I’ve gotten away from posting recipes lately. That’s because after nearly two years of blogging, I still don’t understand when I can post a recipe without upsetting the original author, or how much I need to tweak a recipe to call it my own. This, even though I got some great comments on the subject from Wendi Mosteiko at Bon Appetit Hon several months ago.
First, the whole interview is great. Go read it, especially if you’re a food blogger. But these are the two points I’m taking away:
- Recipe writing doesn’t have to be standard and formal. We can inject our voices into the directions. That’s what makes a recipe original.
- Adapting recipes is all about creativity. If you think an original recipe is too spicy or it needs another flavor note, change it. That’s when you create your own recipe, one that was inspired by the original author.
So I tried playing with the adapting recipes idea for this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe: beggar’s linguine.
Beggar’s linguine is a pasta dish coated in butter sauce and flavored with dried fruits, nuts, Parmesan cheese, orange zest, and, if you like, herbs. Dorie’s version uses pistachios, almonds, figs, and raisins.
I made some simple substitutions though. To save money and time, I used shelled green pumpkin seeds, which I toasted for flavor, instead of unshelled pistachios. And because I couldn’t find figs, I used dates.
Then I played with the butter sauce. Dorie’s butter sauce calls for 6 tablespoons of butter to ½ pound of linguine. After the butter melts in the pot, it should sit and sit until it turns brown and smells like hazelnuts. That’s when it’s ready.
I cut the amount of butter in half. After ten minutes, my sauce wasn’t uniformly brown, but rather speckled brown like an Easter egg. And instead of hazelnuts, I smelled movie theater popcorn coating. But that could just be my movie theater concession background.
Still, I decided the speckled brown butter was close enough. I added 1/4 cup vegetable, stock, which immediately turned the butter into a thick, brown sauce. Too thick, I thought. So I poured in a couple more tablespoons of stock to thin it out.
Could this be recipe adaptation at work? I like to think so.
In the end, I didn’t miss the extra butter. The final dish was a little sweet – probably because I used dates – but a sprinkle of salt before serving fixed that.
And as I made this week’s recipe, I was reminded of what a chef I interviewed told me nearly a decade ago: Recipes are just templates.
On Fridays, I’m cooking from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan with the group French Fridays with Dorie. We’ve been asked not to print the recipes . But getting a copy of this book is worth it. Why? For the extra notes that Dorie writes in her recipes alone (what your food processor will sound like when mixing almond cream, for example). And if you get a copy of the book, you can cook with us!