How To: Read a Recipe
When you write a book, you always hope it’s 100% perfect. It’s rarely the case however; there may be a misspelled word or, unfortunately, a missing ingredient. Such is the case with the early printing of Endless Summer: 54 Quick and Creative Ice Cream and Dessert Recipes, published by Zoku LLC and the manufacturer of the Zoku Ice Cream Maker. I recently received an email concerning the Pumpkin Pie ice cream recipe asking at what point does the pumpkin go into the mix. The answer is with the vanilla extract after the custard has chilled. The publisher in subsequent printings has corrected the error. This lead me to think it would be helpful to offer some advice on how to read a recipe.
For those of you who find this error in your book, the recipe is on page 40 and the final paragraph indicates chilling the custard for 30 minutes. The next sentence, which omits the pumpkin, should read: “Stir in the pumpkin and the vanilla extract….”
It occurred to me that not every cookbook author might be as easily found as I was and that perhaps a little information on how recipes are written may help you intuit a missing ingredient or instruction. Following are the nuts and bolts of how to read a recipe.
Ingredients are always listed in order of use. In a simple recipe using all the ingredients at once, these start with the largest ingredient and continue to the smallest. The method should reiterate these ingredients again to make it clear what is being used.
In a more complicated recipe where ingredients are incorporated at different steps throughout the method, each step should list the ingredients being used with the largest ingredient first down to the smallest, and list the remaining ingredients the same way for each subsequent step in the method.
For example, here is my Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic Recipe.
40 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole roasting chicken cut into eight pieces
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup cognac
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced thyme
The method of incorporating the ingredients, follows the order of the ingredients listed above and each individual ingredient should be listed again and in the same order as the ingredient list. A recipe written as “combine all the ingredients” can lead to a mishap if an ingredient is missing.
The most common way to present the directions is in numbered or separate paragraphs for each step. This should help you intuit where the missing ingredient should be added based on its placement in the ingredient list.
Should the ingredient be missing from the “Ingredient List,” you will have to guess the quantity to use. Having the ingredients listed by size within order of use, should give you a fair indication of the amount needed.
Spread the garlic over the bottom of a roasting pan and lay the thyme sprigs across the top of the garlic.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat.
Season the chicken, both sides, with the salt and pepper.
Sear the chicken for three minutes, skin slide down. Don’t crowd the pan, sear in batches as needed.
Turn and cook for one minute more.
Lay the seared chicken on top of the garlic and thyme in the roasting pan.
Add the cognac and wine to the frying pan, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan by scrapping the fond with a wooden spoon. Reduce the liquid to one-quarter cup.
Stir in the chicken stock and lemon zest and bring to a boil.
Pour the sauce over the chicken.
Note: The chicken can be made ahead to this point. Cover and refrigerate. Take out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before roasting.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or a little longer if refrigerated. The chicken is done when the internal temperature registers 175ºF on a meat thermometer.
Remove the chicken to a warm platter and boil the sauce to reduce it for about five minutes.
Discard the thyme sprigs, whisk the lemon juice, minced thyme and butter into the sauce. At this point, you can leave the sauce as it, mash the garlic with the back of a fork or blend to a puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender.
Pour the sauce over the chicken or serve on the side.