Originally Posted by foodpump
"Professionally written", to me, means:
1)Anyone in the kitchen should be able to make fairly accurate renditions of it
2) I should be able to scale the recipe up or down with nothing more than a cheap calculator and less than two minutes
3) most importantly, I should be able to calculate the food cost easily from the ingredient list and yield..
4)The recipe should follow haccp guidelines
What all of this means is that firstly all ingredients should be listed by weight, never, ever, ever! volume. Secondly, metric is easy enough for any child to grasp as there are no fractions or base units of16. This is where most cooks and bakers go astray, futzing around with fractions.
The recipe should be written in chronological order. No glossy glamour shots, no romantic asides of why this is a wonderful recipe
I disagree. What you're describing is "written for professionals," not "professionally written" which I read as "written by professionals." What I want is a recipe written by professionals who have sought in some way to ensure that the end-user can more or less replicate the dish. For example, your principles:
1. Can't be done. A recipe that the most thoroughgoing moron can replicate is necessarily extremely long and complicated, because everything has to be explained. I have a friend who quite literally cannot make Jell-O. You know why? Because she simply cannot stop and follow the recipe step by step, even if she thinks she's doing it. When her husband had a day off, the kids used to beg him to make Jell-O with them, because mom couldn't. Please note: this woman is also a double-PhD professor of physics, not an idiot.
2. Scaling? Seriously? Not everything scales directly. You'd have to include specific instructions on how to scale it --which is going to cause problems for the "can't make Jell-O" crowd.
3. If you can't do that, the recipe doesn't have a list of ingredients and quantities, which is a little peculiar. I get that you want mass and not volume, which is fine with me.
4. HACCP? So you want utterly colorless.
I get it, I really do. I'm the sort of person who hates anything that looks even dimly like advertising. But you're claiming that a serious recipe is one that is designed exclusively for the use of people working the line. That's just not so.
My principles (not all of which are going to be obvious until you've actually tried to execute the recipe):
- Quantities and ingredients should be specified clearly, including identifying those that you'll have to do by taste at the end
- Ideally, at any point where technique becomes peculiar or confusing to the beginner, include some description of what ought to be happening. Julia Child did this with pate a choux: she says at this point, it will look like a shiny yellow softball. Paul Prudhomme did this in some of his later cookbooks, telling you that if you taste the mixture at X point, it will be overly sweet, extremely spicy, undersalted, etc.
- Descriptive text and photos should be fairly understated, and should at least make a reasonable attempt to inform the reader of what's intended. The fact that your great-aunt Weezy used to make this is not important to me, but if you can keep such remarks to no more than 1/2 line I can live with them.
- Valuable descriptive text should be included: This recipe is essentially the Escoffier classic X, but I have made the following alterations, and I think it's an improvement for the modern American palate. Be sure to use truly fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes here, or much of what makes this recipe excellent will be lost. And so on.
- Historical and contextual information can certainly be valuable: this is a farmhouse classic of this region, apparently first described in around 1630 by an itinerant monk....
- Instructions should be subdivided into units, and each unit as well as the total set of units should be presented chronologically.
- If anything needs to be done to taste or feel -- and we all know that sometimes you just have to do things that way -- explain what the cook is supposed to be looking for. Rose Levy Beranbaum's bread recipes often say that you need to feel the dough, which should be slightly sticky/tacky but not actually stick to clean fingers, and she wants you to add water or flour at this point until you achieve this result.
- If there is a strong element of technique, and/or the recipe can fail disastrously at a given point, call this out and explicate. Jacques Pepin's discussions of more or less anything involving a mayonnaise or hollandaise are good examples: what to do when you've added the fat too fast and it breaks, etc.
- Unless there is reason to do otherwise, assume the reader is semi-competent in the kitchen: can make a few basic things without instructions, has some idea of what "season to taste" means for his or her family, but usually goes running for a cookbook or recipe every time anything is remotely complicated.
- Above all I want the recipe to have been tested -- especially insofar as it involves very high or low temperatures, technical tours, and so on -- in a home kitchen, preferably with the person doing the cooking not a seasoned professional. Prudhomme did this: his team built a basic home kitchen in a shed out back and they got one of the team who'd never worked in a restaurant (I think maybe she'd done some FOH) to execute every single one.
Off the cuff, I can think of very few recipes or cookbooks that adhere to these principles.
- Julia Child: almost everything she ever did
- Paul Prudhomme: Louisiana Kitchen, Fork In the Road
- Jacques Pepin: sort of, especially Essential Pepin
- Rose Levy Beranbaum: most of her "bible" cookbooks