Sunday, May 13, 2007

Helpful Hints: choreograph your recipes

I was reading a recipe for roast chicken, which is an unfamiliar process to me because I'm vegetarian. I don't think I could follow the recipe as it stands. For every step, I found myself asking "In what? With what? Until when?"

For example, "Combine butter, lemon rind and lemon juice." In what? A bowl? How big of a bowl? With what? A spoon? A whisk? How do I know when I'm done combining them?

"Rub chicken with the butter." How, exactly? With my hands? Does it have to soak in like moisturizer, or just cover the chicken? Should all the butter end up on the chicken, or do I just coat the chicken with however much butter it takes?

"Roast the chicken with the garlic and shallots for 1 hour, 15 to 30 minutes or until juices run clear." Where, exactly, are these juices? Do I have to take the pan out of the oven to see them? How clear? Transparent but coloured? Clear like water?

"Place pan over high heat and add lemon juice and sugar. Bring to boil and boil for 1 minute or until sugar starts to turn brown. Immediately add the stock, scraping up any bits on base of pan and bring to boil. Add in any chicken juices from carving board and boil until reduced by half. Remove from heat and whisk in butter." So do I mix in the lemon juice and sugar or just put them in the pan? If I do mix them in, with what? What do I use to scrape the bits on the base of the pan? Am I to remove the bits, or just not let them stick to the pan? Apparently I'm supposed to be using a whisk for the butter, so what am I supposed to use for the rest of this step?

Maybe these things are apparent to someone who is familiar with roasting a chicken, but I seriously have no idea. And I'll never be able to learn unless people write their recipes better.

So if you're ever writing a recipe, remember: in what, with what, until when. For each step.


L-girl said...

Some recipe writers are definitely better than others for this. I guess some cookbooks and recipes are really not meant for beginners.

L-girl said...

I was just looking something up and thought of this post.

This site, tends to explain things in great detail, assuming very little prior knowledge on the part of the reader. I really appreciate that.

I know your chicken-roasting example was theoretical, since you don't eat chicken, but this is what came up when I searched for "roast a chicken" at eHow.