Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Worst Cooking Day Ever

On Monday I decided to do something special and make some tasty treats for us to eat out of the leftovers in our fridge. I enjoyed an unexpected success with an unorthodox roast-chicken cooking method (it can't be that unorthodox if I learned about it in The Joy of Cooking, I suppose, but roasting a chicken on its side was nothing I'd ever heard of before) and so was perhaps overconfident in deciding to make a couple of things I had never made before: a lemon mousse pie with gingersnap crumb crust, and bucatini.

It's easier to make a list of the things that went wrong than a narrative, so from start to finish, it went like this:

1. I couldn't find a recipe for lemon mousse pie, and, wouldn't you know it, the search function on Epicurious was on the fritz. (Not only would it not find the lemon mousse recipes I'd seen a couple of days earlier, it wouldn't find ANY mousse, nor salmon, nor shrimp. If you can't find shrimp on Epicurious, you KNOW something must be wrong.) So I decided to just, um, make it up. Adapting recipes is a strength of mine; making them up is not.

2. Gingersnap crust. Take stale gingersnaps, break into pieces, melt butter, whirl all in food processor. Right? No. After I pressed the mess into a pie pan, I had to blot out the excess butter with a paper towel. Perhaps it will get better if I bake it for 10 minutes? No. Repeat blotting.

3. Lemon mousse. Make Meyer lemon curd, check. Whip cream, check. Chill both, check. Fold curd into cream, check. This was all just fine, but I feared that the mousse would be too thin to be cut as pie, so I froze the whole thing overnight. I tried to eat a frozen piece last night and it was a DISASTER. The gingersnap crust had hardened into a strange toffee-like substance and refused to be cut into. The mousse itself was full of ice crystals and totally unsatisfying. In frustration, I put the whole thing back into the fridge to thaw, but I don't have high hopes that it will improve as a semifreddo.

4. Bucatini is the reason they make things called "pasta pots". Because bucatini are long, and thick, and refuse to bend when submerged even in a soup kettle of boiling water. I was terrified that one half of the pasta would be overcooked and the other half would be undercooked. It probably was, but I didn't notice because...

5. Bucatini, despite contrary experiences in Italian restaurants, does not take well to a semi-runny sauce. It also does not lend itself to being cut easily. It was like trying to eat a bowl full of wriggling, live eels trying to escape. Red sauce -- more liquid than when I originally made it, as I hadn't allowed it to simmer long enough to get rid of the extra accumulated juices -- flew off the ends of the pasta onto everything within spitting distance: the tablecloth, my skirt, my boyfriend, the radio, the cat. The bucatini sat in a lump in my stomach once I finally conquered them. It was so depressing.

Fortunately there was a lot of Viognier left over, which made it all the more easy to get into bed early, pull the covers over my head, and sleep off my total culinary embarrassment.

I think I need to accept that while I like to cook, I will never be a good cook, or at least a consistently good cook. I think I am fine with that. It is more fun to eat other people's awesome food, anyway.

Edited to add: Okay, after being patted on the back by Andy and remembering that all cooks sometimes fail when they experiment, I have emerged from my little pity party. Kind of. I will still be wary of bucatini for a while.


At 8:40 PM, Blogger m said...

oh dear... sounds like this week is all about food that makes you crawl into bed and try your best to forget -- for both of us. Perhaps we can just skip to Friday and start all over?

At 10:12 AM, Anonymous sonya said...

Ready for some tough love?

You have three days to snap out of it and produce the finest meat bundt known to man. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. This is no nancy-pants lemon pie, woman, this is meat bundt! You can do it. Everybody knows you can. So if I catch you languishing in bed all teary and crap, watch out, because I will kick your sauce-spattered ass until a bundt is on the table.

It had to be said.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Mrs. Delicious said...

Marry me, Sonya.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bebe! Don't you remember? Amanda Hesser's book is full of culinary disasters- except they were in fron of friends! Besides, it's much more fun to talk about how lame you can be rather than how great you are. Oh, did i mention i made some fabulous applewood smoked goat cheese and thyme mashed potatoes last night? It's because I'm great.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Mona said...

oh no mrs. d!! that is crazy, and i love the play by play. i'm sorry it didn't work out but it made for a truly enjoyable post :) you handle the upset with grace and humor-doesn't get much better than that!


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