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Never let me down again...

Yesterday I made a roast chicken recipe from a fairly well-known and well-liked website (at least by CH standards - I see it mentioned often on this board). Alas, it was a lot of work and mess for not a lot of flavor. This was the second recipe I'd made from this site that flopped, big-time; the first was a waffle batter that was a little too funky. So now I think I need to "break up" with the website... as much as I love reading the author's postings and recipes, I don't think we are a good match for each other.

Anyone else have something similar happen to them? Any bookmarks get deleted, any cookbooks get tossed (or donated)? What's your rule for how long a cooking relationship can go badly before you break up?

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  1. If a recipe is awfully bad the first time, I don't make it again. My practice with individual foods is different though - if I don't like a new food or ingredient the first time, it gets tried at least once again. I rarely if ever follow recipes and mostly use them a ideas and tinker on my own in the kitchen. Though, this is an interesting question as I've been trying to ponder if I've had any flops. I'm no Julia Child or perhaps I'm just a glutton, but I can't think of any plate of food which was really a flop. Sometimes it's a "meh, that wasn't so great" but nothing I had to completely toss.

      1. Just to clarify - I'll toss (delete, cross out, etc.) an individual recipe if I don't like it the first time. I was referring here to the source of said recipes. If I make 2-3 different things from one cookbook or website, and I don't like any of them, then I tend not to try any more from that source.

        C. Hamster, originally I wasn't going to mention the website in question because I really do enjoy reading it, and thought it might be more of an "it's not you, it's me" situation. But - it's Smitten Kitchen. Perhaps I am not the only one who has not liked her recipes?

        9 Replies
        1. re: truman

          You're not the only one, I don't like her recipes either. I made a few, was disappointed, and figured she and I have different taste. I moved on and found other blogs that align with my tastes better.

          I don't think there is any one-size-fits-all when it comes to food ideas/ recipes- you just have to keep on keepin' on until you find the ones that suit you best.

          1. re: weezieduzzit

            I agree with this. I've made recipes from sites/magazines that are very popular and just had them turn out blah (Saveur, I'm looking at you). I have other sites that are my go-tos when I want to find something that I know I'll like.

          2. re: truman

            Oh I apologize I misunderstood. As I mentioned, I don't use recipes very often but more so ideas but even still this sort of applies to me but actually the opposite. I'm more likely to think of it as "oh, blah blah and such wrote this recipe so it's likely to be good" rather than to avoid particular recipes from particular writers. For example, anything by Ina Garten that's recommended, I usually will try at least once even if it seems like an odd dish to me.

            I have been semi inspired by a few Smitten Kitchen recipes but it always seems like something is missing as in there aren't enough ingredients or flavor build up happening .For example, I used her Shakshuka recipe as a starting point but I definitely added more aromatics and spices because her recipe just seemed too blah.

            1. re: truman

              Have never understood why this website has turned into an "it" thing. As I read those recipes, I just know that the results will not be to my taste.

              This is one of the many reasons I love the Cookbook of the Month group here on chowhound. Together we investigate books... I take them out of the library and only buy the keepers.

              So move on, and find places to gather recipes that are more to your taste.

              1. re: truman

                i've been happy with the baking recipes i've tried from her site. generally i don't rely o recipes for savory dishes, but "thumbing" through hers they don't seem like much, regardless of her breathless prose. feh.

                some of it may be "knowing" what you like? i see plenty of stuff on-line that doesn't appeal as well as LOTS of repeats of the same dish on 25 different blogs. it gets tiresome.

                  1. re: truman

                    I feel like every recipe on her site is something I've seen done elsewhere, nothing new. Her photos are always appetizing though.

                    1. re: kimeats

                      Not defending her or accusing her, but most of her recipes are tweaks of recipes she's seen elsewhere. I haven't gone to the site in awhile - I used to get alerts to new posts and then when they, inexplicably, stopped, I kind of forgot about it.

                      But, yeah, if you think you've seen the recipe elsewhere - you probably have!

                    2. re: truman

                      I'm the same! I enjoy her writing and she and her husband do an amazing job stylizing the photos, but far too often the recipes are anything from bad to meh when i do them. And lots of things that she does are way too fussy for me. I know she tries to simplify recipes often, but then she goes and puts a recipe on how to make homemade ice cream sandwiches or Goldfish. I know for a fact I will never have that much time on my hands. But, still, I like her. I just won't cook her recipes.

                    3. I also use the "two strikes" rule for cookbooks or single-author websites. But I've kept links to sites when the writing/story-telling is interesting, just make a point of not cooking with their recipes. For example, the sites that have tons of recipes for toddlers aren't ones I'll cook but I enjoy the sense of wonder these young moms capture.

                      1. I don't have any rule (or even guideline.) I just gravitate to places which don't let me down and I seem to pass the ones which leave me hanging.

