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What is your deal breaker?

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In today's NY Times, there was an article on recipe deal breakers.

That got me thinking... do Chowhounds have deal breakers? Maybe not even just recipe deal breakers but about food in general?

I guess apart from not have ready access to certain kitchen accoutrements, a deal breaker for me is a recipe with 20 million ingredients. I just don't get why they are necessary. Unnecessarily complicated and I have never been unsatisfied from a recipe with a limited number of ingredients.

So - what is your deal breaker?

A sample paragraph from the article: (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/din...

)

"The chef Thomas Keller is the modern king of the fussy recipes. His books are stacked with one deal breaker after another. To make his cornets filled with salmon tartare and crème fraîche, one must first figure out how to make “a 4-inch hollow circular stencil.” Then the cook must balance a baking sheet on the open door of a hot oven and set the tips of cornet molds on par-baked circles of batter at the 7 o’clock position before rolling.

These are the kinds of instructions that make people open a box of brownie mix and call it a day."

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  1. That is precisely why you might want to pay the steep tariff to dine at one of Thomas Keller's restaurants. It is not something that you would do at home. When cooking at home, it is not a matter of a deal breaker but, instead, a question of how much territory to cover before putting a meal on the table. On weekdays, that is much smaller than on the weekends. On weekdays, I might put some effort into one dish but the rest are simple or convenience. I'm not making circular stencils anytime.

    I have my "Caramba" meal, grilled pork chops, rice, nuked frozen corn and peas. The only thing chowish about it is that everything is that the chops and rice are cooked well. On days that makes it to the table, everything looked like a deal breaker.

    3 Replies
    1. re: EdwardAdams

      Keller's recipes don't intimidate me, I spent almost 3 days on his pigs trotters, once, Maybe I'll do the dish again some time. It was delicious and rich.

      I am pretty game to try most anything once. I will say I find most of Charlie Trotters recipes very off putting.

      1. re: EdwardAdams

        The blog French Laundry at Home is proof that FL recipes are possible in a home kitchen. Plus the writing is hilarious.

        1. re: ErikaK

          One of my favorites!

      2. Can of cream of mushroom (or whatever) soup... I'm not saying I never use it, but I don't need a recipe to lead me on the path to the dark side
        1 cup of extra virgin olive oil.... Since I don't cook for an army, I prefer to keep oil in tablespoonfuls, especially expensive oil.
        Offal... My husband won't eat it, I don't care enough to make it for myself. The occasional restaurant fix does me.
        2 cups heavy cream.... See 1 c. olive oil above, although here it is more the caloric count than the expense.

        Most other recipes I will consider if it is a reputable source and it looks at all appealing. Unlike Tehama, I don't mind a long list of ingredients, especially if most of them are spices, like Indian dishes. Like Tehama, I would never cook from a Thomas Keller book (or most restaurant cookbooks). Until I have staff (prep cook, dishwasher, line cook, etc.) its just me in the kitchen, and I have a day job.

        4 Replies
        1. re: dkenworthy

          dk, I love this!

          >> Can of cream of mushroom (or whatever) soup... I'm not saying I never
          >> use it, but I don't need a recipe to lead me on the path to the dark side

          This is so true for me as well, but I could never say it as well as you did!

          Anne

          1. re: dkenworthy

            OKay, I use a lot of olive oil so a cup doesn't scare me. But a recipe that calls for poaching fish in two quarts of it? What the frack am I supposed to do with two quarts of fishy olive oil afterwards?

            A lot of resto recipes make sense when you can amortize the cost and effort across many servings and days. But when I look at something and can't figure out how to make 2 or 4 servings reasonably, that's a deal breaker.

            1. re: Scrapironchef

              I also don't believe in wasting ingredients. I haven't done this for olive oil but I did for the beurre monte that I used to butter poach some lobster. I saved it in the fridge and used it a few more times to butter poach some other seafood.

              And I did make deep-fried shrimp heads last week and saved the oil (which is red from the shrimp corral), and have used it little by little to stir-fry vegetables, etc. I also store that in the fridge.

            2. re: dkenworthy

              I'm opposite...kind of...I cook just for me, so if I see a recipe that calls for 1/4 cup of buttermilk, or a tiny amount of something else that I won't use on its own, that's a dealbreaker...

            3. Most of my deal breakers are the ones discussed in the NYT article.

              Recipes that require very hard to find ingredients that would be difficult to substitute for or would change the dish so much that it's just not worth making without the specified ingredients.

              Like most people I have limited time (and energy...) during the week to cook so I'm looking for fairly simple but tasty dishes to prepare. Recipes within a recipe are often dealbreakers under this scenario.

              Lastly, unless it's a very special occasion, I have to watch recipes that ask you to spend a lot of money to make the dish. Especially if I am not completely confident of the results.

              1. For me at home, it's things that don't belong. I hate shortcuts that short circuit the tradition and spirit of a recipe. I love CI/ATK but they can be really bad at this. They can also have too many steps/ingredients sometimes that make a recipe too much of a hassle. Alton can be like that too. He also has goofy methods that I won't bother with. I won't spend an extra 50% effort for 5% better product.

                If I'm eating out, if I see raisins in the ingredient list, there isn't a chance in hades I'll eat it.

                DT

                16 Replies
                1. re: Davwud

                  Haha, I'm in complete agreements with raisins.. a grape's ugly cousin.

                  1. re: ESNY

                    They upset my stomach and made me sick as a kid and I have a severe food aversion to them now.

                    DT

                    PS, I use COM soup with stock for the base in my chicken/turkey and dumplin's and it's fantastic.

                    1. re: Davwud

                      Raisins! There is nothing worse than biting into a crispy cookie and finding a blob of soft raisin in it, sorry dkenworthy. I like raisins alone but not in other things. I got a bread pudding from a BBQ place last week and it had raisins in it, but not too many, so it was tolerable. It was like spitting the seeds out of the watermelon slice!

                      A deal breaker for me is green peppers. They do not set well with me if they are cooked in a dish. If I can pick them out and there isn't too much of that flavor in them, I'm okay, but if I can smell the green pepper right off the bat I won't eat it. I have adapted a recipe for pepper steak w/o the peppers, so it's a Non pepper steak! Raw ones are fine, though.

                      1. re: danhole

                        I actually like raisins in some things. Not in cookies. My dad calls them (and in cookies I agree)
                        "flies without wings"

                        1. re: danhole

                          I do not get along with green peppers, but if a recipe calls for them I usually just use red peppers and it works out well.

                    2. re: Davwud

                      Hey, no dissing raisins! There are lots of recipes that just wouldn't be the same without raisins (mole, picadillo, hot cross buns, oatmeal cookies).

                      Seriously, though, I have a soft spot in my heart for all the traditional ways to preserve summer's bounty, whether dried, preserved, pickled, or fermented. Couldn't live without cheese, wine, kosher pickles, peach jam, raisins, the list is so long.

                      1. re: dkenworthy

                        I think raisins are fine in everything except baked products. Baking tends to dry them out.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Hate regular raisins, LOVE golden raisins. If I see them as an ingredient, I'm sold. Regular ones have, I think, tannins that are the same reason I dislike most red wine, although I like most whites.

