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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, October 03, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Cloned Recipes

Frugal Kitchens 101

I think everyone at one time or another has enjoyed a restaurant meal or dish that they would like to recreate at home.  A couple of reasons for cloning a recipe is it is less expensive and sometimes more convenient than eating out.  Another good reason for cloning a recipe is some dishes are regional so even if eating out you might not be able to find that particular dish.  Cloning a recipe is not as easy at it sounds even if the restaurant is generous enough to give you the recipe.  Restaurants don't tend to give out their recipes simply because if you can make the dish at home chances are very good you won't be back meaning they don't make money.  It is very difficult to make money in a restaurant as it is without giving diners a reason to not return.  The second problem with cloning a recipe is lack of a comparison.  The taste is all in your memory unless you are fortunate enough to be able to get another sample of the dish which is not always possible.  The work around for this in some restaurants is to bring home the left-overs but you do need a sensitive palate to detect some of the nuances and notes in the dish.  The third problem is ingredients.  These tend to vary from region to region.  Something as simple as a tomato variety that particular chef/restaurant uses may not be available where you live.  We live in Ontario but our vacation home is in Florida and I can't tell you the frustration at wanting to make a dish but can't find that particular ingredient I always use.  Finally is even if you have the recipe and the proper ingredients, there are always little things like shaken not stirred, methods used,  lack of commercial equipment and even the cooking fuel used.  At best a cloned recipe is just that.  It comes close to but is not the same.  With this in mind, here are a few tips for cloning recipes:

  • ask - Some restaurants will give out a recipe or two but don't expect the recipe for their signature dish.  Realize that they may not include their 'secret' ingredient in the recipe even if they do give it to you.  
  • the doggie bag - Bringing home what you can't eat is an option at some restaurants.  This is a wonderful aid in cloning a recipe because it helps your taste buds remember what your brain forgot especially the subtle notes in a dish.  
  • take pictures - Always take a picture of the dish before enjoying it.  This will jog the memory with respect to some ingredients and presentation.
  • get a second opinion - There are days your taste buds may be slightly off.  My husband is great with offering a second opinion.
  • keep trying - The beauty of cloning a recipe is most results are edible so keep trying.  In the process you may end up with an intermediate to the recipe you were trying to clone that you really like.
  • keep notes - Use a kitchen journal to record what you did to clone the recipe as well as each change you make along the way.

6 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

I would love to marinate steaks the way Lonestar steak house does. Their Delmonico Ribeye steak never disappoints.

I did ask once how they did it. They claimed they marinated them in lemon juice.
I'm sure there was more though, because I have marinated in a lemon/water mixture; and while better, mine are still not the quality of theirs.

Thanks for the post though, GG.

LindaG said...

Forgot to mark to get replies, sorry.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Linda, we haven't eaten at Lonestar. A quick search for a clone recipe didn't find any. Usually a marinade consists of three components - a acid, an oil and seasoning. The lemon juice is the acid so I would try adding a bit of olive oil rather than water. I can't advise on the seasoning although lemon pepper or garlic pepper would work but might not give the same results as what they use.

Garden Gnome said...

I forgot to add, according to their website their steaks are seasoned with their own special season blend then grilled on a mesquite wood fire. So to clone that you would need to duplicate the grilling method. If you don't have a wood grill get the flavour by using a smoking pouch (tin foil, soaked mesquite wood chips). It should come close to theirs.

LindaG said...

Thanks for the tip, GG. I was not aware how marinades were made up.
Thanks for the tips.
I never liked lemon pepper but I would definitely be interested in trying garlic pepper!

LindaG said...

Oh, thanks for that tip, too! We use a gas grill so I wondered how people do that sort of thing.

I will practice with the tinfoil thingy.
Thanks again! :)