Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Trouble With Foodie Magazines

Bon Appetit?

I'll admit I subscribe to this magazine, but I can never bring myself to replicate any of their recipes because they are either impossibly time consuming, require extremely hard to find or expensive ingredients, or a combination of them all.
I scanned some of the recipes in the latest issue, and I swear every one of them requires at least one ingredient I don't have or don't want to hassle with finding.
Here are some examples:
1. Fried chicken & biscuits with pink peppercorn honey butter
Sounds easy, but they want you to stock buttermilk, pink peppercorns and clover honey. Cooking should not first require a scavenger hunt.
2. Bloody Mary
Unbelievably, for a simple cocktail they expect you to gather fresh plum tomatoes, a carrot, a golden beet, a fennel bulb, celery seeds, fresh grated horseradish, Sriacha (Asian hot sauce), a cup of Guinness, and for garnishing, pickled okra or green beans.
And a golden beet? Really?
Here's a great Bloody Mary recipe: Some good tomato juice, some good vodka and maybe some salt and pepper. Add whatever else you have around that sounds good. And ice.

I could list a lot more ridiculous recipes from Bon Appetit but the point is, unless you live in a large city with boutique-style comestible markets and have an unlimited grocery budget, Bon Appetit seems to be making things more difficult than they need to be just to be snooty.

I mean come on...

How many of these items are in your pantry or refrigerator?

Ras-el-Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend)
Fresh thyme
Brown turkey figs
Argan oil (from the nut of an Argan tree)
Pepper cress or watercress
Lemon thyme
Whole vanilla beans
Miniature red and yellow bell peppers
Preserved lemons
Lamb shoulder
Fennel pollen
Lemon grass broth
All of these ingredients are listed in recipes within the first half of the magazine.

I think good cooking requires good ingredients. They can be very simple and still be delicious.
A potato, some unsalted butter, a little kosher salt and ground pepper is not complicated but it's sublime.
A loaf of rye, a pound of corned beef and Swiss, a can or jar of good sauerkraut, and a little mustard or Russian dressing can make a mess of perfect Reuben sandwiches.

So what I think I'll do soon is take a great sounding recipe from Bon Appetit, deconstruct it and replace all the silly, scavenger hunt ingredients with just regular stuff you can find at any decent grocery store. Yes?


  1. I am so bored with fennel pollen... shall I send you my remainder box of it?

    *sigh* I can't stand stupid ingredient requests.

  2. Longtime PulpFriction lurker here. God damn I love a good Reuben. As a chef at the CIA said, "A recipe is a guideline . . . " so feel free to sub as your taste desires. As soon as I read a recipe my devious little brain starts to look for options. Your zucchini shooters were killer.

  3. Brown Turkey figs? Hell, have at least a dozen on the counter. Fennel pollen? Hmm, check the garden.
    Pretentious, yes. Inaccessible, yes. Gourmet is worse.Thanks for the ribs recipe.

  4. I could make a meal of turkey figs.
    I like them sliced, with olive oil spread on sliced baguette, with a little gorgonzola on top and broiled till it's bubbly.
    And I love to use them with pork tenderloin, as a glaze or stuffing.

  5. I was being facetious...all I have are the good old california figs from the tree....and the shrimp/cappellini recipe is yummmm

  6. Good old California figs are just fine for cooking. Here, all fig varieties go for at least $5 a pound. That's why I always try to pop one in my mouth when I'm out shopping.