                          Limited kitchen space means my stand mixer is hard to get to. I'm more likely to make it if I can use a hand-mixer or whisk. I prefer melting butter to creaming it. The fewer bowls, the better! Other recipe dealbreakers include anything anise-like: from fennel to cilantro to licorice, and a lot of separated eggs. Extra whites not so bad, but if I'm going to have leftover yolks, I'm not making it. Bye, bye meringue! Unless I'm in the mood for hollandaise. I hate wasting food.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            I always thought the only difference between goldens and regulars was the SO2 to keep the golden ones golden. They're dried from the same grape, I thought.

                            My dealbreakers are usually pretty extreme - like seeing truffles (can't see spending the money) in a recipe. Or, seeing one of the very very few food items I won't eat (black walnuts, angel food cake, liver). Otherwise, I'm game.

                            1. re: k_d

                              kd- you're right, they're usually the same, made from Thompson Seedless grapes. SO2 has a bleaching effect on them, which is why they are yellow instead of brown. Goldens might be able to maintain a higher moisture content because of the preservative benefits of SO2.

                          2. re: Miss Needle

                            That's exactly the way I like raisins... in baked products so they're a little dried out!

                            1. re: spkspk

                              We must have opposite tastes because in many dishes, I generally plump up the raisins before adding them in!

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                The thought of plump raisins is enough to make me ill.

                                I make oatmeal cookies with Raisinettes so that the raisins can't plump up at all.

                                1. re: lulubelle

                                  I make oatmeal cookies with raisenettes too. Yum.

                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                  Yeah, life has been better since I figured out soaking raisins in a little hot water and Grand marnier before I put them in practically any recipe

                                  1. re: danna

                                    danna, I definitely agree with the "enhanced" hot water soak for raisins and also dried cherries. I like using brandy or sherry.

                        2. I think a lot of my cooking is situational. During the weekdays, I try to do fast, easy and efficient. But during the weekends or when I have some more time, I'm willing to experiment. I'll search for obscure ingredients. I'll pound away on my mortar and pestle. And if a recipe looks too rich for me, I always adapt it unless it's like a Keller recipe where I try follow the instructions exactly. But I don't break out the French Laundry cookbook very often. I generally don't deep-fry but have at certain times because I had difficulty finding the stuff -- ie. deep-fried shrimp heads. About unusual equipment, I try to find a substitute if I don't have it. But sometimes you've got to cave in and buy it as it's hard to find a sub -- ie. takoyaki maker. It's funny how that article states that people get frustrated with recipes that they just open up a box of brownies. For me, I tend to shy away from things with pre-packaged cake mixes or canned soups, etc.

                          I do have a few dealbreakers, mostly from my past experiences. I tend to shy away from any recipe involving a pastry bag. That's why I haven't attempted to make macarons yet. And I tend to stay away from dough-related things as well after my terrible experience attempting hau gau wrappers. I also hate using rolling pins. So I guess my dealbreakers tend to fall on the irrational side.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            a few deal-breakers: making stock from shrimp shells (the kitchen reeks for days)
                            --any recipe calling for a tube pan (never got around to buying one, and besides it goes hand in hand with my next db)
                            --more than three egg yolks, or egg whites (feels like waste, and it never occurs to me that i might be able to save what i don't use--except when making ice cream, when for some reason i just don't mind)

                            1. re: rudysmom

                              As for the same reason I have never purchased a bundt pan. I have every other baking tin. Call me crazy, I won't eat a cake baked in a bundt tin. Why? I have no idea, I just have a very real aversion to the shape. Put the same cake in a loaf or a baking dish, I'll eat it.
                              But it's ix-nay with the bundt-nay!

                            2. re: Miss Needle

                              I love rolling pins, since I was a kid. I don't know why.

                              I never thought of making mararons, but I know iI have seen them in better bakeries in shapes (like pyramids) that obviously weren't made with a bag. Perhaps you just need a different recipe?

                              1. re: butter and whiskey

                                I think you are referring to 2 different things: You are thinking of macaroons (2 "o"s) made with coconut and egg white and sugar, sometimes dipped in chocolate.

                                Miss Needle is (I think) talking about macarons (1 "o") in the French style: 2 cookies made of meringue and ground almonds with buttercream sandwiched in between. (see, e.g. http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives...)

                                The latter definitely require a pastry bag, and the former definitely do not.

                                1. re: Pistou

                                  You're right, Pistou. I was referring to the meringue discs. I'm not a fan of macaroons (the coconut condensed milk concoction because it's too sweet). But I love macarons. My favorite macarons are from Pierre Herme in Paris, and I haven't found anything in NYC that comes close. So I purchased a couple of his books but am so chicken to make them.

                                  And Caroline, unfortunately, it's not the clean-up that I'm afraid of. For some reason, I've had problems being dexterous with a pastry bag. I know it's not brain science and I'm pretty good with being meticulous about things related to handiwork. But there's some block with me and pastry bags.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    I spent some time in Paris a couple of years ago and tasted every macaron that crossed my path. In the end, it was a tie between Laduree and Pierre Herme, though the latter definitely had more interesting flavors (and colors!). There are a couple of places here in San Francisco that make a passable macaron, so I haven't been tempted (yet) to take them on myself. But that link I included is to a pretty in-depth description of making macarons by a very good pastry chef and writer, if you decide to give it a whirl!

                                    Not only are complex techniques are not a deal breaker for me, they are a siren song. I also tasted every cannele that came my way in Paris (Pierre Herme won hands down on this one) and was so inspired I brought home a set of molds. I've made them twice. They were fussy and finicky and worth every bit of effort!

                                    1. re: Pistou

                                      For some reason the pics aren't coming out in his blog. But I will try to get over my fear and attempt them one day. There are some macaron places in NYC, but are no where in the same league as Pierre Herme.

                                      I also love canneles as well. I know Herme is the favorite for canneles, but I thought they tasted too burnt on the outside for my taste. But the insides were perfect. Glad to hear that you were able to make your canneles. Sometimes the effort is so worth it!

                              2. re: Miss Needle

                                Make the macarons, just use 2 teaspoons to shape them. They won't be as pretty, but they'll still be delicious. (I don't like pastry bags, either!) Sorry, this is supposed to be a reply to Miss Needle, above.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  If it's the clean-up of the pastry bag after you use it -- I hate that with a passion! -- Wilton makes some disposable plastic pastry bags (much much much better than Alton Brown's use of a giant zip lock bat) that once you rescue the pastry tip, it's just toss and forget. NO temptation to lick the frosting. And the tips clean up really easy. I just toss 'em in a silverware compartment, then put something over it so they don't bounce out.

                                  If it's the actual piping of frosting you hate.... Well.... Carry on!

                                2. -20 million ingredients
                                  -Anything that has to be pureed in batches
                                  -Anything involving yeast

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    Agree on

                                    -20 million ingredients (particularly hard to find ones)
                                    -Anything involving yeast (I'm not a big baker and have never attempted bread. Just not that interesting to me -- to make that is -- I love to eat bread!)

