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a rant about some recipes

I was leafing through a spice catalog I received (from a company that shall remain nameless). There was a recipe for chicken skewers with sauce.

The recipe includes these ingredients (exact quote):

3 T soy sauce (we used reduced sodium)
1/2 C hoisin sauce (...lower sodium if you can find it)
1/4 t powdered ginger

I have 2 observations about these ingredients:

1. This recipe produces 12 skewers. So how much sodium per serving does the recipe creator think will be saved?

2. Only 1/4 t ginger? What is the recipe creator afraid of, that people will actually get a taste or hint of ginger?

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  1. I find that I can dismiss 60% or so of the recipes I run across in popular media based on the ingredients or techniques therein. The other day I was at work leafing through a magazine while waiting for the coffee machine to finish up. Mag was some home cooking thing I'd never seen before. There was an article about eggs for breakfast, scrambled, poached, etc. When I saw that they recommended making sunny side up eggs in a non-stick pan, I tossed the thing aside.

    That's why Chowhound is such a great resource, eh?

    I've never noticed low sodium Hoisin sauce.

    19 Replies
    1. re: tcamp

      tcamp:

      1. I, too, have never noticed low-sodium hoisin.

      2. You're absolutely right about recipes in many mass media. The writers of those recipes, aside from often being ignorant about basic food principles ("boil water till sugar dissolves"??? C'mon!), seem to me to be afraid that readers will object to robust tastes--and as well, will be too stupid to understand "if you think 1/2 tsp of herb X is too much, use 1/4 tsp!"

      1. re: Howard_2

        Conversely, maybe they think if someone believes a 1/4 tsp is not enough they will be smart enough to use 1/2 tsp.

        With many strong spices and herbs I like the flavor to be subtle. If I think it could have perhaps used just a pinch more I feel like I've hit it perfectly. Too often that pinch more is too much.

        1. re: Howard_2

          I once worked on a cookbook by a magazine publisher very well known for their cookbooks. One of their rules was that no recipe could continue on to an overleaf page (not necessarily a bad thing). In order to accomplish that, they would first try to edit the instructions to lose a few lines of copy. If that wasn't sufficient, they would start deleting ingredients, beginning most often with garlic then going on to pepper and sometimes even salt. I never make a recipe now from any of their books without first taking a hard look at the seasonings to see what I think might possibly have been deleted just to make the copy fit.

          1. re: JoanN

            That is awful! While I like that rule of not being on over leaf in general, there has got to be another better way to size and layout a copy. Just appalling.

        2. re: tcamp

          There are definitely recipes for the home cooks, and those for hobbyists. Things have to be tame, lame or stupid in order for a pro-microwaver to make it. Just sayin'.

          1. re: tcamp

            Wait, why not make sunny-side up eggs in a non-stick pan? What am I missing here? I always do that - eggs stick like crazy to stainless steel, and the egg would be shredded in trying to remove it. I'd love to use a well-seasoned cast iron pan instead but don't have one (yet).

            1. re: monopod

              I had the same reaction. I have a cheap nonstick that I use for fried eggs, almost to the point of exclusivity, though it's good for... no, I use it for eggs only.

              1. re: monopod

                The absolute best fried eggs I've ever eaten were in Barcelona where my friend's grandma made them in a stainless (I think) skillet absolutely swimming in olive oil and served alongside sliced potatoes cooked in the same olive oil bath in the same skillet. Salt, pepper, and a dash of paprika or hot pepper (I never figured out what exactly).

                Sadly, I can't eat like that every day.

              2. re: tcamp

                Why wouldn't you make sunnyside eggs in a non-stick pan?

                1. re: sueatmo

                  I love the way they turn out in CI. Crispy around the edges, not overcooked on top.

                  But if it works for you, that is great. I use the non-stick for scrambled - can't quite manage that in my CI.

                  1. re: tcamp

                    Oh, I hate crispy edges on fried eggs.

                    Are there other things based upon your personal preference which would render an entire cookbook or magazine? The use of "butter or margarine" for instance?

                2. re: tcamp

                  "When I saw that they recommended making sunny side up eggs in a non-stick pan, I tossed the thing aside. "

                  Tcamp;

                  Frying an egg in any other pan would require more skill. Why would you begrudge a recipe for giving instructions that require the least skill?

                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                    Skill? Hell, how about "arm strength"? Sometimes I opt for my calphalon "everyday pan" over my cast iron just for the fact that it doesn't weigh 15lbs. ;)

                    1. re: shanagain

                      I think I will start a thread on the advantages and disadvantages of using a cast iron skillet. It's probably time that got argued out.

                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                        Ha! and LOL.

                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          I don't think that point can ever be decided using rational methods of discourse. Sort of like true believer versus atheist - there is no convincing the other camp.

                      2. re: Hank Hanover

                        Never mind those people who are supposed to use less fat. You do use less fat in a non stick, or you should.

