How I Research Recipes
One of the questions I get more than any other about Macheesmo is where I find the recipes I use. And it’s a pretty good question. I mean, it’s not like I am a chef or anything. And while I alter a lot of the recipes I get for Macheesmo, it would be seriously stupid for me to sit around in my kitchen for a week trying to figure out how to make, say, a pretzel when there are more than enough resources to at least use as a baseline.
In this post I’ll walk you through the basic process I use when I’m looking for a recipe that I haven’t used before.
Narrowing the field
When researching a recipe I usually start by making sure that I can narrow down what I’m looking for as much as possible. This may sound like a given, but I’ve caught myself a few times saying things like, “I want to make enchiladas.” Ok. Good luck Nick sifting through the 2 million enchilada results that I’m going to find.
But if I say beef enchiladas. In a red sauce. With corn tortillas. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Hitting the books
I’m starting to amass a pretty sizeable cookbook library and it’s the first place I go to look for a recipe. I have this vague sense that recipes in cookbooks are slightly more reliable than those online. I’m not sure that this is actually a justifiable position because I’ve used recipes from books before that I swear the author must have never made due to their complete suck-factor. I’ve also seen bloggers struggle with recipes 5 or 6 times before posting them. So it is a mixed bag.
But given any 1 random recipe online and 1 random printed recipe, I’ll take the printed recipe.
Of course the problem with books is that you get what you get. You can’t go back to the table of contents and request a new version on page 200 with peaches instead of apples (although that would be awesome). This means that you either have to make the recipe as is or venture into the world of recipe changes, which can sometimes go horribly awry. This is especially true with baking recipes in my experience.
So after pillaging what I can from the books, I turn to what Betsy frequently describes as “The Other Woman”:
The thing about the Internet when it comes to recipes is that you are looking for a very specific thing. Something like a crystal clear raindrop. In the middle of a tidal wave. With a lot of other raindrops that look just like yours but taste like doo-doo. See what I’m saying?
First, let me tell you how to easily eliminate a lot of the bad stuff:
Avoid the Google. Yea. You read that write. I’m not saying that I don’t use google to find recipes, but honestly it’s one of the last places I check if I just can’t find much. And this goes for all large search engines, not just Google. The results just don’t always guarantee quality stuff and there are better tools to use.
Avoid Community Food Sites. Again, I go to sites like allrecipes.com and recipezaar.com occasionally, but I never start there and very rarely just lift a recipe from these sites. The problem is that these sites tend to have a lot of bad/untested recipes and it is kind of hard to see who is posting quality stuff and who is not unless you invest serious time in the community. That’s awesome if you want to do that, but for just finding a quick recipe, they can sometimes lead you astray.
Yes. I realize that I may have just dissed the way that many people, in fact, found this site (Google) and dissed some of the largest recipe sharing sites on the Internet. What I mean to get across is that I never start in these places. So where do I start?
Food Blog Search. This is a really cool custom Google search that a few dedicated food bloggers created. The cool thing about this is that the creators have to add in each site individually before it gets indexed by the search. That means that the results tend to be from really high quality blogs and sites. I start a lot of searches here.
Internet Friends. I have an ever growing list of food blogs that I trust and read frequently (most are on my sidebar). If I’m searching for something and any one of these sites pops up, I almost always default to it over a random site.
Food Porn Sites. I visit sites like Foodgawker, Tastespotting, and some new sites on the scene pretty much daily. These sites are easy to search and have pretty dependable recipes. At the worst, you’ll get to see some good photography!
If none of those things turn up any results then I usually check with Daddy Google and if there are absolutely no results there than I make the dish immediately because I guess I’m the first one to think of it… or it’s the worst idea ever.
The real power with all of this is when you can start synthesizing recipes – sticking stuff together. Sticking with the enchilada example, I might get the filling portion of the recipe from a cookbook, the sauce from a quick food blog search, and the method from a favorite website. Slap them all together and now I have something fairly new!
So what did I miss? Where do you go to find your recipes?
Photo by mbgrigby.