                                    Since I started using my immersion blender, anything that has to be pureed in batches is not so problematic

                                    Also, deep frying -- just can't bring myself to do it.

                                    1. re: valerie

                                      Totally agree on the deep frying. Just can't go there at home. I sometimes look at the deep frying appliances (are they still called Fry Baby's?) for sale and think, "well, that's just not a good idea for me to have in the house".

                                      1. re: elayne5

                                        I have a De Longhi deep fryer with a rotates moving the food in and out of the oil. It has a triple filter and does not fill my house with the odor of fried foods. Foods fried at the proper temperature do not absorb the amount of fat that many people erronously think they do.

                                        1. re: Candy

                                          I have this same deep fryer and love it. I am amazed at how little oil it uses.

                                      2. re: valerie

                                        Hi Valerie. You might enjoy a beer bread recipe, which uses beer and self-rising flour. No yeast, besides what's already in the ingredients I mentioned. Just stir together and bake. The recipe I use is from "Make It Easy, Make It Light" by Laurie Burrows Grad.

                                        Also, if you're intimidated by baking bread (as I was for a long time), try "Beard On Bread", by James Beard. It's a wonderfully unpretentious introduction to the basics of breadmaking.

                                      3. re: Janet from Richmond

                                        My $10 immersible blender got rid of the batch-puree problem. My New Year's resolution was to get over my yeast-phobia. Discovered the no-knead NYTimes/Bittman and Cooks Illustrated bread recipes, and am now LOVING breadmaking, not to mention saving money. I love the smell of yeast dough rising. Now I'm getting adept at actually kneading doughs.

                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          Hi Greygarious! Is this the link to your recipe, or has he done another one that you like better? Thank you so much!
                                          http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

                                        2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                          I'm with you on the yeast! My excuse has always been that I'm a cook, not a chemist. Or I'm saving it for retirement ;)

                                        3. Read article--fun.

                                          I'm not sure I have any deal breakers. I suppose a recipe that calls for a lot of equiptment might give me pause but in my experience you can do a lot of substituting so that wouldn't guarantee a rejection. And I actually like those long lengthy recipes but I don't try to do them when I don't have time. Example would be casseolut [sp] when you start by making the duck confit. I've made it a couple of times as a weekend project.

                                          But I agree about liking to order stuff in restaurants that takes a lot of work, time, and is basically complex. I tend to get grumpy about ordering something and then eatting it and thinking "hey!!! i could have done exactly that at home....." Probably why we eat out at a lot of asian/chinese places.........

                                          1. For me no cooking tecnique is a deal breaker when it comes to a recipe.

                                            Deal breakers in recipes for me are recipes that list ingredients I will not use. If I see a recipe that calls for "lite" this, "fat-free" that, or skim or 2% anything, that recipe gets thrown out, and the search for a full flavored recipe resumes.

                                            edit: add to my list of recipe no-no's: any recipe with: margerine, liquid smoke, processed canned items, or food substitutes(egg beaters, etc).

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: swsidejim

                                              I'm the same way when it comes to ingredients. I don't buy stuff like that and I won't cook with it either (except for 2% milk - I use that all the time, as well as full fat.)

                                              1. re: flourgirl

                                                I was raised on 2% milk, but as an adult I only purchase whole milk(thats the only type of milk we give our toddler as well). I dont like the watered down look/taste of the low fat milk.

                                              2. re: swsidejim

                                                I can certainly understand that ther is a class of recipes out there full of exceedingly foul ingredients, fat-free this and that, egg substitute, etc. However, i think you are having a bit of a knee jerk reaction. there's absolutely nothing wrong w/ skim or 2% milk, or low fat yogurt. They are perfectly good products and are indistinguishable in many, many instances. For example, I make all cake w/ skim milk and I DEFY anyone to tell the difference.

                                                1. re: danna

                                                  Daisy makes a lower fat sour cream I really like as well. There's no weird stuff in it, it tastes great, and if you're baking with it, works just as well as full fat. (I make a lot of sour cream blueberry crumb cake around here...)

                                                  1. re: danna

                                                    There is nothing wromng with skim or 2% milk, or low fat yogurt but they simply taste horrible.

                                                  2. re: swsidejim

                                                    Same here. Although I will use canned beans in a pinch. We have very good ones where I live.

                                                    My problem is that I don't plan in advance. So sometimes I see a recipe I like, then notice that you have to marinate something overnight, and that turns into a dealbreaker. It's not a philosophical problem with overnight marinating, just a practical one.

                                                    1. re: swsidejim

                                                      While I understand your rejection of margarine, one of my favorite old family recipes is a Christmas cookie that calls for margarine (actually, it calls for "oleo", it's that old). And while I normally cook with butter, I do buy margarine to make that cookie. I've tried both. With butter, it tastes like a weirdly flavored shortbread. With margarine, it tastes like a rich butter cookie. Even chowhound friends of mine have been fooled.

                                                    2. 1. Any recipe that calls for sour cream or cream cheese. Can't stand them. One small exception is I will put 1 Tbsp sour cream in beef stroganoff.

                                                      2. Making any kind of stock from scratch. That's what broth and "Better Than Boullion" are for.

                                                      3. Deep frying. (Pan-frying is okay every now and then.)

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: starbucksbrew

                                                        Agree on 1 and 3, but as for 2: my deal breaker is having to politely endure food made canned, powdered, or cubed stock. Prefer home made, the thicker the better.

                                                        1. re: jayt90

                                                          I agree just did a recipe for meatloaf calling for 1/2 c of evaporated milk. What to do just spill away the rest. I just added cornstarch to regular milk as a substitute.

                                                          1. re: classylady

                                                            Ooooch. DH is carribean by birth & has a deep-seated childhood attachment to evapped milk in his coffee. I have to say that since it's always around, I've gotten used to it and find that it is very helpful in all manner of circumstance. In a jar, it keeps well in the fridge, taste great in hot cereal, thickens sauce wonderfully & generally preforms like cream in recipes (won't whip, of course). That jar in the fridge has saved my butt on a number of occasions. I keep cream at home for coffee.. but for drinking, shakes & smoothies, I keep soy (which is horrid to cook with). I can't drink cow-juice directly, it gives me the willies.

                                                            1. re: butter and whiskey

                                                              I made some mac and cheese w/ evap milk the other day (low-fat, btw) and was shocked at how good it was.

                                                              1. re: butter and whiskey

                                                                Yeah, and if you're not her calf, the cow would probably feel the same way. :-p

                                                        2. Any recipe that goes onto the next page of whatever book its printed in.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: LJS

                                                            Also recipes that call for 4 egg yolks, but neglect to mention that the fourth yolk won't be needed until tomorrow after chilling the dough overnight!

                                                          2. Slow cooker recipes that call for canned beans. This is so common and it drives me to distraction. Isn't one of the big bonuses of using a slow cooker be that you can cook dried beans without worrying about them boiling dry on the stove? Not to mention that dried are cheaper, require far less fuel to transport, and have less packaging.

                                                            1. My deal breaker is something that just isn't going to work here in Florida. IE, pancetta (it never gets cold enough for long enough), croissants (it never gets cold enough period) and anything that requires the oven to go to 450, unless it is January. I miss out on a lot but it takes days and days to cool my house back off after making No Knead Bread for example.