                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          Not begrudge, just discount for my own purposes. Others are welcome to use those recipes but after a half century on the planet, I often know at a glance what just won't work for me. Not just in food matters: Events that start at midnight are not for me; white slacks are not for me; no matter how cute they might seem, kittens are not for me.

                          1. re: tcamp

                            Loved your response. Well, after x number of years, we must concentrate on what DOES work...that list is much shorter.

                      3. Another thing that strikes me is the use of ginger POWDER. It should be fresh ginger.

                        ETA: Sorry - I had forgotten this recipe was in a spice catalogue. No wonder...

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: chefathome

                          I'm sure that recipe came from the Penzey's catalog. They sell powdered ginger, not fresh. Their business is to promote the use of their products. Experienced cooks will already know how to use most herbs and spices. Novices or people unfamiliar with a specific spice will need its use spelled out for them. We were all there once.

                          I could certainly knock a general interest magazine for printing erroneous information, but I can hardly fault a vendor for promoting their own products.

                          1. re: rockycat

                            I know - that is what I meant when I edited my comment. It is true - we were all there once and I certainly do not knock a vendor for promoting a product!

                            1. re: rockycat

                              In defense of Penzey's, if that's indeed where the recipe came from, some of their recipes are very, very good. One of my all-time favorites is a curried chicken salad that friends insist I bring every summer to an outdoor music festival picnic.

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4232...

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Just checked out your curried chicken salad recipe...thanks for sharing (again). Definately sounds good. Just did a C&P (cut & paste) & will try it this week!!

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  I have made their sticky chicken wing recipe maybe 50 times. Delicious!!

                                2. re: rockycat

                                  Also, aren't the recipes in the Penzeys catalog all reader submissions? Does Penzeys even test them? While some have looked appealing--I think I made cookies from one catalog--most haven't really turned me on.

                                  But, yes, they are certainly going to push their own products.

                                  1. re: tcamp

                                    That may be true now; haven't really paid attention recently. But it definitely wasn't true at the beginning when they first started publishing recipes in the catalog. And I can't imagine that they wouldn't at least test recipes submitted by readers. It just wouldn't be worth the hit their reputation could take.

                                    1. re: tcamp

                                      Some of them seem to be their own. Early on I considered all the recipes too heavy in fats and carbs. Portions were really generous too. The submissions by home cooks are interesting but still come in as unhealthy to me.

                                  2. re: chefathome

                                    These posts are all extremely interestg.

                                    It seems to me that the bottom line is, a cook has to be extremely careful--and/or thought-ful--when making a recipe, esp. if it comes from the (really) MASS media, but also if it comes from a cookbook.

                                    And wasn't there some sort of scandal a few years ago abouta cookbook by some celeb or celebrated author, that was shown not to have tested, recipe by recipe?

                                    1. re: Howard_2

                                      "extremely careful--and/or thought-ful".

                                      That's probably not bad advice for many things in life. On the other hand, cooking mistakes have a pretty low risk to reward factor. The recipe in the original post would cost what; $5 to make? If it was not edible you could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for supper. If it didn't have enough ginger to suit you simply add a little bit more next time you make it.

                                      It's surprising to me how much some folks get worked up over what is to me simply minutia. I don't think that cooking is the exact science that some would like it to be.

                                      1. re: Howard_2

                                        In the movie, Julie & Julia, there's a scene with Julia (and her co-author, IIRC), encountering Irma Rombauer (author of Joy of Cooking). Julia makes some comment about how long it must have taken Irma to make all those recipes. Irma laughs it off and reveals that it's commonplace for cookbook authors not to ever actually make and test their own recipes.

                                        I don't know how commonplace it really is, but I did once win first prize in a local supermarket contest (for recipes using frozen items) with a recipe for a soup that I thought up but never made. I doubt that the supermarket made it, either. To some extent, if you have enough kitchen experience, you know how a recipe will turn out. The folks who run recipe contests narrow down the submissions by reading the recipes. If any of them are actually made, they are the finalists arrived at by reading.

                                    2. Fear of Spice: don't let it happen to you!!!

                                      This reminded me of a time when I supervised a hospital kitchen. (insert joke here). It was the advent of computerized, standardized recipes, and they had to be in metric. One of our mystery-meat, tomato-saucy recipes (300 portions worth!) asked for 10 ml of black pepper.

                                      We had a good giggle, then changed the recipe.

                                      1. What irks me is a recipe calling for 1/4 teaspoon of 10 different spices...yeah right! Wouldn't it be much better to just buy a bottle of Italian seasoning or whatever? No, they won't tell you that...I think that long list is only to fill up space in the cookbook.

                                        I don't know about you, but all those cookbooks being churned out by the dozens are so boring...much better to find it right here on Chowhound....these folks are not boring at all!!!