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Jun 4, 2008 05:32 AM

What is your deal breaker?

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: (


"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.

      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!


          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.


                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.


                    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.

                                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!