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Feb 9, 2008 07:24 PM

Classic Recipes Misrepresented

I have a question I want to pose to all you Chowhounds.

Is it cool if a restaurant offers a classic recipe on their menu but serves it fundamentally different?

The specific example is fettucine alfredo. On the menu it's labeled "Fettucine Alfredo" That's a classic dish right? You kind of know what to expect. Under the title, it said it was served with butter and cheese, no mention of cream. I'll admit, I didn't read that part too close. I figured, the title says it all. Classic dish. This actual dish was served with fettucine lightly coated with butter and a little sprinkle of parmigiano on top.

So back to question at hand. Do you think the restaurant should have called it something else? Because pasta with butter and cheese is more like a recipe for a 5 year old not what you'd expect in pretty fancy restaurant. And have you run into this before?

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  1. I believe that without cream is true to the original recipe. But if it weren't I'd simply ask the waiter to ask the chef if it was possible to toss on some cream.

    30 Replies
    1. re: Chinon00

      The 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking, under 'Fettuccini al burro' writes
      "Alfredo II came to Cincinnati to demonstrate the making of those noodles which brought both him and his father fame ...."
      This recipe just has the noodles, butter, and cheese, no cream.

      Also look at


      1. re: paulj

        The "true" recipe according to MSNBC is 6oz cheese and 6oz butter. That creates a creamy type sauce. This recipe was a light coating of butter with some shaved on cheese. Definitely an interpretation that is closer to a child's dish.

        1. re: snackventurer

          Actually I think that a "child" could make it either way. Both preparations would be pretty simple don't you think?

          Btw, did it taste good?


          1. re: Chinon00

            I agree, both preparations are simple and delicious if done correctly. This one was not done well. It did not taste good. After bite three or four, it was just some butter on pasta. Not my idea of a great meal when paying premium dollars.

          1. re: justagthing

            Doppio Buerro. Double butter. A key to the recipe, in lieu of cream. Now this gives me the drive to make the classic no cream recipe.

            1. re: snackventurer

              The dish was the classic Italian dish called "Fettuccine al Burro" and was served in many restaurants in Rome during Rome's "La Dolce Vita" days - the 1920s. It contained fettuccine, butter and Parmesan cheese - no cream. It was served at Alfredo's restaurant, whose clientele included politicians, movie starlets, roving reporters and noisy tourists. In 1927, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks ate there, eating it with gold forks. After their visit, the restaurant renamed the dish "Fettuccine al Burro Alfredo's," which eventually was shortened to "Fettuccine Alfredo's." Shortly later, the dish made its way to America. But American butter, which contained only 80 percent butterfat, was no match for the Italian "double" or "triple" butter with much more butterfat. So to compensate for American butter, American restaurants added heavy cream to the recipe.

              1. re: Potomac Bob

                potomac bob: you da MAN!

                ps, know about chicken gismonda? (another thread's inquiry)

                1. re: Potomac Bob

                  How much more butterfat is there in double or triple butter? 80% for the normal US butter. 90% has 12% more. Clarified butter 25% more. Why not just add 25% more butter to make up for the lack of butterfat? I don't see how using 35% butterfat cream will make up for the lower butterfat in US butter. Using cream would reduce the butterfat concentration, not increase it.

                  I had just read that Alfredo's innovation, relative to al Burro, was to use extra butter.


                  1. re: paulj

                    Using more U.S. butter to compensate for not having European higher fat content butter just doesn't work. But it does remind me of the time years ago I sent my Turkish housekeeper to the Turkish store to buy some Turkish 20 volume peroxide to dye my hair. They didn't have any, so she bought 2 bottles of 10 volume! LOL

                    Same deal with butter. In the U.S., the cream isn't allowed to rise to the surface of the milk long enough before being skimmed off to make butter, and that results in butter with a lower fat content than European butters. If someone wants a higher fat content butter, you can buy French, German, Danish, and other country's butters on line. I think they start at about sixteen bucks a pound, but hey, that's cheaper than truffles!

