Friday, October 15, 2010

Feastless Friday- With a Contest

Well Chickens, I sadly do not have good news to report.

I wanted to be able to write about the delicious dinner I whipped up the other night for Charming Suitor, who has been under tremendous work-related stress lately, not to mention the ghastly cold I might have shared with him. 

I wanted to be able to write about how, at the end of a long day, he came home to a wonderful and comforting meal.

I wanted to give you all the recipes for this festival of yummy, so that you could make it for your own sweeties when they were having rough days.

But sadly, I cannot.

I cannot write that post because your Polymath went four for four on the mediocrity scale.

Here is the menu I wanted to tell you about:

Jamie Oliver's Milk-Braised Chicken
Lemon and Butter Rice Pilaf
Broccoli with Almonds
Butterscotch Pudding with Salted Caramel Topping

First the chicken.  CS and I have recently acquired a Chicken Monger.  I cannot think of another way to decribe him.  Like cheesemonger, but with chickens.  And eggs.  Farmer Paul pasture-raises his birds, all organic, and gathers their eggs (with almost irridescent orange yolks), and once a week heads on into the city to deliver.  He comes in on the train, which is around the corner from CS's office, so on Friday mornings they meet on the street like some weird drug drop, only with chickens and eggs.  We are now ruined for even the priciest organic birds from the store, and forget about finding eggs this good except at your local farmer's market.  These chickens are just chickenier.  The eggs are eggier.  We have been enjoying them tremendously.  So when I saw that Jamie Oliver, who I like very much and whose recipes have always worked for me, had a milk-braised chicken dish, I thought it would be a great way to highlight this week's chicken delivery.



I was wrong.  The bird was tender enough, and the flavor was not terrible, but there was nothing special or wonderful about it.  The milk braise did not create a special texture or add any extra deliciousness.  All it really did was create a weird curdled and thin sauce that was not worth spooning over the meat nor sopping up with bread nor moistening the rice...

Chicken:  FAIL

Speaking of moistening the rice...lets imagine what I assumed would be an easy dish.  The zest of two lemons was used in the boring and bland chicken.  Not wanting to waste the rest of the lemon, I thought I would make rice in the rice cooker, with fresh lemon juice replacing some of the water, and a little bit of butter added.  How bad could that be?  Apparently, pretty bad.  It was awfully gummy.  I think if I had used zest instead of juice it might have been fine, I am not a chemist, but I imagine that the acid in the lemon juice ate away at the rice and made it gummy. And then the butter made it greasy.  So we had greasy and gummy lemony rice on the side of our sad chicken. 

Rice: FAIL

Chicken and rice, even when they work, are pretty much beige on white, and make for a very visually stunted plate.  And I do believe strongly in the five major food groups.  (I think they ought to be changed to  bread, chocolate, wine, bacon and cheese, but for the moment, I use the ones everyone else does.)  I had a bag of broccoli in the freezer, so I didn't pick up a veggie.  But when I opened the bag, totally freezerburnt.

Broccoli:  FAIL

Now you have heard your Polymath tell you before that there is always room in the dessert compartment.  And CS is a pudding/custard/creme caramel kind of guy, so when I saw the recipe for Butterscotch Pudding with Salted Caramel Topping in one of my Tasting Table e-mails last week, I knew I had to make it for him. 




I made the caramel topping and set it aside.  I made the pudding, using Farmer Paul's wonderful eggs.  I spooned the pudding into individual cups and topped with the caramel and put them in the fridge.  Were they awful?  No.  Inedible?  Didn't I say the words pudding and caramel?  Of course not.  Will I make it again?  Nope.  The salted caramel did not really enhance the pudding, and despite my having put the pudding through a sieve, it still had a weird grainyness, and not nearly enough butterscotch flavor.  Which was fine because the caramel would have overpowered any extra flavor anyway.

Pudding: FAIL.

I have decided in order to salvage the day, I will offer up a prize to the person with the best failed recipe story.  Just post your tales of kitchen woe in the comments section before 11:59 pm CST on Monday, and I will announce the winner next week.