                        Cooks Illustrated is a great example, I love their passion and learn from their articles but I find that taste by consensus is losses an edge. So I usually appropriate the skills/technique they share but not the recipe.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: hambone

                          Cooks Illustrated is a very interesting example. If you share their very specific opinion about how a certain dish should taste, you will likely enjoy that recipe. But if your opinion differs from theirs (OK, his), well...

                        2. I have this problem with Deborah Madison. I want to like her recipes, but they are blah. We made her "go-to" recipe the other night, and for the first time that I can ever remember, two bites in we were finished. We went and found something else to eat. It tasted like nothing.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: sandylc

                            For me, it's Mark Bittman -- I could use your exact wording: "I have this problem with Mark Bittman. I want to like his recipes, but they are blah. We made his "go-to" recipe the other night, and for the first time that I can ever remember, two bites in we were finished. We went and found something else to eat. It tasted like nothing."

                            1. re: drongo

                              Yes! Me, too, with Bittman. Except for a coconut pancake that we LOVE.

                            2. re: sandylc


                              A recipe like the DM carrot soup could easily be blah - if you don't spend a few minutes get the salt right. She does not specify a salt quantity.

                              I suspect under salting is a frequent problem when people move from recipes using lots of canned soups and sauces to vegetarian ones that start from scratch.

                              1. re: paulj

                                You are making a lot of assumptions, here, mister!

                                Not that I need to explain myself, but here goes...

                                I am an experienced (40+ years) scratch cook who hasn't even TASTED a canned soup in decades. I know all about salt and how to use it; in fact, my pantry contains no less than six kinds of it.

                                So there. ;-P

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  True, I was speculating. But then you didn't give us much information to go by. 'blah' does not give me much useful information about Madison's recipes.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    leaving aside the salt, the first thing i noticed in that recipe is no acid.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Neither does this Modernist Cuisine carrot soup
                                      They put a lot of effort in adding flavor by caramelizing - they use both that term and Maillard reaction.

                                      But yes, acid is one way of adding flavor to a soup like this.

                                      Segment on The Splendid Table on (professional) recipe testers

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        the epi recipe doesn't employ maillard. frankly it looks like a recipe for baby food.

                            3. i haven't made a ton of recipes from Smitten Kitchen, but the ones i've tried have all pleased. i don't think i stick any one website for food ideas/recipes. i normally do a search for a particular dish and whichever site comes up that seems the best suited to my tastes, my abilities, my level of ambition at th moment, my budget, and my cupboards is the one i go with. if i liked it, i'll go back and try others from the same site.

                              1. I've had this problem with every recipe I've ever tried to make from Heidi Swanson. Either from the 101 cookbooks site or from her cookbook itself.

                                Every single thing has been a bland disappointment. Probably just me though as her site/book seems very popular so I keep trying recipes and keep getting disappointed. Maybe I'm recipe sadistic.

                                1. Do you mean the Fannie Farmer waffles and the Zuni Café chicken?

                                  1. Thanks to those who have had similar experiences with SK recipes - it makes me feel better that I am not the only one! For all other recipe sources, I've had either all positive experiences or hit-or-miss. This is the only book or site that has been so overwhelmingly negative.

                                    BangorDin: The two recipes were "Slow-And-Low Dry Rub Oven Chicken" and "Essential Raised Waffles" (yes, originally from Fannie Farmer). Both of these sounded great, but were anything but.

                                    smtucker: thanks for the suggestion of the COTM thread!

                                    1. Does anyone try to figure out why the recipe failed, versus just throwing it and/or the book/website out the window?

                                      For example if the dish turns out to be 'blah', did you add salt and pepper to taste? Or maybe some hot sauce (if you are a chile head)?

                                      If the recipe is online, do you scan the comments? If there is a real problem (e.g. use of Tbls where it should read tsp) the comments are likely reveal this. Comments may also show what substitutions work and which are way off base ('I used soy silk in the creamed spinach and ended up with a weird vanilla taste!').

                                      1. I have given Martha Stewart WAY too long, and I think it's time to end the relationship. I get a free subscription and the recipes always *look* great, but the end product is nearly always mediocre and never worth the trouble. Why haven't I broken up with her yet??? Because her magazine is so pretty! Enough already. I am done.*

                                        *If it's relevant, in my 20s I also wasted time on romantic relationships that were nearly always mediocre and never worth the trouble!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: sweetpotater

                                          I agree about Martha. She has an enormous wealth of ideas and everything she produces is so beautiful. But, her recipes are generally underwhelming. It's good to get ideas from her and then look elsewhere for actual recipes.

                                        2. A lot of people on this site cook so much and want to push envelope so much that they start recommend recipes that are a little out there for us "average bears". When I am looking for a recipe, I look up several recipes of the same thing and take what sounds good to me.

                                          A roasted chicken is wonderful but if your not use to a lot of flavors in one and you start following a recipe that tells you to stuff the cavity with sour oranges and put rosemary infused butter under the skin, you are going to get a lot more flavor than you may be used to.

                                          1. I haven't tried the chicken recipe, but we really liked the waffles.