                    Edit: Did a little Googling and found out there IS a U.S. made butter (therefore it might be more available) that is 86% butterfat the same as most European butter. It's Pulgra, and you can read about it here:
                    And it isn't that U.S. buttermakers don't let the cream rise long enough, they ADD WATER when making butter. <sigh>

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      lurpak is nice, and available at harris teeter

                      they also carry kerry gold

                      for you in texas, kerry gold is at:
                      Whole Foods
                      Tom Thumb's
                      Central Market
                      Super Target

                      fortunately, at least here in northern virginia, neither lurpak nor kerry gold is anywhere near $16 a pound. maybe $7. tj's and whole foods are also good for euro or higher fat butters.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Thanks! My newest quest is for organic butter from grass fed cows. Butter the way butter USED to be...! Omega 3s and all that good stuff.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          caroline, maybe you already came across this, but sorry it would be mail order to texas

                          now if you're really hungry ;-

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              Thanks! For some reason my local markets stock lots of organic milk, but organic butter is hard to find.

                        2. re: Caroline1

                          I was at Bristol Farms today and found many different varieties of European butters. I also like Kerry Gold, which was also there, but I have purchased it at Wild Oats, which is now Whole Foods.

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Wow, what a difference, 80% v 86%! How about if I melt some butter, and keep it on a low flame while some water evaporates? I still know see why adding cream helps.

                            I tried Pulgra a while back, and didn't notice a significant difference. I'm happy with the TJ house brand.


                            1. re: paulj

                              Sure. You can do that to get the water out. It's called "drawn butter". '-)

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                caroline, could you clarify (no pun intended) the difference between drawn butter, clarified butter, and ghee?

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Hey, intend the pun. Phsychologists say puns are a sign of intelligence!

                                  Drawn butter, clarified butter, and ghee are all the same thing. It's "butter" with the milk solids cooked out, which reduces it to an oil. Sometimes I jokingly call it "cow oil." '-)

                                  The term "drawn butter" is almost always used for accompaniment to seafood, but there are also "butter sauce" recipes that include flour and water along with whole butter that are called "drawn butter," as well as just plain melted butter without the solids removed. But clarified butter is most commonly called drawn butter today.

                                  Ghee is clarified butter used in India, for religious purposes, cooking, and also for makeup. When I went to college the first time right out of highschool, my best friend was an exchange student from India, and her mother made a compound of ghee and soot as eye makeup (I can't remember what it is called) that she applied by dipping a sterling silver rod into the mixture, then sliding it against her eyes with the lids pressing against the rod. In time, it also stains the sclera. The ancient Greeks and Romans also used clarified butter to cook with and to clean their bodies with, in addition to olive oil.

                                  Clarified butter has a much higher smoking point than ordinary butter. It can be stored at room temperature for quite a long while. It will turn solid when refrigerated. Hollandaise sauce is basically mayonnaise made with clarified butter.

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    thanks for that clarification.


                                    we have ghee in the cupboard. btw, that "makeup" routine sounds a little daunting....ghee and soot -- i'm sure fda would have a field day.

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      Clarified butter/ghee is also what the theaters use for "buttered" popcorn.

                                      1. re: steinpilz

                                        do they? i never get the "butter" on popcorn, always assuming it was some flavored oil concoction.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          There's a recent thread about sources of popcorn flavorings.

                                          Straight clarified butter does not have a strong 'butter' flavor, since it lacks milk solids. Items with a strong 'butter' flavor probably include a synthetic flavoring.


                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                        So is there a term for the milk solids that are cooked out? My BF and I actually like a butter that has more milk fats, but he was wondering if could get just the milk fats for dipping his crab/lobster in. When I melted my American butter, there was very little milk fat. But when I melted my KerryGold, wow, so much more and better. Yum!

                                  2. re: paulj

                                    The difference between "standard" American butter and an 86% butter is not likely to be noticeable in the traditional fetucchini Alfredo, where you cold-blend the cheese and butter, then melt them into the lightly drained fetuccini. Any excess moisture in the butter will be absorbed by the cheese during blending.

