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Apr 22, 2011 12:42 AM

Which recipes (and ingredients) are, in your opinion, over hyped?

I love CHOW and I love cooking classic, popular recipes that take over my favorite blogs, forums, etc. A lot of the time, a well-reviewed recipe is very much appreciated, or even downright adored.

Sometimes, however, I cook something that receives raves, and it leaves me underwhelmed or disappointed. For example, it seems like everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is in passionately love with Marcella Hazan's butter, onion, and San Marzano tomato sauce. I've made it. I liked it enough to make it a few more times. But I was expecting this religious experience, they way everyone described it, and I was left thinking, "It's tasty, sure, but I've had much better." (I personally love a very chunky marinara with lots of fresh herbs and maybe a tiny bit of heat to play against the sweetness of the fresh tomatoes.)

I would also like to tack on that, for me personally, cilantro spoils nearly everything! Every time I see a recipe that demands tons of the stuff, I cringe.

What about you, fellow CHers?

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  1. Saffron

    I bought an expensive tin of it from a specialty store with the intent to make rice with it. I have know idea what it is supposed to taste like. But I could not detect any change in the flavor of the rice.

    9 Replies
    1. re: lilmomma

      I agree about both the Hazan tomato sauce and saffron. I tried the sauce and wasn't happy at all - it tasted very acidic to me, strangely, despite all the butter. Saffron has a very medicinal, tinny taste, like antiseptic liquid, when it's reconstituted. Yummy? But then you add it to a recipe and it doesn't taste of anything.

      1. re: limoen

        i used to find it harsh and medicinal. then i started using less. now i love it as a foil to seafood in soups and stews

      2. re: lilmomma

        A good way to use saffron and get maximum flavour from it is to put some strands in a hot pan and dry fry them until the strands are crispy. Once they're completely dried out remove them from the pan, let them cool a bit and crush them to a powder in a mortar and pestle. Add this powder to hot water and use this saffron liquid in cooking. It adds amazing flavour and colour.

        1. re: lilmomma

          Again, like I said about truffles, may be my olfactic senses are shot, but I don't taste or smell anything special about saffron.

          1. re: lamaranthe

            In the small quantities that most of us can afford, saffron provides color more than anything else.

            1. re: paulj

              When I was in college (30+ years ago) I went to a potluck. A guy brought saffron rice made with saffron oil his mother had just brought back from India. Fell in love with that rice but have never been able to recreate it. Asked three or four friends to pick some up while in India...all have returned empty handed. Saffron rice made with saffron strands never has measured up. Sorry for all that :)!more than you wanted to know, however...if anyone knows where to find saffron oil please let me know.

              1. re: Tripper

                if anyone knows where to find saffron oil please let me know.
                your best bet is to make it yourself.

                from one of my favorite cookbooks, "A New Way To Cook" by Sally Schneider...

                In a small jar, crush 2 large pinches of saffron threads with the back of a spoon (you should have about 1 teaspoon crushed saffron). Stir in 2 teaspoons hot water. Let sit for 10 minutes.

                In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup each grapeseed and extra-virgin olive oil over low heat until hot. Pour over the saffron, cover, and shake the jar. Set aside to infuse for at least 24 hours before using.

              2. re: paulj

                Come on, if you can afford a computer, you can afford saffron.

                1. re: foodperestroika

                  I dunno about that...saffron is probably more expensive per ounce than a computer. ;)

          2. That atrocious Hazan sauce leapt to mind before I even clicked onto the title of your post. Another one is the Nigella Lawson clementine cake. After tasting the former, I altered it beyond recognition to make it palatable, and the latter went to the dogs. As for ingredients, I have a low threshhold for lime and chile, so the countless recipes that call for chile, lime, and mango (they even permeate the recipes on the New Scandinavian Cooking shoe) leave me sighing with boredom.

            3 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              Agree with this post 100% except with the latter I'll be revisiting it with an entirely different method since I love almonds and oranges. One more is the milk braised meats, which not one in my family cooks or cares for at all.

              1. re: lilgi

                Do tell about the alternate method since this is a gigantic fail for me (the clementine cake).

            2. re: Cilantro

              It is my understanding that it may be genetic. That is, that some people get the unmistakable taste of Soap when they have Cilantro. Personally, I like it.

              16 Replies
              1. re: DougRisk

                Ah, yes, this is true! It probably is genetic; my father can't tolerate it at all. I can handle a teeny tiny bit, but more than that, especially if it's not doused in a tomato-rich salsa, just RUINS food for me. That dirty, weird, metallic flavor and odor... blech.

                1. re: Jadore

                  my sister says cilantro tastes like poison on her me, it is green and lovely and oh so wonderful-please give me more-especially with tomatoes-rice-cheese-beans-avocado, etc. ...some folks just really cannot stand the flavor of it!

                  1. re: Val

                    I could graze my way through a field of it. I love cilantro and thank God I don't have the genetic trait that makes it taste awful, by the way is dill one of those? The smell of it makes me sick.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      Oh, I'm with you on dill. However, I like the smell of the growing plant (and it's a lovely plant), but do not like the taste of fresh dill. But I love dill pickles. Does that make any sense?

