I'm totally amazed that so many people turn to the Internet to find
recipes these days but then again, if you don' t have a cookbook
collection what else can you do? Hey, what are you doing---"I'm
searching for a recipe to cook for dinner", or "I'm searching for a
chocolate chip cookie recipe", is often heard in many households. Which
one will you choose and will it be a good one is the big question! Well,
providing you search on a reputable site such as Epicurious, Gourmet and
a few others, including goodcooking.com, you will more than likely be
happy with your selection. In your search you might wind up on Aunt
Tilly's page with hundreds of recipes that she's posted---but did you
know Aunt Tilly is a terrible cook?! In fact her children would rather
eat at a friend's house than at home, ouch! Yet you say to yourself,
"this recipe sounds good", not knowing what her kids think of it. And
you don't even know that she copied the recipe from Cousin Mary and then
tweaked a few ingredients to her liking and called it her own. Guess
what, Mary is a terrible cook too! It's on the Internet it must be good
you say. It's time to wake up!!!
Well so it goes, hundreds of
recipes are floating around that represent this scenario and then they
get copied, and reposted as "my recipe" without ever being tested, that
is, actually made by the person to taste for themselves, before they go
online. To top it off, others then copy Aunt Tilly's recipes and repost
them as their own. This is perfectly legal because a recipe cannot be
copyrighted. Julia Child once told me to consider it a form of flattery,
someone thought your recipe was so good that they copied and perhaps
tweaked it to look like their own and then to pass it on as their
own--but that was before the Internet came about with hundreds of
cooking sites vying for market share.
Cooking is a skill, it's
about learning techniques and not all in the recipe itself. In classes I
have taught, I've given twelve students the exact same recipe;
ingredients, pots, pans and stoves and asked them to follow the recipe
and instructions to the letter. At the same time I'm preparing the same
dish too. Upon completion and the plating of the cooked food, guess
what---there are thirteen different looking and thirteen different
variations of flavor profiles of the dishes. Considering I'm the
instructor and a good cook too, mine will be the standard; is this
amazing or what? Shouldn't they all be the same? Yes, they should! I can
point out to each student what made their dish different from mine and
even from each other's; this is what learning to cook is all about.
Skill you say, is "cooking" really a skill or is it about the recipe?
Let's pick a recipe to see what I mean when it comes to recipes you
may find on the Internet. We'll compare the recipes and cooking
instructions to see if we can tell if it is copied or original. Bear in
mind that there are some recipes that need to be prepared and cooked
because a ratio of ingredients is need to have it come out consistently.
Boiled rice is a perfect example; 1 cup of rice and 2 cups liquid plus
1/2 tsp. salt brought to a boil, in a heavy bottom sauce pan and then
the heat is reduced to just a simmer with the pot covered and all is
cooked 20 minutes. Probably every package of white rice in the world
uses this "standard recipe"!
I took 20 website addresses that I
found by searching for Mac and Cheese and put their names on pieces of
paper and literally put them in a pot, and then I drew 4 out to compare.
I also took a recipe found on the back of a box of Mueller's elbow
macaroni. I wanted to be a fair as possible with this sampling, not to
accuse anyone of copying a recipe, rather point out what I found in
comparing them side by side, and then comment on them from my chef
perspective. Hopefully this will be helpful for you and will teach you a
bit of what to look for in a good recipe.
Let's make Mac 'n
Cheese and look at similarities:
Here I am looking at the
ingredients and not really the order of them or the method of cooking.
For example, I'm not comparing the amount of time you cook the macaroni
or for how you boil the milk, microwave or stove top. You might put
croutons on top, a dash of paprika or slices of tomatoes. I want to see
ratios and similar or not so similar ingredients and amounts. Amount of
milk, butter, flour, cheese, salt, pepper and macaroni will be the point
of comparison and will lead to a deduction and being somewhat like
Sherlock Holmes of the food world.
Preheat the oven to 350
degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter
and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the
macaroni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander
and rinse under cold running water. Drain well.
Melt the remaining 5
tablespoons butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the
flour, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium
heat for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown. Using
a whisk, add the milk in a steady stream and cook, whisking constantly,
until thick and smooth, 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the salt,
pepper, cayenne, and 2 cups of the cheese, and stir well. Add the
noodles and stir well. Pour into the prepared dish.
In a mixing
bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese with the bread crumbs and
Essence. Sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden
brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let
rest for 5 minutes before serving.
(2) myrecipes.com recipe
1 (8-oz.) package elbow macaroni 2
tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 1/4
teaspoon ground red pepper 1 (8-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese,
shredded and divided
1. Prepare pasta
according to package directions. Keep warm. 2. Melt butter in a large
saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until
smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk,
and cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from
heat. Stir in salt, black and red pepper, 1 cup shredded cheese, and
cooked pasta. 3. Spoon pasta mixture into a lightly greased 2-qt.
baking dish; top with remaining 1 cup cheese. 4. Bake at 400 for 20
minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Note:
For testing purposes only, we used Kraft Sharp Cheddar Cheese. To
lighten, 2% reduced-fat milk and reduced-fat cheese may be substituted.
One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese: Prepare recipe as directed, stirring
all grated Cheddar cheese into thickened milk mixture until melted. Add
cooked pasta, and serve immediately. Prep: 10 min., Cook: 7 min.
Cook macaroni and drain. Melt butter and whisk in flour. Add milk
and stir until thickened. Add seasonings. Add 1 1/2 cups of cheese. Stir
until melted. Put cooked macaroni into a greased casserole. Pour cheese
mixture over the macaroni. Arrange tomato slices on top. Sprinkle cheese
over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
2 cups milk 2 tablespoons
butter 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 (10-oz.) block extra sharp
Cheddar cheese, shredded 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
1/2 (16-oz.) package elbow macaroni, cooked
1. WHISK FLOUR INTO BUTTER Preheat oven to 400 . Microwave milk
at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes. Melt butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven
over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking
constantly, 1 minute. 2. WHISK IN WARM MILK Gradually whisk in
warm milk, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened.
3. WHISK IN CHEESE Whisk in salt, black pepper, 1 cup shredded
cheese, and, if desired, red pepper until smooth; stir in pasta. Spoon
pasta mixture into a lightly greased 2-qt. baking dish; top with
remaining cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden and
Is there a gold standard recipe? Well if you live in the
USA, there is a very well known elbow macaroni---Mueller's. So this is
where I'm going to for their back of the box recipe for mac and cheese.
Let's see how the recipes above compare to it. Mueller's has been around
since way before the Internet: 1867 in fact, and its macaroni products
like elbows since 1894. The recipe for mac and cheese has been around
since the 1920's.
(5) Straight from the back of the box of
Mueller's enriched elbow macaroni.
Minutes to Prepare: 20
Minutes to Cook: 25 Number of Servings: 5
oz. uncooked elbow macaroni 1/4 cup margarine or butter 3 tbsp all
purpose flour 1/8 tsp dry mustard 1/8 tsp salt (optional) 1/8
tsp black pepper 2 cups milk 2 cups (8 oz) shredded sharp Cheddar
cheese 1 cup croutons
1. Cook elbow
macaroni for 9 minutes. 2. Drain, cover and set aside. 3. Preheat
oven to 350 degrees F. 4. In medium saucepan, melt margarine or butter; blend
in flour, mustard, salt (if used), and pepper. 5. Cook until mixture
is smooth and bubbly; gradually add milk. 6. Cook and stir over
medium heat until mixture boils; simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly.
7. Gradually mix in cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.
8. Add pasta; mix together lightly. Pour into 2 quart casserole. 9.
Top with croutons. 10. Bake 25 minutes.