What will the winner receive?  How about a Cooks Choice Bowl Baker, for making your own little individual baked goods in the shape of small bowls, so that you can make things like brownie bowls for ice cream, or shortcake bowls for berries and cream, or even cornbread bowls for your chili.  It even comes with a how to DVD of ideas and recipes.



We're having friends for dinner tomorrow night.  I'm making a Thai-inspired braised short rib, potato gratin with prunes (sounds weird and is AMAZING), and Dorie Greenspan's Tourte de Chevre, a goat cheese cheesecake that I am going to serve with fresh figs as a sort of merged cheese course and dessert. 

Pray for me.  If it works, I'll share recipes next week.  If it doesn't, I may have to burn sage or sprinkle holy water in the kitchen.

Yours in (less than) Good Taste,
The Polymath

41 comments:

  1. We had recently joined a CSA share and I was new to cooking. In the mix were some beets. I decided to make a beet puree using a recipe I had for turnip puree. The soup had a milk based so I followed the recipe. What I ended up with was a hot pink bowl of hot milk. I served it to my husband without trying it first. I look over and he is eating spoonful. I sit down and taste. I spit it out and yelled -this is terrible!! how are you eating this? BEET SOUP: FAIL

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  2. Most inedible thing I ever tried to cook? A tuna casserole - in a crock pot. Slow cook egg noodles with canned soup and tuna for six hours and you're guaranteed a pot of industrial glue. Lesson learned!

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  3. I once made a swirled multi-pastel-colored cake for Easter in my Bundt pan. I knew my kiddos (both younger than 8 at the time) would love it! When I turned it out of the pan & onto a rack to cool it cracked a teeny bit on the top. No problem, I said to myself, The frosting will cover it.

    Alas, I set the cake out on the counter to cool, forgetting about the dog, who likes to "counter-surf". A while later my husband & kids came into the house thru the kitchen & he said "What happened to the cake?". Me, in the living room and without a direct line of sight to the counter, replied casually "Oh it cracked a little when I took it out of the pan. No big deal. The frosting will cover it."

    It was at this point he said maybe I should come look at it. I looked into the kitchen and saw that half. the cake. was. gone. There was a near perfect semi-circle of cake sitting on the counter, along with some stray crumbs. Darn dog!!

    They still have a good laugh at my expense whenever the story is told (kids are now 17 & 14).

    Also, the running joke at our house is that the food isn't done til the smoke detector goes off. Hardy har har!! That's real original. Besides, it's only happened a few (dozen:-) times! Sheesh - some people are SO picky!!

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  4. I used to be a terrible terrible cook. I didn't know you could boil hot dogs until I was 15. In college, I made a pot of mac and cheese that tasted like paint smells. When I moved into my first apartment, everyone told me I could make rice krispie bars with little trouble.

    We broke 4 knives trying to cut those rice krispie bars.

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  5. When I was younger, I made mac and cheese once that our dog "Buddy" wouldn't even eat. (Keep in mind this is a dog who routinely ate leftover banana peels from the compost pile, threw them up and ate them again.)
    He sniffed this mac and cheese, took one little lick and trotted off..

    Flash forward to about 6 years later, I had not become a much better cook, and I told my mother I was expecting my first child. My mother was honestly worried about how I was going to feed this child because I was such a horrible cook.
    (Don't worry, she is 8 now and very healthy, she LOVES to cook and I have since loved to do it with her)

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  6. When my husband and I were first married, I wanted to make him one of his favorite dishes that his Mammaw cooked for him...Poppyseed Chicken. Not the most difficult thing to make, right? Well, I had never in my life shredded chicken, so I put the cooked chicken breasts into the food processor....not pretty. He actually had to ask me what kind of meat it was because the chicken had been pulverized into un-appetizing little pellets. YUCK.

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  7. I have a love/hate relationship with Rachel Ray's recipes. Sometimes they sound pretty good, but they never turn out. A few years ago I tried a Polish Stir Fry. Now there was a fusion dish that was never meant to be. Frozen pierogi, kielbasa, sauerkraut, kale, onions and sour cream. That was one of the few times I have ever had to declare an entire dish inedible and throw it away. Not only did it taste bad it made my house smell horrible for days!

