm not in the kitchen with a phalanx of measuring spoons and cups if I'm braising short ribs or making chili or marinara. Or vegetarian green beans. I won first place in the restaurant division of the Phoenix Hill Chili Cook-Off three times, and although I wrote a list of ingredients (thirty-seven!) that I stuck to from year to year, I never wrote an actual recipe with weights and measurements. Rather, I’m tasting as I go. Geez, this needs more acidity. Definitely more salt. And so I go along, adding bits and bobs until it tastes right and smells right and feels right.

Years of experience as a restaurant cook gave me the confidence to cook this way. Of course in a restaurant, consistency is important, so at some point you’ll need to write your recipe down in case you get hit by a bus or decide to become a nun or something. And if you brag on Facebook about your cooking at home, somebody will eventually ask you for the dreaded RECIPE.

“John did the bean-shopping,” I began. “He thinks it was five pounds of beans but I think it was more like four.” Oh great, my friend Amanda was probably thinking. “All I know is that after I snapped and cleaned them, they filled up the whole Crockpot.” It went on from there. “Maybe half a cup of white wine, three glugs of apple cider vinegar ...” Amanda's thinking, Glugs? “Shake shake shake of kosher salt, more salt later 'cause I like them salty. Four shakes of celery seed.” And so on. At the end of this mess I typed “sorry for the vagueness, but you'll nail it,” with my fingers crossed and high hopes. Amanda is an accomplished cook, so I have an idea that with my list of ingredients and directions like “glug” and “shakes of” she will nail it.

But you can't write a recipe like that for the restaurant binder. What I often did then was make the dish again, using my instincts but measuring everything this time. “Half a yellow onion, diced”? Weigh it. “Three glugs”? Measure that. But I always found it difficult to measure those little touches like “shakes of” this or that, because it's like my arm knows how much to put in but my brain doesn't know how to measure it before I add it, because the arm wants what the arm wants and it can't seem to figure it out unless it's actually over the pot at the time. Try measuring celery seed you've just added now that it's all wet and in chicken stock. I'll wait.

So I used to set a piece of parchment paper over the pot, let the arm decide how much celery seed to shake in, then pick the parchment up, crease it, and pour the ingredient out into a measuring spoon or cup, write down how much it was, then dump it back into the pot. That way you get an approximation at least that you can write down in case of the aforementioned getting thyself to a nunnery.

But really, the moral of this story is: Don't brag on Facebook unless you're ready to write that recipe; and don't pat yourself on the back out loud in the restaurant kitchen about that fantastic soup you just made, because they might put that shit on the menu and there you'll be at 8 o'clock in the morning, shake-shake-shaking celery seed onto a creased piece of parchment, cursing under your breath.

P.S.: celery seed is the bomb and I put it in just about everything except brownies.

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro, Café Lou Lou, Marketplace @ Theater Square, Fontleroy’s and Harvest.

Read it on LouisvilleHotBytes:
http://www.louisvillehotbytes.com/recipe-schme-cipe

Read it also in LEO Weekly’s Food & Drink section today:
http://www.leoweekly.com/category/food-drink/
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Jay M.

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Recipe Schme-cipe

by Jay M. » Wed Nov 29, 2017 1:14 pm

Marsha Lynch wrote:... decide to become a nun or something...


Something you're considering??

(noted the celery seed comment and will try that - thx)
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Carla G

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Recipe Schme-cipe

by Carla G » Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:41 pm

That’s how I cook too! But I found out the hard way that’s not the way to bake. Too much chemistry involved so when I bake I meticulously measure.
"She did not so much cook as assassinate food." - Storm Jameson
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Recipe Schme-cipe

by RonnieD » Wed Nov 29, 2017 5:48 pm

The dry rub I do for my pork shoulder is entirely by percentages: 100% of this 50% of that 25% of the other and so on. Thus, if you use, say, cup of kosher salt, you'll only need a half cup of black pepper and maybe only 1/4 cup of onion powder and so on. What amount the 100% represents, however, your guess is as good as mine, I just dump and rub. If I have left-over after the rubbing, then that just goes on top.

I never plan to write that down, so when I run off and become a nun, whomever replaces me will just have to guess. :lol:


I find recipe writing for the Recipe Book to be a very meticulous pain the rump. It's absolutely vital, but getting out the scale to measure the weight of every single ingredient is tedious.
Ronnie Dingman.
Head Chef, The Kitchen at Gerstle's Place
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Gordon M Lowe

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Recipe Schme-cipe

by Gordon M Lowe » Wed Nov 29, 2017 11:51 pm

This probably explains part of the reason I can't ever duplicate my mother's recipes.
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Mark R.

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Recipe Schme-cipe

by Mark R. » Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:52 pm

I think that's the reason I've never been a good baker, even if I have a recipe for something I just use it as a starting point and modify it as I go. Unfortunately you can't do that was baking for most things!
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