                                                              --Lisa

                                                              1. Well, for me (at my age and not inexhaustable income) almost all recipe dealbreakers are cost related these days. If I found a drop dead delicious sounding recipe that called for foi gras, I would probably set up an acquisition fund to acquire it at some future date, but I don't think there is any way in hell I will live long enoug to complete an acquisition fund for a kilo of Black Sea beluga caviar, which I do absolutely adore and did purchase by the kilo in my youth.

                                                                And I also draw the line on prices for absolute top grade imported from Japan "true" Kobe beef. It's cheaper to buy a peacock, roast it, and guild it with 24 karat gold leaf prior to having the liveried servers carry it into the dining room.

                                                                But I do enjoy recipes that are improvisational challenges. The Times article mentions discarding a Paula Wolfert recipe that calls for fresh grape leaves. Two possibilities occur to me: You can buy brined grape leaves, and if you soak them well in cold water with the leaves all seperated from one another, then blanch them quickly before stuffing them, you will get a "fair" finished product that will be much much much better than any dolma I've ever had in a Turkish, Greek, or Middle Eastern restaurant in this country.

                                                                Or, if you live anywhere near a wine region, as I have in the past, just drive up to the the owner's house or even the "chateau" if the estate is that large, and ask to buy some fresh grape leaves. I've gotten grape leaves this way on several occasions, but pay was never accepted, and I met some really interesting people. And if you've ever had dolma, or yaprak sarma, or whatever you want to call them before and like them, plant a grape vine! Any kind of grape vine will do. Fresh grape leaves really are the best, but if you've had 'em before and gotta have 'em again, brined grape leaves are better than no grape leaves.

                                                                I have made -- or more accurately helped make -- phyllo dough from scratch before, but don't plan on doing it again in the next 200 years. That's a dealbreaker. Well, sort of... If a recipe insists it be made with home made phyllo or strudel dough, too bad, Charlie! If the rest of the recipe sounds really good, store bought phyllo/strudel pastry it is! And if the cookbook author should happen to be a friend, and if the cookbook author should happen to drop by, and I should happen to offer said author a taste of my version of his/her magnificent recipe, I will take the empty phyllo box out of the trash and hide it in the back of the deep freeze, then swear I did indeed make the phyllo from scratch, and isn't it good!

                                                                The great and wonderful thing about being a well experienced cook with a well equipped kitchen is that there are very few things that will stop you in your tracks. Last night I was watching Alton Brown's "Good Eats" show on pate a choux (cream puff pastry) and watched him have his usual hissy fit about "mono-tasking" tools, then throw aside a perfectly good pastry bag in favor of a "multi-tasking" giant zip lock bag. He then fitted a pastry tube into a corner(I snickered because he used a large star tip instead of a Bismark tube, which does a magnificent job of filling an eclaire all the way to the end), and then filled the big giant plastic bag with the pate a choux. I guarantee he will give that idiocy up the first time a heat-sealed seam along the sides of the bag ruptures and he has cream puff pastry all over his shoes! Sometimes there is great value in uni-tasking tools. uh, and yes. I have had a zip lock bag rupture. You don't want to know.

                                                                Matchstick knife work a deal breaker? Why do you think I have a Cuisineart? ummm... Well.... Yeah.... The matchsticks do come out sort of bent because of the radius of the blade, but hey, there are bent matchsticks in the real world too!

                                                                Some times the pay-off for not having the called for equipment is a great sense of joy and triumph when you improvise something that works just as well. Don't have a couscousiere? Well, let's see...a metal collander with handles nestled into a soup pot will work just fine but you'll probably have to use aluminum foil for a lid, what with those collander handles and all. Or, if the holes in the bottom of a pasta cooker aren't too large, you can use it to steam couscous. Lots of improvisations that will make cous cous that tastes every bit as good as that cooked in a bona fide "hand made in Morocco" couscousiere. And think of the sense of accomplishment!

                                                                My Chowhound "deal breakers" these days are almost exclusively restaurant related rather than recipe related. Well, except for the caviar thing... A friend and I wanted to go out for Mexican food for lunch yesterday, but as usual, I insisted on checking out menus via the internet before investing gasoline to get there, especially if the restaurant is a good distance away. The first item on the first menu we checked out was "Corn Crusted Thai Spiced Grouper Tacos with Mandarin-Macadamia Nut Pico de Gallo." Excuse me? Is this fusion cooking or confusion cooking? THAT, for me, kids, is a DEAL BREAKER...!

                                                                1. My deal breaker is not just ingredient that are hard to find... but recipes that will heavily rely on the quality of certain ingredients.

                                                                  Eg, if the recipe clearly will feature fresh peaches or tomatoes or something, and I can only find some tasteless pseudo-ripened-on-the-truck grocery store produce, I know that my result won't be good. Also things like good cheese (not the store brand) or fresh fish or seafood (my regular grocery store consistly sells horrible fishy tasting filets) and I dont have time to go to a specialty market or gourmet store, I wont make the recipe.

                                                                  Another deal breaker: anything with lard - just hate the stuff!

                                                                  1. This is an interesting thread! I can think of 3 deal breakers for me:

                                                                    high-fat, or high-caloric ingredients
                                                                    overly processed ingredients
                                                                    the need for a special tool or appliance which I don't own.

                                                                    I agree with one of the earlier posters; if I wanted a really amazing dish, I would go out for it.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                                      I am in the same boat.

                                                                      I don't have a stand mixer, waffle maker or ice cream machine so any prep relying on those gadgets is out.

                                                                      I don't buy proccessed food, so I don't make recipes with those ingredients, I can work with exotic, new to me ingredients, but only if I can find a few recipes that I can use it in before I buy it.

                                                                      I shy away from loads of cream and butter, trying to stay in my weight range, and save those types of indulgences for when I dine out.

                                                                      Time is only a factor on Monday through Thursday, so I save my expeiments or labors of love for the weekend, I use my tried and true memorized favorites for the work nights.

                                                                      Every thing is fair game given the right situation.

                                                                    2. For me, I like most foods so I think my deal breakers are more about risk taking, and my deal breakers will constantly be changing as my skill level of cooking evolves...

                                                                      For example, as a new baker, I used to think wow, biscotti are something I could never make, but once I tried a recipie and they came out great, I made them all the time. That led me on to experiment with other cookies like 7 layer cookies, which again, once I made them I couldn't believe how easy (yet time consuming ) they were. This cycle just continues I think to spiral upward over time - lemon curd this weekend was a fun and extremly successful challenge to myself. Marshmallows - another example, seem difficult, but pretty easy as well.

                                                                      interesting post, thanks

                                                                      1. I'm not deterred by 20 million ingredients or hunting high and low around town, and raisins don't faze me, but I have one very specific and totally irrational deal-breaker:

                                                                        Individual scooping/shaping, as in many classic cookie recipes!

