Saturday, December 12, 2009

When cookbooks lead you astray

Recently I tried the Baked Chicken, Lemon and Pea Risotto recipe from Donna Hay's "Off the Shelf."

I'm always looking for recipes I can make when I get home from work that don't require too much from me. Ours isn't a household that shares the cooking: it's just me or the lovely folks over at Mina's Thai restaurant. The spouse can make a box of mac and cheese and he does so quite willingly, but, well, you know. It's not exactly cooking (sorry sweetie... I love don't cook.)

The Donna Hay caught my eye because:

  • It had gorgeous photos of all the dishes 
  • They seemed easy enough.

So on to the risotto tale. It was excellent. The leek and lemon flavors blended really nicely with the moist chunks of chicken. Also, anything I can dump in chicken stock, rice and add heat to and it tastes good? Well, I'm in. And it made a LOT of food. Which is essential in our house where the above spouse can fill his lanky frame to the brim with massive quantities of food.

The rice never got soft and risotto-y. It was al dente at best. I followed the directions. I didn't add anything or even cut a corner. And yet? Not really what Hay was suggesting it would be. We ate it. It wasn't horrible. Just resulted in us looking at each other garbling, "Crunchy!" while we munched.

Which reminds me of another cookbook-astray-leading... the Barefoot Contessa. Ina! You brilliant bitch! That turkey meatloaf recipe is divine. But it appears that you created a recipe to serve an entire army of hungry spouses rather than just the one.

Having never cooked much with ground turkey, I thought, "huh, that's a LOT of turkey in there--maybe it shrinks or something." Even the spouse was surprised at the size of the giant raw loaf going into the oven.

Ground turkey doesn't shrink.

It's just a ginormous meat loaf recipe. We had leftovers for nearly two weeks. It was the loaf that just wouldn't die. And no one wants to eat that much turkey meat loaf. Seriously.

It's hard to write a recipe that is easy to follow, easy to recreate, and that will be the right amount in your readers' expectations.

What's is easy? Selling me a book with gorgeous pictures of food. At least they've got that down!

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