Cookbook Sins

By / Food / March 1st, 2011 / 1

If there’s one thing that absolutely drives me up the wall (ok, there are a few things), it’s when cookbook recipes don’t work. I know there are always one or two in an entire cookbook that, for whatever reason, just don’t translate well into reality. I get that. Then there are those that, according to the description, sound like they will set off fireworks in your mouth, but don’t. No, I’m talking about when you follow the recipe exactly and it still turns out tasting and looking terrible. If you’re like me, you’ll wonder what you did wrong. You’ll carefully go over all of the ingredients and directions until you come to the clear and stunning realization that you did absolutely nothing wrong.

I admit. Sometimes a recipe’s failure is entirely my fault. Yes, I can be distracted and leave the milk boiling in the pot until it overflows. And I can substitute the ingredients of a dish into oblivion. I can even ignore the cookbook author’s tips until the dish becomes a sad shadow of itself. My stellar, creative escapades with food have, at times, been awe-inspiring (full sarcasm here, folks). But, this time I am not to blame. Knowing that I’ve had problems with recipes in this particular cookbook before, I purposely paid super close attention to the details. All distractions tuned out, I followed the recipe exactly. Yet, it still completely unravelled before my disbelieving eyes.

I was trying to make an interesting looking chicken cacciatore recipe. Not hard at all, right? But, this recipe was different. Chicken cacciatore usually calls for mushrooms. This one called for a whole lot of anchovies. I see you cringing. Seriously though, this could be a really interesting dish. I cut up a whole chicken as per the recipe. I marinated, then browned the pieces. I assembled the rest of the ingredients and added them as prescribed. Into the 350°F oven went my pot of chicken cacciatore. An hour and a half later (according to the directions), out came my soupy, overcooked meal. Not happy.

You’re wondering, no doubt, if I’ve ever cooked chicken before. A few times, yes. Then, I should know that chicken pieces will turn to sawdust and six cups of liquid in a covered pot will never reduce properly after that amount of time and temperature. Call it a crazy quirk, but I like to follow recipes as written the first time I make them — unless there’s clearly something seriously wrong with it somewhere. Bingo. The problem, I’m guessing, is that these recipes were not properly tested. This cookbook is toast. On to the next ….


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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