                                                                        I'm happy to pay loving individual attention to biscotti, toasting and turning them, as long as they're baked first in one mass and then sliced and finished. But sitting there mindless scooping dollop after dollop of cookie batter (or anything else of this nature), checking to be sure that you're roughly consistent with the amount scoop after stupid scoop, it drives me nuts. :) Lots of hors d'oeuvres have this property, but individual filling or wrapping is fine. Really, the only ones that bug me are ones that involve measuring out freeform identical blobs of some raw mixture.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: another_adam

                                                                          I don't know if this helps you, but most drop cookie doughs can be rolled into a cylinder, firmed up in the fridge and then sliced and baked. If the dough is too sticky, etc. to roll, usually a short time in the fridge to help firm it up a little will facilitate the rolling. I usually roll the cookie log into parchment paper, twist the ends closed and lay the log inside a slit cardboard paper towel roll. This helps keep the log in a round shape, without one side getting flattened while it firms up.

                                                                          1. re: flourgirl

                                                                            That's a great hint, thanks!!! Yeah, it's funny what annoys different people For me, repeated slicing=good, repeated spooning/scooping=baaaaad :)

                                                                            1. re: another_adam

                                                                              You're very welcome. The slicing goes so much faster then the scoop and plop, there's no dealing with wet sticky dough and because the cookies are all a uniform size, they bake more evenly and look much more professionally done (which I love and really impresses people.)

                                                                          2. re: another_adam

                                                                            I'm just the opposite. I don't mind drop cookies a bit, but I HATE rolling and cutting cookie dough. Once every 5 years or so I'll forget how much I hate doing that, and will make cut out cookies for christmas. Then I'll swear to never do it again.

                                                                            Another deal breaker for me is too much butter or oil in a recipe. Three sticks of butter in a cake recipe? No thanks. A cup of olive oil in a salad? Nope. I also agree with the previous posters about recipes that use too many egg yolks or whites, but not both. I can sometimes think of something to do with the other half, but often don't have time to make another recipe just to use them up.

                                                                            Phyllo is also a deal breaker. Even if I can use the frozen kind, I'm always worried about not defrosting it correctly and keeping it covered so it doesn't dry out but then maybe it will get too damp. Plus those recipes use a lot of butter. And what to do with the rest of the phyllo?

                                                                            1. re: AmyH

                                                                              It won't work with butter in a cake... but usually if I disagree with the amount of olive oil in a recipe, I just use what I deem to be reasonable amount. I've never had it turn out badly, and I have been pretty aggressive in my cuts at times. It's a bit dry? Add a bit of extra lemon juice, or poaching water, or stock, or whatever. Honestly, it always works out just fine.

                                                                              Ditto for frozen phyllo. It always turns out fine. Take a little extra precaution & 2x the recipe if it only calls for half a box & freeze the extra or take the leftovers into the office to share!

                                                                              1. re: AmyH

                                                                                DITTO! it is such a cheat when the recipe has gobs of cream or butter. A sweet potato recipe someone raved about comes to mind "so EASY!" yeah...pour two cupps of cream over sweet potatoes and they'll be good...duh. Throw in a radomn stick of butter...like in turkey stuffing...irritates me no end. I find it hilarious some of the recipes people write in to Gourmet to get from restaurants raving about how fabulous some sauce was. And the ingredients are ....butter. Yeah...butter is good.

                                                                                Wow..sorry...big rant!

                                                                            2. Do you want to know my deal-breaker, the one thing that makes me fling books and magazines savagely across the room to bop the TV just as Tony Bourdain is encouraging me to try fried insects?

                                                                              I'm diabetic and way too heavy. So are a lot of people, I know. And for a while I looked with hope to books and articles promising delicious meals with controlled portions and balanced nutrition.

                                                                              And every single one I ever read called fo two maddening thingsr:

                                                                              Odd-sized amounts of unusual ingredients (exactly what am I supposed to do with the other 3 ounces of the mahi-mahi fillet, which I don't have on hand anyway?) And, turning to the rest of the meal, what to do with half a blood orange (if I had one) and, well, I guess I get a salad ... no, there's no freakin' arugula.

                                                                              Two hours of prep time for a meal that feeds 1 - slave over every dish and it's all gone before Alex names the categories for Double Jeopardy.

                                                                              To heck with it, it's chicken franks and a mini-can of baked beans ... again.

                                                                              1. Anything that involves making pasta from scratch, or any homemade ravioli recipes. I'd love to try it out one day but somehow I've never felt like a pasta maker was worth the expense, especially if I know 99% of the time I'll be using the stuff that comes out of the blue Barilla box. I guess I'm just not rustic enough.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: nyc.girl

                                                                                  With you on not wanting a pasta maker but you can make great ravioli using wonton wrappers folded along the diagonal.

                                                                                  For me, boning out a whole bird is a deal-breaker because I tried it once and it was a disaster. On the other hand if I saw a class for that I'd probably take it because it seems like a neat thing to know how to do.

                                                                                  1. re: nyc.girl

                                                                                    After a couple times, I find it easy making pasta dough by hand, without any equipment except a large wooden work surface and a wooden dowel (i.e., rolling pin with an unfinished surface). There's some technique with the stretching and rolling, but if you go to the trouble of making your own ragu, I can't imaging not rolling out and cutting some handmade tagliatelle (made with eggs and bread flour -- recommended by D. Rosengarten of Dean & DeLuca cookbook) .

                                                                                  2. My sister-in-law's deal breaker: any recipe that requires her to chop or grate.

                                                                                    1. A deal breaker for me isn't so much technique or convoluted instructions, but expensive or hard to find ingredients.

                                                                                      1. The main deal breaker for me is ingredients that my family won't or can't eat. I want to make cassoulet in the worst way, but my husband is allergic to white beans. I also won't cook things I don't like. Tripe. Coconut anything.
                                                                                        I am also terrible at pie crust, but I don't think I lose much from substituting GOOD store bought pie crust (ie not Pilsbury).
                                                                                        Hard to find ingredients are somewhat of a deal breaker, but local discoveries (small ethnic markets) are helping that be less of an issue.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: ErikaK

                                                                                          Pie is a deal breaker for me! I also can't get a decent pie crust. What brand do you get that is good, Erika?

                                                                                          1. re: danhole

                                                                                            Make one piecrust a day for 2 weeks, and you will be a master. This is what my dad had me do the summer I was 14, and it worked brilliantly. (He was the master baker in the family, taught by his Swiss mom.)

                                                                                            1. re: danhole

                                                                                              Sorry for late reply

                                                                                              the Trader Joe's pie crust is passable

                                                                                          2. What an interesting thread.
                                                                                            Deal breakers for me would be the laundry list of things I don't have. I keep a well-stocked kitchen, spice rack etc, so if there's more than 4 or 5 things on the list that I have to buy then the recipe's probably out. Especially if I'll only use part - like one leek out of a bunch or something.

                                                                                            Having to make something to make something - like bake bread or cake for bread pudding. You're just cooking twice to get one result, wish I had the time but I don't.

                                                                                            Any recipe with 6 or more eggs, whole or in parts. That's just crazy.

                                                                                            Yeast - I really want to learn, but it never rises properly for me. I buy the 3 pack of yeast, use one, and the other two sit on the shelf for years. I'm sure that's part of the problem lol.