                                    High fat butter is a boon to bakers however. Especially when making puff pastry because the higher the butterfat, the more maliable the butter is at colder temperatures.

                                    I'm not absolutely certain Trader Joe's is one of them, but there are several chain supermarkets in this country that sell 86% butterfat butter as their house brand. I tend to think TJ's is one of them, but not sure. I think Whole Foods is another. Read labels! But if TJ's is one and you normally shop there, it would explain why you din't find Pulgra very different.

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      caroline, i'm guessing then that the labels tell the amount of butterfat? i hadn't noticed....

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        Seems to me I've seen some butters that have the amount of butterfat listed in plain English on the front of the carton, but maybe I'm remembering an ad? Anyway, if your math is much better than mine (and whose isn't?), then you should be able to figure it out from the nutrition facts panel. All I can figure out from the brand of butter I have in the house is that 2 grams of every tablespoon of this butter is probably water. I say probably because it fails to tell me how much of the butter is milk solids and how much of the butter is fat. So much for nutrition panels! <sigh>

                                  3. re: Caroline1

                                    Just for clarification in case anyone is shopping, it's "Plugra", not "Pulgra". We have it locally here in the Carolinas at The Fresh Market.

                      2. snackventurer, this is a good point, and all too common. I have found that restaurants, while trying to put their own signature on a menu, all too often fundamentally change the 'classic' recipe and turn it into something else...(this is not to say that the changed version is not sometimes better)...another example of this premise is 'Veal Saltimbocca' or 'Chicken Scarpariello'...there are so many variations of this dish being served in my area that it is hard to remember what the original was...this is why you get wacky titles on menus like: 'Veal Sara', or 'Chicken Louis'...they are actually excuses for changing the original recipes...By the way, I do not mean to stay with just the Italian, this phenomenon is true of all cuisines...

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: gutreactions

                          Gutreactions, you are bang on. I'm all for changing recipes and liberal interpretations, but when you're using a classic recipe title and fundamentally change it, it's kind of misleading.

                          They tried to use a classic take on classic dish and failed miserably.

                          1. re: snackventurer

                            You must've missed my mega-rant re: "carpaccio" that I was served at an 'Italian" place around here.... which turned out to be thinly sliced roast beef (!). After inquiring, I was told that 'most customers prefer their meat not to be raw'. WTF.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              Then I suppose most customers don't like carpaccio.

                              1. re: snackventurer

                                I guess so. However, why a restaurant that advertises itself as "authentic" would bow to customers to change one classic dish (it's not the only appetizer on the menu, ya know) is beyond common sense. But then they also offer a few gnochi (sic) dishes.

                              2. re: linguafood

                                That's hilarious! I have never sent a dish back (athough the waitsaff has insisted for me) but if that happened to me, I definitely would.
                                I remember eating at "Chartiers" in Paris, and the North American woman next to me ordered Tartare. When it arrvied, she was horrified. The man with her called the waiter over and said "This beef isn't cooked!" and the waiter said "Yes. It's tartare." and walked away. I laughed. Neither of them tried it.

                                1. re: miss_bennet

                                  This is why I find it so amusing that 'Filet Americain' is thus called. Then again, I think most Belgians find that amusing, which may be the reason for the name? Probably not, but I've never looked into the etymology of that one.

                                  1. re: Lizard

                                    The etymology of "Americaine" is a change in spelling that occurred over time. The word was originally Armoricaine (according to Gourmet magazine, February 1959, as well as the Horizon Cookbook (1968). Armoricaine is the ancient name for Brittany. The 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking called the dish "Lobster Americaine or Armoricaine." As Gourmet said, "it has nothing whatever to do with America."

                                2. re: linguafood

                                  I ordered carpaccio recently, only to have the server on three separate occasions ask me (with a horrified look on her face)

                                  "you Do know that's RAW, don't you??"


