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Sandra Levine

Recipe modifications

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"There isn’t one recipe, with the exception of a Julia Child recipe, that we haven’t modified in some way for our readers, no matter how slight."

Could you elaborate on the specific ways you may modify a recipe for your readers?  I am particularly interested in adaptations of dishes made and served in restaurants.

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The first way we modify is to fit our "style." That is, we don't number steps, we write in complete sentences, we don't abbreviate (we spell out tablespoons, cups, etc.). We introduce an action with an action, i.e. "Using a wooden spoon or a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, stir...." with the hope that we are thinking as the recipe maker is thinking: "Oh, let me get out the spoon or the mixer before I begin this process."

Renee Schettler, assistant editor, is a genius at fitting many kinds of recipes to our editorial "style."

Then comes Bad Recipes: recipes that list ingredients then omit them from the instructions: Hmmmmmmm: wonder what I'm supposed to do with this 3 tablespoons of minced jalapenos?

Or minimalist recipes: "enclose ingredients in rice paper." Hmmmm.... would that be DRY rice paper. moistened, covered with a damp towel...."

Or insider recipes. "Make a bearnaise sauce." Okay!

About restaurant recipes: we often get requests from readers for us to obtain a special recipe from a restaurant or chef. This, believe me, is not as easy as it sounds. First, there's the chef and his creativity and ingenuity, which is not easily codified. Then there's the fact that restaurants make food in larger quantities than does the home cook. Or, at least, restaurants are used to portioning off either their work or their ingredients into a sort of Serves 4 category. By noon they've made a vat of delicious chicken stock, they've trimmed 15 celery roots, etc.

Also, chefs often think of recipes in proportions: one part butter, to three parts flour to two parts milk.  Okay, let's break that down.

But of all the reasons that recipes get killed, never see the light of day, the most common is: they don't taste that great. And they're not worth all that work and expense.

There's this whole new genre of cookbooks coming out of Australia that LOOK GREAT. Big color pictures of almost every dish. Very simple instructions across from the pictures.... except, you have to be Dionne Warwick to figure out what it is exactly that they want you to do!

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