Recipe Forensics

Have you ever wanted to figure out the recipe for a dish that isn’t available to you any more? Maybe it’s from a restaurant that went out of business, or stopped offering the item. Maybe you’ve moved away. Or maybe you’re just curious. Time for recipe forensics.

My first stop is the internet. Sometimes you hit it right, as with this recipe which is a close approximation to the dear departed Three-Bean Salad once served at Kentucky Fried Chicken/KFC. I did just minor tinkering with a recipe that is universally available and good.

But, suppose you want Sonny Bryan’s barbecue sauce as served out of their BBQ shack in Dallas where I grew up? There are plenty of links to this one too but the recipe is completely bogus. You will find a recipe that makes an interesting sauce that tastes nothing like Sonny Bryan’s. It includes crystallized ginger and large amounts of fresh citrus juices, ingredients that would have been unlikely to make it into a pit boss’s pantry.

Recipe forensics means thinking like the person who concocted the original recipe. Think about the cooking experience, the ingredients at hand, and the cost factor. Possibly a long ago cook at Sonny Bryan’s might have tasted crystallized ginger but they’re not going to get it from their pre-Sysco supplier and if they do it’s going to be prohibitively expensive, a minor ingredient that doubles the cost of the recipe. Nor would they squeeze dozens of lemons when a gallon jug of vinegar is close at hand.

While we’re in Dallas, another recipe I’ve been trying to duplicate is the sour slaw at the Highland Park Cafeteria. The sour is vinegar, but what kind? I got a very close approximation with a blend including sherry vinegar then I realized this couldn’t be the original recipe. Mrs. Dewey Goodman, the proprietress of the establishment, stopped serving on Sundays because she felt it was sacreligious. You think this paragon would have used a wine-based vinegar?

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