Have you ever come across a recipe with an ingredient you didn't recognize?
With the Internet at our fingertips, the answer is only a few clicks away. Although, it would depend on how obscure the ingredient is.
One of my pet peeves is when I come across a recipe that doesn't lend itself to the average home chef.
I understand that chefs write these recipes to fill the
niche in the market of people wanting to expand their culinary horizons.
But recipes should be meant to inspire the average home chef by providing descriptions or alternative ingredients.
As a recipe-writer myself, I want to make sure that my recipes are approachable by people of all levels of culinary skills.
For example, I came across a recipe in a magazine with "haricot vert" listed as an ingredient. Because of my experience as a chef, and since I know a bit of French, I realize that these are green beans.
The first time I saw "haricot vert" listed as an ingredient, years ago, I thought, "How pompous! Why don't they just list these as green beans?"
But haricot vert are French green beans: longer and thinner than the North American counterpart with which we are all familiar. I have never seen haricot vert at my local grocery store, or even at specialty produce markets where I live.
I have seen, however, green beans that were very thin and long, but still labeled as "green beans" on the bin. Were they actually green beans, or haricot vert?
I don't think the problem lies with the markets, but with recipe creators. The one writing the recipe should include an explanation of any ingredient that may not be recognizable by the average person, and in this case, maybe suggest substituting North American green beans.
Sometimes it's marketing: a recipe may sound more gourmet if the title includes "bisque" instead of soup, "demiglaze" instead of gravy, or even "haricot vert almon-dine" instead of green beans with almonds.
Making the ingredient list or instructions easy to understand, if anything, would make the recipe more approachable and more people would make it.
And if the recipe was any good, they would share it with others. Passing the culinary success of a chef's recipe onto others is never a bad thing.
I focused on haricot vert because it is something easily substituted. More obscure ingredients include: sweetbreads (animal glands), foie gras (duck or goose liver), or veal cheeks (self explanatory, but not of the gluteus maximus variety).
Let's get back to basics and just make recipes and food that tastes good.
We needn't stick with meatloaf, chicken breasts, and macaroni and cheese. We chefs and recipe creators should have it in our vision to include people of all culinary skill levels in the process of our recipe-writing, to make it easier for everyone to delve further into the culinary arts.
Lastly, I feel compelled to mention that this is just my opinion, and opinions are like armpits - everybody has them.
Now, excuse me as I am off to make some "Macaroni au Fromage" for my children.
Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to email@example.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4