                                                                                            Oh agreed on raisins as a deal breaker. Hate them in everything. Same goes for dates, figs - I'll do dried cranberries in small quantities but I guess I'm just not a fan of the dried fruit...

                                                                                            ...or the fresh fruit for that matter. Sure I force myself to eat some, and I'll get another serving or two by putting strawberries or mango in a salad, but to me, FRUIT IS NOT A DESSERT!! Every now and then I can go for a good, homemade apple crisp or something, but desert must contain chocolate or be cheesecake or have some warm, spicy level of decadence like carrot cake (see, vegetable, not fruit)...but nothing irks me more than to have dinner at someone's house and find that you've saved room for dessert and it's nothing but a fruit platter. That someone is usually my mother-in-law, who after 12 years of knowing me, always acts suprised that I don't take a plate full of fruit at dessert time.

                                                                                            Anything that is going to get my hands too sticky. Agreed on scooping out cookies, but I bought three sizes of the cookie scoops and problem solved. Will do piecrust on occasion, but really what's the point when the filling is going to be some god-awful fruit.

                                                                                            When eating out, certain flavors are deal breakers so we never make this stuff at home either..for me, the two big ones (alongside those blasted raisins) are yellow curry powder (love thai curry, indian not so much), savory dishes with mint (but I'll take a mint chocolate brownie any day). DH is adverse to coconut so I never get to use that at home even though I love the stuff, and he's not a big mushroom fan but he's broadening.
                                                                                            I'm sure there are more. This was a fun rant.

                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: 16crab

                                                                                              Part of your problem may be yeast in those packets. I've gotten everything ready, then the packet(s) of yeast won't proof! So now I only buy a jar of yeast but not to worry about "left overs." You take out however much you need, put the id back really tight and put the rest in the freezer. Then when you're ready to bake again next Christmas or Easter or whenever, it's ready too. And don't worry if it says it's for bread machines on the jar. It still works without a bread machine. Yeast can't read! '-)

                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                Thanks Caroline - but question - how much of the jarred yeast do you use when the recipe calls for one package of quick rise yeast?

                                                                                                I do recall having a jar of yeast in the fridge for quite a while that hubby bought...ended up throwing a bunch of it away when we moved...

                                                                                                1. re: 16crab

                                                                                                  I believe it works out to 2-1/4 tsp. loose yeast to equal a packet.

                                                                                                  1. re: 16crab

                                                                                                    The equation is always printed on the yeast jar. I think it's the same for all yeast, but wouldn't swear to it so check the jar. And store it in the freezer, not the refrigerator. It will stay fresh much much longer. I take mine out of the freezer, measure, put it back. Always stays fresh to the very last granules.

                                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                    Totally agree with the freezer suggestion. Also, use ready-bake or instant yeast. No need to proof, always works really well for me.

                                                                                                    1. re: Kagey

                                                                                                      Actually I use both kinds. Some recipes just work better with slower working yeast, but the thing I do lie about instant yeast is that you can mix it right in with your flour and other dry ingredients. In fact, you can do a double recipe, mix well, then store half of it in an air tirhgt jar in the freezer and you're good to go! My only yeast regret is that I haven't found a local source for cake yeast. I strongly prefer it for holiday baking. Great great aroma and flavor, but it doesn't keep very long.

                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                        I recently discovered our local Shop-Rite carries cake yeast. Very exciting discovery for a baker.

                                                                                                        1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                          From your profile page, I would have to guess you don't live in Dallas. You know, I keep SAYING I wish I could find cake yeast, but if I did I would probably bake and eat a fresh loaf of bread every day. I may regret not finding it, but my hips have to be grateful! '-)

                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                            Nope, sorry, I'm a Jersey girl. And I know what you mean - I love to bake but I can't do it as much as I'd like or I'd be the size of a yak.

                                                                                                          2. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                            Genuardi's, a regional chain in the Philly burbs, carries cake yeast, too. I don't know one other place that does.

                                                                                                  3. My mother's deal-breaker is more than 1 stick of butter in a cake or cookie recipe. I tell her that the yield is important, too--as 2 sticks resulting in a huge batch can be pretty much the same thing as 1 stick and a small batch. But she has a point.

                                                                                                    Even though I love layer cake, I just wouldn't make one that has something like 2 sticks of butter in the batter, 2 sticks in the frosting, and a cup of cream in a filling. Having this in the house, for me, would be like keeping a loaded gun on the countertop: too dangerous!

                                                                                                    In winter, I avoid recipes that can't be made without 1 tablespoon of a fresh herb. I can't see paying $2 for a whole bunch of the herb and not using the rest when I'll have it free in the garden in summer.

                                                                                                    I used to avoid recipes that called for egg whites beaten stiff and folded into a batter. I just wasn't good at the technique. But I've improved and lost this phobia.

                                                                                                    Deep-frying also seems too unhealthy and wasteful, and it creates a big problem of how to dispose of the oil.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Angela Roberta

                                                                                                      When a recipe starts off with 2 sticks of butter, I turn the page. However, there are always those special occasions, so for me, I wouldn't call them deal breakers, but super duper special treats.

                                                                                                      1. re: Angela Roberta

                                                                                                        Angela, when I'm through with oil from deep frying (I try to use it a second time unless I've fried fish in it), I use a funnel and pour it into an empty gallon plastic milk container, then store it under the sink until it's full. Goes in the trash really easy and absolutely no mess. Empty milk containers work much better than empty bottled water containers because they have screw-on lids that won't pop off if you try to pack the trash can tighter..

                                                                                                      2. I'm kind of surprised to see some of the responses where people automatically knock out a recipe because there is too much butter or there are some ingredients they don't like, etc. Do people tend to follow recipes word-for-word? With things like pastry, I try to follow recipes exactly. But for non-pastry things, I'm pretty liberal and alter the recipe to suit my needs. For example, I'm not a fan of olives unless it's oil-cured. If a recipe calls for brined olives, I'll either substitute oil-cured ones for them or just leave them out.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                          Well, I have been cooking for almost 40 years, so when I look at a "new" recipe I am looking for something that won't require a lot of modifications to fit into my diet and lifestyle. I have lots of tried and true recipes that I like, so I am looking for new combos or techniques. If a recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter or 2 cups of heavy cream, I figure the author is just going for the easy flavor payoff. Like Garrison Keillor said a few years ago -- "Thanksgiving's dirty little secret, animal fat." I know that calories = flavor units, but I want to have exciting flavors that don't rely on fat for flavor. For example, I saw a recipe recommended on this board the other day for pasta, shrimp and arugula (I think), so I checked out. For 1 pound of shrimp and 1 pound of pasta, it called for 2 cups of heavy cream. Now, I know that my husband will make this pretty much a dinner pigout, and maybe some lunch leftovers, which means that we will be consuming almost 2000 calories of cream in a day and a half. In this case, I tend to skip the recipe, but start thinking about how I might keep looking for another shrimp, pasta, and arugula recipe that calls for a more reasonable amount of fat. It just wouldn't be worth it to me to fuss with a recipe so far from my needs. Now, if I have dinner at a friends, and we find the pasta dish so orgasmic that I ask for the recipe, and discover it is outrageously decadent, I might save it for a super special occasion.

