Recently, there was an interesting article in The New York Times about recipe “deal breakers” — those instructions or ingredients or equipment requirements that make you walk away from a recipe or even a whole cookbook. This got me (and much of the rest of the food blogosphere) to thinking about what my recipe deal breakers were. Chew on That has a nice roundup of comments on this subject from various food blogs in the July Monthly Mouthful.
I mentally divide recipes into two categories: weeknight recipes and project recipes. A weeknight recipe has to meet a lot of stringent requirements:
- have 10 or fewer ingredients
- use ingredients that I have on hand or I can easily find or substitute for
- can be made in less than an hour (preferably 30 minutes) or in the slow cooker
- doesn’t have too many steps or a lot of fussy preparation
However, if a recipe breaks one of these rules but I still want to make it, I call it a “project” recipe and save it for the weekend, when I have more uninterrupted time in the kitchen. I generally wind up making only one project recipe a week. And surprisingly enough (or maybe it’s not so surprising), I usually end up enjoying the simpler weeknight recipes a lot more.
As for techniques that are deal breakers, I have only one: deep-frying. It’s messy, unhealthy, expensive (all that oil!), dangerous and we get enough fried foods on the outside. So I automatically nix any recipe that requires me to monitor the temperature of a pot of oil.
There aren’t many ingredients that are deal breakers for me, although I avoid many foods because of my family’s allergies or tastes or due to their expense. However, there are a few ingredients that I absolutely won’t bring into my kitchen. Internal organs, heads and feet of animals are right out (so I won’t be cooking through The French Laundry Cookbook anytime soon). I also have an aversion to cooking squid and octopus. I think it goes back to that time in science camp (yes, I am a total geek) when we had to dissect a squid and then cook it over a Bunsen burner and eat it. I’m not saying that experience scarred me for life — I actually like squid — but I just never felt the need to repeat it.
My only other deal breaker are recipes that rely on processed ingredients as “shortcuts,” such as canned soup, baking mix and the like.
What are your cooking deal breakers?