                      1. re: pine time

                        yes, because dill pickles are made with dill seed, not the herb

                        1. re: thew

                          I'm down with dill pickles too. Thanks, thew!

                          1. re: thew

                            Beg to differ, thew, the only time we had dill in the house was when my mom was making dill pickles. One or more fresh flowering heads went into each jar. No dill seed.

                            1. re: buttertart

                              i could be wrong, but thats what i was taught

                              1. re: thew

                                In my experience, dill seed gives a much more satisfying (IMO) dill flavor than dill weed in pickles; the "leaves" are pretty but don't add much to the flavor, as far as I can tell. I do like fresh dill in other applications, though.

                      1. re: Jadore

                        I never got the cilantro hate until I grew it myself in my garden. The cilantro I get from the grocery store has a fresh, awesome herbal bright flavor. The stuff from my garden tastes dirty, metallic and weird! I wonder what the difference is between the two.

                        1. re: nafrate

                          Growing cilantro in my garden was it's death knell. Before, I just wasn't fond of it. When I grew it, the smell overpowered my entire herb garden. It was awful. I yanked out all the plants mid season and actually thought a bit before I threw it on the compost pile.

                          When people describe cilantro as fresh, bright and clean, I hae no idea what they are talking about.

                          1. re: NanH

                            That's interesting. I had the opposite experience when I grew it in a garden. I didn't mind cilantro, but I was never very impressed with it until I grew some. I absolutely loved it and from that time on, it's been my favorite herb.

                            1. re: NanH

                              Could be the type of cilantro you had in your garden.

                            2. re: nafrate

                              Cilantro is actually good at absorbing metals; perhaps you have some unpleasant elements in your soil that the cilantro is sucking out? Should make the soil better for your other plants, at least.

                          2. re: DougRisk

                            Yep, this is true. I like it in small quantities, but my husband hates it. I only use it in recipes where you can add your own at the end of cooking.

                          3. Risotto and Aioli.

                            My examples are a little dated, but, around 2007, I could swear that you could have renamed Top Chef and Iron Chef America (both of them) to:

                            Risotto and Aioli.

                            It was as if every other dish was either a Risotto or had Aioli. What was especially funny about this was that as far as I could remember, not a single chef that ever prepared the Aioli did so in the traditional manner (with a mortar and pestle). I am not implying that you MUST use a mortar and pestle, but, to never see anyone use it...even when they had hours (on Top Chef) to prepare the thing, well...

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: DougRisk

                              But when aioli is made on TV with mortar and pestle (and just garlic as the emulsifier) stress is placed on how temperamental it is. I'm thinking from example of No Reservations on Provence. It does not sound like something that would wise to make on a competition show, even if you had the time.

                              1. re: paulj

                                Traditional Aioli almost always uses an egg (yolk) as an emulsifier, along with the garlic. Allioli, on the other hand, only uses garlic.

                                However, since I an a Descriptivist, I do not adhere to these rules.

                                1. re: DougRisk

                                  I wasn't aware of the aioli/allioli distinction. The words come from different languages (dialects), allioli from Catalan. It appears that Catalans take more pride in a no-egg version, but it isn't hard to find a no-egg Provence version. I assume one with egg, even if made in a mortar and pestle, wouldn't be as temperamental.

                                  I don't think the No Reservations example contained egg, but I could be wrong on that.


                                  Another TV example of garlic only emulsion was a Bittman episode. Jose Andres tricks Mark into making the allioli at an Catalan outdoor function. Took something like 20 minutes.
                                  When you hear it pronounced on TV it is easy to miss the distinction between aioli and allioli.

                              2. re: DougRisk

                                I've gotta completely agree with you on the risotto thing. Every time I've had it, even at places whose risottos are deemed "the best" or something of the like, it's always come across to me as heavy, salty glue. Yuck yuck yuck.

                                1. re: popvulture

                                  If it's "heavy" and/or "salty," it's poorly prepared. Rich? Definitely.

                                2. Chocolate that is so bitter it defeats the whole purpose of candy.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: blue room

                                    That's because chocolate shouldn't really be considered candy, it's a seed.

                                    It can be made into a confection (i.e. Hershey's chocolates), but it also has terrific uses as flavor ingredient (i.e. for baking), as a drink, or even for it's medicinal uses.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Yeah, should have said *chocolate candy bars* that are so bitter they defeat the whole purpose of candy.

                                      1. re: blue room

                                        Since I eat low carb, I eat dark chocolate in moderation. I have learned to like it. It isn't quite sweet enough for me, but because it is the only chocolate I allow myself, and even then I eat it sparingly, I have learned to enjoy it.

                                        Some of the dark chocolate is not only bitter but waxy. This in not enjoyable chocolate, I agree.

                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                        One tiny square of 90% pure dark chocolate will do miracles in a red wine sauce (like the one accompanying duck confit).

                                        1. re: lamaranthe

                                          I love high cocao dark chocolate. I can suck on 90% dark chocolate all day long while nursing some single malt scotch.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            I agree with you, ipse. Not that I nurse single malt all day :)