                                                                                                          I guess to sum up, so many recipes, so little time. I just cull the ones with no provenance that don't meet my needs, rather than adjust them.

                                                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                            Indeed!

                                                                                                            For me:
                                                                                                            I don't know that I have any real deal-breakers. I don't have an ice-cream maker, but i sure would LIKE to make some ice cream. That said; I don't much care for recipes that call for 20 million ingredients, as Janet stated. I don't care about the labor but, gawd, if it has all that sh*t in it how can you taste anything?

                                                                                                            1. re: butter and whiskey

                                                                                                              There is a way you can make ice cream without an ice cream maker, but the results won't be as creamy. Just put the custard mixture in a bowl in the freezer. Every so often, stir the mixture. You will eventually get something like ice cream but it will be a bit more icy.

                                                                                                          2. Recipes that require me to bone chicken. I know that after nearly 40 years of cooking I should feel confident in my boning skills, but I don't, so recipes that require me to stuff a chicken leg, or saute a boneless (but not skinless) breast turn me off.

                                                                                                            Earlier there was a mention of Charlie Trotter's recipes being dealbreakers. I agree. Someone gave me one of his books and I got rid of it within months. Way over my head.

                                                                                                            1. "Roll out dough ...". Besides, I think drop cookies taste better, anyway.

                                                                                                              1. I've lived with this one for so long, I'd forgotten about it... Sifting!!! Doesn't matter what the recipe says, I do NOT sift! Well, not unless I'm making frosting to pipe onto a cake. Then you have to sift the powdered sugar or risk little sugar balls clogging your pastry tube all the time. But that is the ONLY time! If it's anything with flour, then I just do a flat measure, take out anywhere from a tsp to a Tbsp of flour and then dump it in the mixing bowl and fluff it up with a fork. And if a recipe calls for sifting the same ingredients two or three times? I just tear that page out of my cookbook and I'm done with it! '-)

                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                  I resisted sifting for awhile because my mother never did it--she'd always say, lookie right there on the bag, says pre-sifted!

                                                                                                                  Then I figured out how much better everything turned out if I only followed directions ...

                                                                                                                  1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                    Well, there are a few exceptions when I do sift. Angel food cake is one, and some occasional other cakes, but for biscuits, bread, pie crust, crepes, Yorkshire pudding... Forget about it! In my youth, there were a LOT of recipes that required sifting, THEN measuring the flour. Not so many any more.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                      Same here. Only a few things I bother sifting for. I have a long, very slender whisk that I just love (I have a real thing for whisks....) that I use to mix dry ingredients together as well as stirring and loosening/fluffing the flour in the jar I keep it in before measuring. And I usually only bother doing that step first if I'm measuring by volume instead of weight.

                                                                                                                      1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                        I really miss brown paper grocery bags because I used to dump flour in one of those, close the top leaving lots of air inside and fluff up the flour by shaking. Worked great! Plastic? Not even close. Guaranteed disaster. Can you tell I go to lengths not to have to sift?

                                                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                    There's a fast way to sift. If you have a better kitchen or restaurant supply store, get a large wire sieve that's about 8 to 10 inches in diameter at the rim. I have one with a long wooden handle -- got it at Costco years ago. Put the bowl of the wire sieve down in a mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients, then lift up the sieve by the handle, and gently shake side to side untill all the powder is in the bowl. Shake the sieve over the sink or large waste basket and put away. Do not run under water -- just shake off the residual flour and put away.

                                                                                                                    1. re: MartinDC

                                                                                                                      I'm only responding a month and a half later... I just discovered my "My Chow" does NOT float active threads to page one or two!

                                                                                                                      Anyway, it's not that I don't have a huge variety of sifters, including the type you're recommending. I think if I hauled out the kitchen step stool and dug through the little cabinet that lurks over the top of the refrigerator I could probably even find an electric sifter! It's just that so very few things truly require sifting, and I don't make those that often any more. It might be called "geriatric laziness." '-)

                                                                                                                  3. Velveeta. I'd be suspicious of any recipe that relied on some overly processed ingredient.

                                                                                                                    Generally, though, I guess I don't follow recipes closely enough to believe in the concept of "deal breakers," but it's an interesting thread. I look at cookbooks more for inspiration and cook on the basis of what's available to me and looks good in the market, so if there's some ingredient I can't get, I find some way to make what I want with something else. I suspect that most recipes could be made "better" with an ingredient that is hard to get, because the tomatoes are better somewhere else, or the unpasteurized version of the cheese available in Europe tastes better, or we don't have 40 kinds of a certain sausage or smoked meat here, or the flour I can get locally just isn't the same as some other flour, but we just don't think about these things that way.

                                                                                                                    1. for something that sounds really amazing, i will get around to it, no matter the trouble. but on a daily basis, it's really DISHES that are the motivator. if i read the recipe and i can tell the sink will be overflowing when dinner is on the table, i probably won't make the thing. if it requires a bottle of something for which i have no other earthly use, i won't make it.

                                                                                                                      also, i seem to never get around to things that require advance work. sometimes i will, but so often it's quick gratification that i am looking for.

                                                                                                                      1. Deep frying or long lists of ingredients. Or anything too finicky: if I have to turn the oven to 375 for 3 mintues, then shut it off for 1.5 minutes, turn it to 450 for 10, etc. it ain't gonna happen.

                                                                                                                        1. Just a hint for those who have problems with too many egg yolks/whites left over -

                                                                                                                          Simply beat (lightly salt & pepper if desired), spread in a pan, and fry the yolk or white until a light golden brown. Slice the fried yolk/white into thin strips, and use as a garnish for salads, main dishes, or stir fry.

                                                                                                                          The strips can also be frozen for future use.

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: hannaone

                                                                                                                            That is a good tip, thanks! :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: hannaone

                                                                                                                              Whenever I have leftover egg yolks and/or whites I whip them up and cook them in a pan and feed them to my dogs. They enjoy the treat and its great for their coat! I'm sure cats would love them just as much...

                                                                                                                              1. re: scorpioscuba

                                                                                                                                Scorpioscuba, you are right! My dog AND cats love eggs!

                                                                                                                                And to all of CH - thanks for your responses! I love hearing everyone's stories!

                                                                                                                            2. Well, it's just me right now (and occasionally the SO), so I'm trying to keep the deal breakers to a minimum. I figure I'll pick up some more along the way, especially when working crazy hours and eventually when cooking for a family, but for now, I am pretty open to any recipe, especially if I see it demonstrated clearly/taste it and can't get it out of my mind afterward/involves a new skill that I want to add to my repertoire. And I'm not talking anything complicated here -- just the basics, like braising or cutting up a chicken properly. I like the sense of adventure involved in hunting down ingredients (and have an embarrassment of riches in NY to work with), so long lists or strange ingredients aren't that bad.

                                                                                                                              This is all great, except...I am afraid of ovens.

                                                                                                                              I know this is comical and embarrassing all at the same time, but my mother used our oven for storage when I was growing up -- we used it once a year, at most. Then I moved on to the temperamental oven in my dorm kitchenette, which resulted in a pound cake that exploded all over the insides (my very first baking attempt) and many hours of scraping it clean. I think I actually posted about it here on CH and some brave souls tried valiantly to help, but I couldn't go back. Sorry, but no.