                                  1. re: purple goddess

                                    i had that happen and then it came out thickly sliced and medium. it was like they assumed because im a small young lady and had no idea what i was getting myself into...

                                    1. re: purple goddess

                                      You know, though, they probably *do* avoid a lot of surprises by mentioning that up front.

                                    2. re: linguafood

                                      Speaking of carpaccio, what would you expect if you saw, "Boursin Stuffed Kangaroo Carpaccio Nachos with Avacado Relish and Spicy,
                                      Sweet Habanero Sauce" on a menu? It's from an actual menu, and I have a real problem wrapping my mind around it.

                                      Well, if you really want to know, it's from Chef Tim Love's "Lonesome Dove" restaurant in Fort Worth. He's the one who beat Masiharu Morimoto on the currently running Iron Chef America. I will take Morimoto ANY day....!

                                    3. re: snackventurer

                                      I've been served roast duck parts under the misnomer "confit." I love duck in any guise, so I didn't have any problem eating it. Still, last time I checked, "roast" and "confit" are radically different preparations. But which sounds classier?

                                      1. re: rockycat

                                        I'd send it back if I got roast duck under the guise of "confit". Classy or not, or tasty or not, the expectation is wrong. I think this is radically different that getting a fettucine alfredo with or without cream, as both are well known variations of the recipe. Confit is not a matter for interpretation. As far as I'm concerned this is like ordering chicken soup and getting a piece of fried chicken.

                                        1. re: ESNY

                                          Absolutely true. That is a complete misrepresentation and not a "variation". The OP is desirous of "what he/she wants" and not of the "classic", and that is her right. But roasted versus confit are too wholly different dishes.

                                  2. There is a restaurant here that describes fish en papillote on their menu as fish cooked in an aluminum foil pouch.

                                    Would real parchement paper that much harder or more expensive?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: beachmouse

                                      foil pouch? "en papillote"? when is parchment paper made from aluminum? ack!!! although..... real parchment is made from sheepskin....
                                      but plant-based parchment is used in cooking applications. (wiki article notes why wax paper is NOT a substitite for parchment paper in baking, too


                                      foil pouch cooking is for home, or the campground fire.

                                      what next: "sous vide" from a boil-in-bag?

                                    2. The original comment has been removed
                                      1. At a recent lunch, we ordered gazpacho and received chilled cream of tomato soup.

                                        I ordered Salad Nicoise and got greens drowned in olive oil, studded with olives, and topped with a scoop of tuna salad. Honestly, I quit reading the salad description after "ahi" since--I assumed--that the term "Salad Nicoise" was definitive. Ditto the gazpacho, only there was no description for us to read since it was a special.

                                        A nice, classy, little, positively-reviewed, bistro-esque place. Big disappointment.

                                        I'm all for expiramentation and variations on a theme, but I like to know what I'm in for.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: mamaciita

                                          I often make a salad at home of boiled new potatoes, green beans, cherry tomatoes, olives, and tuna on a bed of romaine, topped with my "Champlain dressing" (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and some herbs). It's a great summer salad, and if you're at all artistic, it's not hard to do a "salad composee" that looks and tastes great.

                                          But whenever anyone asks me what it is, I say it's "a tuna-potato salad in the Nicoise style"; I'd never call it a "Nicoise" salad. That would be wrong.

                                          1. re: KevinB

                                            I wouldn't call it 'Nicoise' either - but that is because I don't know how to pronounce it :)

                                            So what is the key deviation in your version? Wrong kind of olives? Wrong brand of tuna? wrong lettuce? honey in the dressing? (if it matters I am comparing your description to the recipe in 1997 Joy)


                                            1. re: paulj

                                              The Orford dictionary of food and drink defines it as
                                              "E20 French (= salad from Nice (in southern France)). A salad usually made from hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, black olives, tomatoes, etc."
                                              I've always had it with tuna, egg, green beans, black olives and an anchovy-dijon vinaigrette.

