Yes, I follow recipes. Why wouldn't I?

Bon Appetit's Weeknight Porcetta. It takes about 2 minutes to get this ready for the oven.

Bon Appetit’s Weeknight Porchetta, minutes before oven-time. It takes about 2 minutes to get this ready to roast. It is, by the way, one of the best new recipes I’ve come across in months.

The other day, I had a friend for dinner, and she watched while I cooked a terrific version of Cashew Chicken from an old Bon Appétit cookbook (the secret was “velveting” the chicken….).

“You use recipes?” she asked.

She acted like it was out-of-character thing to do. It was as if she thought that with all the experience I have editing and writing for cookbooks and food publications that I could just cook from my own head.

Well, yes, I could. And yes, I often do. But just as novelists read novels written by other novelists, and cinematographers go to the cinema even when their own films aren’t rolling, I cook from cookbooks that aren’t mine. Quite often, in fact.

Because sometimes I want something beyond what’s in my own head.

And—especially when I trust the source—I generally follow the recipe the first time through, unless something intuitively seems off about it or there’s a reason I need to improvise (time constraints, lack of an ingredient, etc.).

Above all, I just adore (and have huge respect) for well-written recipes. I love observing how others do it.

And I’m especially fond of recipes that are precise where they need to be, yet allow you to make a few judgements on your own.

Take this fabulous Weeknight Porchetta recipe from Bon Appétit magazine. I love the this step:

Rub garlic mixture all over tenderloin (if you have time to do this in the morning, great; refrigerate pork until dinner).

You see, it would be great to give the garlic/spice mixture a little time to flavor-charge the meat, but the editors know that on most weeknights, we haven’t always gotten around to thinking about what’s for dinner until, well, dinnertime. So, what they’re saying is it’ll work just fine even if you don’t let it flavorize a few hours. What they’re saying is: “Don’t sweat it.”

Don’t you love cookbook authors who are clear about what truly matters…and what doesn’t. (I try to be that kind of author, by the way).

And let me tell you, they’re right in saying it’s okay to skip the extra flavorizing time. I’ve made this recipe twice, and loved it both times; yet neither time did I have enough time to assemble it in advance to let those flavors meld.


A kind of "cheater's porchetta."

A kind of “cheater’s porcetta.” Ready in less than an hour. A great casual “cooking-for-friends” dish.


For this springtime meal, I went starch-less and served this with roasted asparagus and roasted carrots–I’m loving the multicolored carrots I’m finding these days. Also, be sure to get a fabulous pork tenderloin–hormone-free, antibotic-free, confinement-free, if you can.

Find the original recipe here. It’s wonderful recipe–precisely and thoughtfully written. The only thing is: My pork tenderloin was only 1 1/4 pounds, so naturally, I cooked it for less time. Check after 30 minutes. Also, I used fennel pollen (1 teaspoon) instead of the fennel. It was amazing.

In Other News:

• Bonne Femme Cookbook—Going into Third Printing: If you’ve tried to order my cookbook, bless you. But you’ve also probably noticed that it’s out of stock. Happily the third printing is underway. Copies are due in the warehouse on May 2nd. You should be able to order it in time for Mother’s Day.

I'm giving one of these beauties away. Follow me on Facebook to get the details.

I’m giving one of these beauties away. Follow me on Facebook to get the details.

• Upcoming Giveaways: I love doing giveaways, and I have a great one coming up: The Staub Braiser (worth $250!). You may want to keep checking back on my blog to see when that’s posted. Or, better, yet, follow me on my Facebook page—I’ll definitely be posting about upcoming giveaways there.

• Winner of Latest Giveaway: No, I haven’t forgotten the 2015 Eyewitness Travel Guide Giveaway. I just now selected the winner through a random number generator: Steph R. YOU WIN! Here’s what Steph R. wrote about her favorite thing in Paris, by the way:

“The carousels! I have a personal policy in Paris that says if I see one, I MUST stop for a ride. They pop up in the most unexpected neighborhoods and will charm you every time. They’re such a simple joy and a fantastic way to get into that Paris state of mind.”

Congrats, Steph. I’ll be in touch to get the book out to you very soon.

A bientôt, mes chers!

Disclaimer: As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a very small credit when you make a purchase through a link I provide (even if you don’t buy exactly what I’m writing about!). Purchasing through one of my links helps support my work on this blog. Keep in mind, I’d never recommend a product I didn’t love!


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5 comments to Yes, I follow recipes. Why wouldn’t I?

  • Wini, great post! There are so many great recipes that can inspire the best of cooks. I am a big fan and believer in making recipes your own. Often times, I don’t have all the ingredients on hand, or I might feel like adding my own twist, so I encourage people to do the same.
    Congratulations on the third printing of your book! I still have got to get my hands on a copy! Great giveaways you have lined up!

    • Wini

      I agree–it’s great to make recipes your own, and I often do. But every once in a while a recipe comes along that’s just perfect. And this is one of them.

      Thanks for reading, Suzy.

  • Great post Wini. I try to follow exactly at least the first time and then many times if I forget the process. I love taking the tips/techniques from respected cooks. One of the most difficult tip to adapt is/was from Michael Rulhman. He says think about tomorrow’s meal today – that way you have time to rub the garlic on that pork loin. I love the tip, I just don’t always follow that one. 🙂

  • […] Appétit magazine has one of my favorite recipes for pork tenderloin (see my ode to it here). It involves wrapping the super-lean piece of meat with bacon, and flavoring it with rosemary and […]

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