Friday, September 3, 2010

Rottenly Written Recipe, but Deliciously Roasted Potato Dish

I've had some crabby, rotten, no good days lately.  This is normal for me this time of year.  As a bit of a control freak, I do not do well when my schedule changes.  Even if it is a good schedule change.  The new fall semester has brought a new, nearly ideal, job (one with benefits and without a commute-- I walk to work most days!)  But I've found myself reeling from the low level stress of adjusting to new bed times and alarm times, new students, and new department policies.  This leaves me exhausted and cranky.  Oh, I'll snap out of it in about another week.  This always happens.

But, since I'm talking about things that make me feel crabby and rotten, like adjusting to a completely new schedule...I might as tell you my big pet peeve: poorly written recipes.

Now some poorly written recipes are benign.  They are so terribly conceived that a simple glace warns away any cook. Those are not the recipes I want to talk about.  I want to talk about the more dangerous, more subtle poor recipe.

 A couple of days ago, I began stalking the internet for a way to use up some CSA fennel.  I stumbled upon this recipe for Garlic-Roasted Potatoes and Fennel. It looked perfect.  Roasted potatoes, fennel, garlic seasoned with fennel seeds, coriander seeds, Spanish smoke paprika, and saffron.  I felt it would go well with a tomato/bean casserole I had leftover.  (And I must say, the flavor combination was dynamic.) 

What should have been as simple as throwing everything in a roasting pan and baking became an annoying, illogical progression of steps.  First, the recipe said to prep the fennel, but the fennel was used last.  Second, instead of starting by heating the broth and steeping the saffron (which takes at least 15 minutes), the recipe has the cook complete that step AFTER all the other chopping, mincing, and seasoning took place.  So, I found myself, with all my veggies chopped, waiting while the saffron steeped all while the temperature in my kitchen climbed as my preheating oven rumbled away.

But, I finally got everything in the oven, the final straw was imprecise cooking times.  After 30 minutes, the recipe says to add the fennel.  (Which makes no sense because fennel is the hardest, densest ingredient, with the longest cooking time.  But, I was obviously too tired from new early alarm clock times to think this through, so I followed the directions, and my fennel was undercooked and rubbery.)  Not only that, but the recipe said to bake an initial 50 minutes after the fennel went in OR until the broth mixture evaporates.  My broth mixture evaporated in 15 more minutes NOT 50, which seems like a significant difference.  But, as the potatoes were browned nicely, I didn't want to cook any longer to risk burning the other ingredients.

I think the reason that I'm so pissed off about this terribly written is because it was such a tasty dish.  I even ate leftovers straight cold, and they were delicious.  The broth makes the potatoes taste rich.  The fennel seed and coriander give the whole dish the spicy savoriness of sausage without any of the fat or cholesterol.  Add the subtle smokiness from the smoked paprika, and the dish comes together in an elegant way.  You could do away with the fennel bulb here all together and not be dissapointed, I'd just add more peppers instead.

I want to make this dish again, but it is just down right idiotic in it's methodology. So here's how I would re-write it for an easy, stress free assembly:

Garlic-Roasted Saffron Potatoes and Fennel 
*rewritten from, originally a Cooking Light recipe.

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
 2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
2 large green bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 fennel bulbs, core removed and thinly sliced
10-12 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed in mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed in mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat vegetable broth in saucepan until warm.  Remove from heat.  Stir in saffron.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, arrange potatoes in a single layer in a large roasting pan coated with olive oil; drizzle with more oil. Finely chop 1 garlic clove; sprinkle over potatoes. Add peeled garlic cloves, pepper strips, fennel, fennel seeds, coriander, paprika, salt, and black pepper to potatoes; toss well to combine.

Stir in vinegar into saffron broth; drizzle broth mixture over potato mixture. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes.  Stir mixture.  Return to oven; cook an additional 15 minutes or until the broth mixture almost evaporates and potatoes begin to brown.

I get a lot of recipes online, but have found that I need to be incredible judicious about which ones I'll try.  The that end, I avoid and like the plague.  How about you do you have any recipe sites you avoid or sites that you always trust for good recipes?  Do share!


GodLoveandBows said...

Mmmmm that looks yummy. I am hungry now! LOL

Amanda McGuire Rzicznek said...

I MUST try this dish ASAP--of course, following your rewritten recipe.

My favorite site is Epicurious. I base whether a recipe is good or not on the user feedback. If I see a lot of good feedback, I'm more likely to try a dish. If it's not so good, I don't choose it.

Love this post and all others!