                                              1. re: miss_bennet

                                                You're so right - I forgot the hardboiled eggs, sliced. I usually prepare it with the beans radiating out from the centre, likes spokes of a wheel, on the bed of lettuce. Then I alternate the tomatoes, halved potatoes, egg slices, and olives between the spokes. Then I take the tuna (fresh if it's nice, baked and crumbled, or tinned if I'm pinched for time - but only water-packed, and well drained) and distribute it over the plate. Finally, I drizzle the dressing over top - it really looks like quite beautiful with all the colour contrasts - green, red, white, yellow, black, pink.

                                                Paulj, the major variations of my recipe are first, the potatoes - no true Nicoise contains those. And, while the addition of the honey was an inspiration in my view (I had to concoct a dressing late one night at our cottage on Lake Champlain, and after putting in the only olive oil we had left, I added a bit too much balsamic vinegar - and I wish to confirm that the unsteadiness of my hand had *NOTHING* to do with the quantity of adult beverages consumed earlier - and happily found that the honey balanced the acidity nicely.), I'm pretty sure the people of Nice would be horrified.

                                                It's still a very tasty, very pretty salad, but definitely not true to the standard definition of Nicoise, which is why I picked my circumlocution.I do think, when you can get new potatoes, and fresh tomatoes and beans, that it makes a beautiful addition to a table. Try it - I think you'll like it!

                                                1. re: KevinB

                                                  The French wiki article also rules out the green beans and any cooked vegetables (at least that's what I think it says)

                                                  "la salade niçoise ne contient jamais ni riz, ni pommes de terre, ni haricots verts, ni aucun légume cuit."

                                                  The English wiki translation is similar, but the linked recipe does include the potatoes and beans.

                                                  Maybe we should call this type of salad, using lightly cooked vegetables like beans and potatoes, an Ecuadorian or Quito salad, or 'Ensalada Mixta'. :
                                                  )E Ortiz (Latin American Cooking) writes "Of all the countries in Latin America, Ecuador has the most imaginative and original approach to vegetables. ...", and goes on to outline 7 variations, including the basic one of greens, eggs, potaotes, green beans and vinaigrette.


                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    On at least 2 seperate occasions in Provence(1 actually in Nice, the other in Marseilles, I have been served a salade Nicoise with potatoes in them. So maybe there is a variable there. As to the pronunciation, I would spell it phonetically thus; neeswaz.

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      For the record, Julia Childe uses potatoes in her salad Nicoise, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the recipe in my venerable 1960s first English translation of Larousse Gastronomique! It says:
                                                      Nicoise salad, Salade Nicoise -- Mix equal parts of potatoes and French (string) beans, both cut in dice. Season with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Arrange in a dome in a salad dish. Decorate with fillets of anchovies, olives and capers. Garnish with quartered tomatoes. Sprinkle with chopped chervil and tarragon.
                                                      So what do you think about that? NO TUNA!

                                                      My Encyclopedia of European Cooking calls for new potatoes, black olives, well washed anchovies and sliced onions. Again no tuna, and no tomatoes, and no green beans!

                                                      Escoffier did not stoop to mention it in his cookbook at all.

                                                      Oh, and I did not think a whole lot of the Wikepedia version of Salade Nicoise as a salade composee with seared tuna. Give me a break!

                                                      But there is an amusing article and recipe for salade Nicoise that looks pretty good to me right here: Yay, England!

                                                      I suspect that "salade Nicoise" may not be the classic we all have been thinking it is. There seems to be no agreement on ingredients anywhere!

                                                2. re: KevinB

                                                  In my opinion, yours should be called Nicoise. Close enough!

                                                  Of course, I now have the "tuna salad scoop" incident for comparison.

                                                  1. re: KevinB

                                                    How many of the classic French dishes are misnamed or represented?

                                                    Does espagnole have anything to do with Spain?
                                                    Hollandaise with Holland?
                                                    Crème anglaise English?
                                                    Sauce Américaine?
                                                    sauce au curry India?