                                                                                                                              I'm moving into a new place soon, so I'm resolving to take it as a 'fresh start.' Maybe I should try cooking food in it first, since baking is such a mystery to me...

                                                                                                                              1. Red onion, particularly when raw. I had an aversion to all kinds of onion for a long time which I finally managed to overcome, but there's something about that tang in red onion that still puts me off. I am not proud of this.
                                                                                                                                Cilantro, too. I feel like it's an in-joke that everyone but me gets. If the flavor's pronounced in a dish, that's a deal-breaker for me.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: NinjaDiner

                                                                                                                                  Those are both deal makers for me ...

                                                                                                                                2. Funny, the Keller Samon Cornet recipe is actually not that difficult, nor is it overly time-consuming and the payoff is spectacular IMO.

                                                                                                                                  However, I too have deal breakers. Normally, a fanciful meal at my home will range from 4-7 courses. So...

                                                                                                                                  One of the considerations is budget. I may do one thing very high-end, but the rest has to be somewhat reasonable.

                                                                                                                                  In addition, I have to ask myself does a particular recipe fit in with my meal plan (in other words, if its for the 2nd or 3rd course and it requires 40 minutes of work immediately before its served, its not going to be included).

                                                                                                                                  Are the ingredients in-season and if not, are they going to be horribly expensive to buy and not taste that good (the answer is yes).

                                                                                                                                  Are cheaper substitutes going to make any difference? I now tend to make Daniel Boulud's Pea Pompette's using almost all canned peas and green beans because to the me the improvement that comes with using exclusively fresh ones is not worth the effort.

                                                                                                                                  Does the end result justify the effort? This is my key criteria. If I am going to spend 2-3 hours on a dish, it better have a wow factor and if not, well I know lots of recipes that are good that do not require that sort of effort.

                                                                                                                                  Finally, does the key ingredient of whatever dish I am looking at give my overall meal enough variety. No need to do red meat 3-4 times.

                                                                                                                                  Great topic and Cheers!

                                                                                                                                  1. Yeast is a deal breaker for me ... and I agree about long, fussy recipes. Only when baking am I willing to go to Everest-level effort ... and I'm becoming less willing to do that ;) Creating something marvelous isn't so difficult so the long recipes come across to me as trying too hard, I don't have anything to prove, and I can go to a restaurant if I want something really chichi ...

                                                                                                                                    1. Canned cream-of-something soup

                                                                                                                                      1. This is a hilarious topic!

                                                                                                                                        Deal breakers for me: Ketchup...cream of whatever soup...margarine...any sort of processed-type foods...

                                                                                                                                        Any recipe that assumes I'm an idiot -- I mean, I know I can substitute decent ingredients for some gross ones, but when the most difficult aspect of a recipe involves finding the can opener, I have to wonder...

                                                                                                                                        Oh, and sorry, but anything using a crock pot. Baaaad memories from my ex- cooking goodness knows what in that darn thing. Gross...

                                                                                                                                        1. Any recipe that has boneless skinless chicken breasts. What's the point of an ingredient that has no flavor?

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: MartinDC

                                                                                                                                            I use thinly cut boneless breast all the time for things like chicken francese, chicken picatta, lemon chicken, chicken parmigian. I also use the thicker breasts for things like slicing into a ceaser salad, chicken fajitas, chicken salad (although I usually buy a rotisserie chicken for this...) etc. The thicker breast I always pound, season with various spices, salt and pepper and then usually grill them before slicing, etc.

                                                                                                                                          2. I am terrified of shellfish of any sort, and won't touch a recipe if it involves fish that doesn't come from the fishmonger's already de-boned and filleted and everything else. I'm also afraid of cutting up a whole chicken. The last thing especially is something I'll have to learn eventually, I guess. I've roasted a small bird before and cut it up after the fact but it sure wasn't pretty, and I probably wasted as much meat as we ate.

                                                                                                                                            1. I can't remember if I replied to this, but for now, the biggest dealbreaker is the necessity to weigh ingredients. If I can find space for it somewhere in my already cramped kitchen, I plan to soon rectify that situation, though I've never owned a kitchen scale.

                                                                                                                                              Off-topic, but my tipping point for finally breaking down and (contemplate) getting the scale was my attempt to make sour cherry jam. The recipe was cherries, and then sugar equivalent to slightly less than 1/2 the weight of the cherries. Well, I didn't have a scale, so I guesstimated using volume and physics (e.g. cherries floating to the top, so figuring that they are less dense than water, and then figuring out the rough weight, etc.). Well, the *sour* cherry jam turned into candied cherries. After this, I decided maybe it's time to invest in a scale. (Plus all of those Japanese and European recipes that give measurements in weights!)

                                                                                                                                              Sometimes the quantity of butter/sugar a recipe calls for might be a deal-breaker, but I often end up substituting. Well, ok, less so with butter.

                                                                                                                                              Also, maybe this should go under the "ingredients I'm afraid to cook with" thread, but I've yet to try stuff with filo dough or puff pastry, though I admit this has more to do with my lack of space in the freezer, and my not liking these two things too much.

                                                                                                                                              1. Not much is a deal breaker to me except processed "food". Any cookbook that calls for Jell-o powder may not enter this house. Except I do make champagne shoots with gelatin but that's different! ;-)

                                                                                                                                                I absolutely love cooking Keller style. The time and effort really is worth the fantastic results. It is not as difficult as people think. When I cook I need a challenging recipe and/or technique so another offputting thing is something dumbed down. The more ingredients (or the more unique) the better most of the time. I normally cook pretty upscale 5 days a week (3-7 courses). Of course simple often is better (i.e. authentic Italian) but I just enjoy tricky and finicky things. I normally cook pretty upscale (about 5 days a week). Recipes using several skills really grab me. Thankfully I have an arsenal of kitchen equipment so I can indulge: :-)

                                                                                                                                                1. The prime deal breaker is if the recipe requires expensive ingredients or ingredients that I can't obtain within a certain radius of my home. I also rarely make recipes that call for one ounce of shredded cabbage, unless I have devised a way to deal with the pounds of cabbage that will remain, or I feel that I have a suitable substitute that won't alter the character of the recipe. Some recipes are obviously designed for a kitchen that turns out very large volumes of varied food each day. I avoid any recipe that makes large amounts unless it reheats well or is suitable for scaling down. I will steam, broil, bake, nuke, roast, fry, poach, etc., but I rarely grill. This is a weakness. I should change this, but I hate fussing with coals, chips, racks, lids, vents, and unhappy neighbors.

                                                                                                                                                  I agree with some of you about the recipes that seem to be a bunch of cheese, butter, or cream. I'd rather try a recipe that is more useful for daily eating. Hollandaise is, of course, excluded from this consideration.

                                                                                                                                                  I won't try a recipe that requires 2 or more hours of continuous labor on my feet. I will only do it if it can be done in stages, like I prep the food earlier in the day, and then I cook a portion of it part way through the day, and then at dinner I complete the dish.