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May 9, 2007 11:27 AM

Simple vs. Complicated

So I was reading a thread in which someone posted that they thought it was easier to screw up a complicated dish.

My feeling is quite the opposite. Here in TO was have an ongoing thread (Or three) about where to get a good burger. Same goes for pizza. Hot dogs as well.

My feeling is that the easier a dish is, the easier it is to screw up. Burgers being the big example in my mind. The burger was invented as a way to use up some lesser cuts of beef. It was ground, simply seasoned and put on a griddle. Put it on a bun with a few simple condiments and you have an excellent sandwich. Nowadays, you have all these people with mushrooms in the meat. Alfalfa sprouts and truffles as a garnish. People are trying way to hard and it's ruining the mighty burger.
The grilled cheese sandwich. No longer is it buttered sandwich bread, griddled with American cheese. Now we have goats milk butter, brioche bread and a blend of three cave aged cheese.

I could go on but I'm even boring myself.

So which is it. Easier to screw up the complicated dishes or the easier ones??

I may add, in my mind it's easier to screw up the technique dishes. Smoked foods, breads, etc.


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  1. I'd actually say that its equally easy to screw up simple and complicated dishes. All it takes in either case is one wrong turn and the dish is blown.

    1. In my mind it is easier to screw up a simple dish because if your technique is off on any one element, there's less room to hide.

      3 Replies
      1. re: yayadave

        I was thinking the same thing.


        1. re: yayadave

          While I understand what you are saying about technique, I think this 180 degrees away from the Davwud's post -- which I also agree with.

          A "simple" dish (like grilled cheese) is appreciated not just because it is uniformly grilled/toasted and has the correct amount of cheese, but also because it is familiar.

          Complicated dishes, that may have many ingredients/steps/exotic flavors are almost always something of a 'challenge' to the diner as they are rarely expected. If is is done differently this just a slightly different dish and not "screwed up" the way grilled cheese would be with Limburger...

          1. re: renov8r

            Yes. You are correct. There are two issues here. One is using the standard recipe or changing it and the other is preparing the food well. I did not address changing the standard recipe. Well, in the first place, even using the standard recipe, you can achieve different results. Recipes tell you how to make some dish but do not tell you of expected outcomes. (see the thread on braised rabbit) If you prepare the standard dish, you may only please half the people, because the other half have different expectations. Maybe that's the answer. Besides the ego kick of "doing the old dish OUR way," if you change it, no one can bring their expectations/memories to the table.

        2. it is super easy to make a martini, but so many people have absolutely no knack for it, they mix gin with ice and any number of things go wrong. . .

          1. I've always thought that the real issue wasn't simple vs complicated, but the confusion between simple and easy.

            Pouring some milk over cereal is easy, and simple.

            Making good steel cut oatmeal is simple, but not easy.

            A good beef stew is easy - but not simple. There's a lot to do -- but none of it is tricky, or hard or inflexible.

            Wedding cakes and similiar baking/pastry work -- neither simple nor easy. Lot's to do, and it all needs to be done very precisely and skillfully.

            That being said - I like my finicky burgers, and I enjoy playing around with food concepts in interesting ways -- my local bakery/deli does a sandwich of brie and prosciutto on a baguette which is to die for, and all the more delicious for the fun riff on "ham and cheese".

            Certainly this kind of creativity can be taken to a level which goes beyond fun into "just plain wrong", but that's not quite the same thing as food which is badly prepared.

            Depends on how you read "screwed up", I suppose.

            1. Yes, well. Consider the omelette, which is just some eggs. It's all about technique. Then there's the frittata, which is eggs and any combination of other ingredients which you have on hand or which you think would go well together. But you still need the technique. Both are simple but neither is easy.