Think your readers will make your recipes flawlessly simply because you’ve made them more than once?
Mega-star and cookbook author Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame doesn’t, even though she has worked in the food business for more than 30 years. She still relies on an assistant and her friends when developing new recipes.
“Every time I do that, I learn something about how someone at home, with only the printed recipe in front of them, might make the dish,” Garten writes. She’s careful not to make assumptions that her target reader cooks the way she does, even though, like them, she is not a professionally-trained chef.
In her cookbook, Garten explains how she watched Libath make a tomato dish where she tossed the tomatoes, as she sliced them, into a pan to saute for 5 minutes. As a result,”The first tomatoes were overcooked and the last ones weren’t done enough.” So Garten changed the instructions to cut the tomatoes, put them in a bowl, and add them all at once so they would cook evenly. It’s a small change, but enough to make her feel more confident about the recipe’s success.
Garten also road tests every single recipe for her next cookbook on her friends, “so I know everyone loves the dish before it even gets into this book.” And she doesn’t mind doing so right on her show. In this episode, a friend tests her soup recipes on his guests.
I wanted to talk to Garten more about her testing techniques, but her publisher said she’s too busy.
By the way, Garten’s assistant Barbara Libath has appeared on a few episodes of the Barefoot Contessa. Here’s a photo of her, prepping on the set. She’s the one in the blue shirt.