Sunday, November 23, 2008

Test Kitchen Tales

I became a recipe developer by accident, and not by design. I posted some of my favorite recipes online and not long after I was contacted by various companies and publishers to help create recipes for them as well. It's been wonderful to do something I love and make a living at it.
test kitchen

My process is the same as it always was, I am inspired by any number of things, it could be the season, an ingredient, a place, even a memory. I do lots of research, reading recipes in cookbooks, on blogs, magazines, and even asking friends and family for help. I create an outline of what I intend to do and take it into the kitchen. I cook and take notes and then I taste. I also have an official taste tester, Lee. Between the two of us we discuss and dissect and I tweak the recipe to get it to the point that I am satisfied.

While in New York last month I got to spend some time with recipe developers at Saveur, Everday Food and Gourmet. I saw their kitchens, tasted their food and chatted with them about how they get the job done. Some of the kitchens were large, some were small. All had cookbook shelves and counters for notetaking. Their process involved more group critiques than mine and I learned Gourmet recipes can take a month and a half to create! I have never gotten as much as a week per recipe from any of my clients.
Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

Generally speaking, one thing I don't have to do is convince anyone about my recipes. Here's a kitchen story told to me by Gourmet test kitchen editor Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez. The staff at Gourmet was unconvinced of the value of pressure cookers. Only after making a certain recipe, without admitting the use of the pressure cooker, were they won over; that recipe is in this month's edition on page 98, it's for Tuscan Lamb Shanks with White Beans.
Tuscan Lamb Shanks with White Bean

After a quick browning of the meat and sauteing of the vegetables all the ingredients including unsoaked beans(!) are placed in the pressure cooker and 30 minutes later? Done! Having tasted it I can tell you it's a winner. So was this ridiculously good recipe for Banana Upside Down Cake, another clear favorite among attendees to the Gourmet Institute.