Once upon a time, I committed to only sharing recipes with you guys that I absolutely love.
No mediocrity allowed! This means that a good amount of my ideas for posts end up getting tossed into the virtual trash. I call them ‘the eliminated contestants,’ and today I’d like to take you through a tour of those recent culinary outtakes. I’ll have you know that I’m quite the optimist when it comes to trying a new recipe, so almost every single one of these recipe failures has a complete set of step by step photos, sitting forlornly on the hard drive.
I’m feeling quite introspective this morning, so I do have to ask myself, why do I feel moved to blab about my failures right before teaching a cooking class?
Huh. You know, that’s a good question. I’ll bring it up with my psychoanalyst a few years down the road, and I’m sure that subject will help pad his billable hours quite nicely.
But let’s begin!
1) Parmesan Chicken. The photo above reflects the effort, but the spectacular results I was hoping for didn’t quite crystallize. I have a feeling Parmesan from a can actually might work better than the thicker strands of freshly grated Parmesan that I used.
2) I was very excited about this Thai Red Curry, and almost certain it would be a winner. However, the end result had a funky flavor that I have yet to trace. Like maybe I accidentally dumped in a pair of socks after wearing them 5 days straight.
I will never be emotionally OK again . . . until I redeem myself by making red curry and making sure it rocks my mouth.
I want that o-oold time Rock n’ Roll . . . the kind of curry that soothes the soul . . . blablablablablablabla days of old . . .
Alas for the fresh pineapple that I tossed into the mire!
Poor little guy.
And now that I think about it, I am missing a pair of socks that I really loved . . . nah, that can’t have happened . . . right?
3) A glossy page out of Martha Stewart Living promised me pillowy, fresh ravioli, so I did what any normal human being would do and quickly dropped a shocking amount of money on a pound of fresh crabmeat.
Things were looking good as I mixed the crabmeat with some ricotta, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Things were looking even better as I assembled these adorable little crab packages, sealed them with an egg wash, and cut them into cute little circles.
All the prep work and photos probably took me an hour, which is much longer than I expected to be in the kitchen. However, for a delicious result, I was willing to invest that time. I sang a little song of joy.
. . . old time Rock ‘n’ Roll . . . the ra-vi-o-li that sooooothes the soul . . .
And then, the ravioli hit the pot.
And they got freaky-weird.
Floppy-like. What are you doing, you horrible looking alien being? And then they hit the lemon buttery sauce, and became greasy to boot.
I tried to make them look pretty on a plate and get a good shot of them before I realized how bad they really were.
It was one of those meals that I just had to throw away. Sorry Martha. However, I did throw it away into our blue Martha Stewart Collection trash can, so doesn’t that connect things nicely?
4) Let’s go to our next candidate:
This pasta dish promised to be awesome. It’s one of my few Tasty Kitchen letdowns so far. I still can’t believe it, since this is how it all began:
But wrong it did go, despite my disbelief. Bacon doesn’t fix everything. It was a paramount lesson.
5) Another recipe that bacon couldn’t salvage was this mac and cheese, made with American cheese singles. I’d be embarassed to share how high my hopes were, since my search for the perfect stovetop mac and cheese has been going on for years and years.
Put some bacon on top . . . and still not great.
Though quite photogenic, don’t you think?
6) While we’re on the mac and cheese train, this recipe was almost awesome . . . but not quite. I was excited because it had a different method of making the sauce, by reducing a pot of heavy cream.
The first bite or two were great . . . and then I don’t remember what happened. But I remember realizing I couldn’t get behind this 100%.
You know what’s crazy? Revisiting these pictures is actually making me want to give it another shot.
Food photography is a powerful influence over me. Even when I’ve been burned once, it draws me back for more pain.
8) Another mac and cheese disappointment happened when my friend Alton Brown told me to use evaporated milk. Great idea, Alton! I encouraged him.
Okay, so he’s not my friend. And though the texture was great, the flavor was simply not cheesy. Alton is great, but I can’t support his mac and cheese campaign. Sorry dude.
Believe it or not, I didn’t photograph this attempt–I’ve apparently become a Doubting Thomas when it comes to mac and cheese. No offense meant to you, Thomas–I can’t wait to get to know you in heaven.
9) This Chicken Stroganoff has potential, man. But it needs more ‘oomph.’ I’ll be playing with it and hopefully presenting a wonderful result to you guys down the road, because it’s close! Though you wouldn’t believe it from this picture of a kind of greasy looking mushroom. Oh well.
10) Last fall my friend Carrie and I had an apple butter making fest.
Neither one of us had any idea what we were doing.
We made more mistakes than I care to talk about, and were uncertain what to do with the apple peels once the apple wedges had cooked down and mushified.
We tried pressing the apple mush through a strainer:
That didn’t work out so well, so we transferred it to the blender and whizzed everything. Then we cooked it in the slow cooker, however we accidentally left the cover on. Hence, the consistency of the apple butter ended up more like applesauce. So I guess you could call it an apple sauce success, but an apple butter failure.
On the positive side, we got our first experience with canning. Our journey in sterilizing jars brought us from being incompetent canners to being only semi-incompetent canners by the end! It was great.
So let’s recap the lessons learned:
1) Experimentation is fun, and even if it goes wrong, you usually learn something. For me, it was: stay away from ravioli. And maybe I should go into the lucrative crab business. And I love my Martha Stewart trash can. Wow, I really learned a lot, didn’t I?
2) Bacon doesn’t fix everything, but you can always pick out the bacon pieces and eat those before you throw away the rest of the dish.
3) Bacon fixes everything. I’m choosing to live in denial of the evidence presented above.
4) Stovetop mac and cheese is an art. Don’t be fooled by the whole ‘it’s a kid’s food’ thang. It’s a difficult beast to master, and if any of you guys can provide me with a winning recipe for it, I will seriously cry from gratitude. I will encase my salty tears and send them to you in a vial as proof.
So please do share–do you have the mac and cheese recipe I’m looking for? And how to you deal with your kitchen failures? Laugh and move on? Cry over spilt milk? Order a pizza? Tell me everything.