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  8. I remember as a very naive 12 year old, trying to make coconut macaroons. I was home alone, hungry and bored. This a recipe for disaster from the word "go". I had never really baked anything that was not a box mix dessert before. I was unfamiliar with terms used in recipes. I had no idea which part or and egg was the "white". I tried using the part that looked the whitest. You guessed it - the eggshell! I was broken-hearted, but when Momma got home, I learned about guilt too. She was newly divorced and money was tight. I had wasted valuable food. Needless to say, I forced my daughter to learn earlier what constituted wiser kitchen practices. I enrolled her in microwave cooking, a county project here in 4-h, after her kitchen disasters. She found out not to reheat Aunt Carla's fried green tomatoes in the microwave if they were wrapped in foil. Oh, and she also discovered that you make sure you are following microwave directions if you are "nuking" a piece of frozen garlic bread with cheese. Yes, 7 minutes yields a smoking black piece of garlic bread, a blackened plate that shatters when you place it in the sink, and a nasty smell in the microwave. Hope I win!

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  9. I made a London Broil in a crock pot using a recipe that I found online which called for cooking the meat in root beer. It was highly rated, so I thought I'd give it a try even though I'm not a fan of root beer. Result? The meat was tough, inedible, and tasted horrifically of......root beer. even my dog wouldn't eat it.

    btw, please don't enter me in the contest, the bowl things look weird....sorry. but I appreciate the opportunity to share my cooking shame....lol!

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  10. Budapest Pork Chops.

    What makes them "budapest" I'll never know, but they were a horrible disaster!

    As an early 20 something year old, I wanted to make my family a dinner... perhaps subconsciously trying to make up for all of my years of angst and moodiness as a teenager... so I asked a woman, who was quite the domestic goddess at work, for a no-fail-recipe. After a moment of thought, she came up with Budapest Pork Chops!!! (she even said it like a Barker's Beauty with arm waving and ooooos and ahhhhhs).

    The recipe was simple enough:
    Slather pork chops with dijon mustard
    Put them on a cookie sheet
    Slice a green pepper and put it on top of the pork chops
    Bake until done.


    Really. That's what she gave me. And I believed her.

    I wish I had a picture to show you... The result of my domestic efforts looked like a piece of limestone covered with some kind of shrubbery.

    I was skeptical of what I created, but I thought, "Hey! It probably will taste better than it looks!"

    No. No. No.

    My family starting sawing into my homemade limestone. I knew something was wrong when my 6'2 defensive end football player brother, who normally eats at least 3 helpings, was taking on the eating characteristics of a model the night before fashion week.

    The hilarious thing is throughout dinner, no one said ANYTHING about the horrible food that I had set down before them.... They ate in silence... probably trying to figure out if this was a new type of warfare.... Look Mom! She's stopped screaming and slamming the door and has now graduated to trying to kill us all via Budapest.

    Now, a more mature and able chef, whenever I offer to cook for any family member the only request I get is: ANYTHING EXCEPT BUDAPEST PORK CHOPS!

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  11. I decided to make a butternut squash soup. I followed the instructions, including putting the squash and soup into the blender to puree. I turned the blender on, EXPOLSION. Soup, everywhere!

    I put the top back on… Turned the blender back on, EXPLOSION! Soup, everywhere!

    Called my husband into the kitchen to tell him the blender was broken. He looked at me like I lost my mind. He turned it on. EXPLOSION! Soup, everywhere!

    Then, he felt the blender and saw it was hot, and tried to explain that the heat caused pressure, and proceed to give me a physics lesson, as I scrubbed butternut squash puree from the walls, floor and ceiling.

    Butternut squash soup, FAIL!

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  12. About five years ago, I decided to make my father's favorite candy, peanut brittle, for his birthday. I was in high school, and not a very experienced cook at this time, so I ended up burning the sugar/water/syrup mixture. Disgusted with my first attempt, I decided to dispose of it by pouring it down the sink and rinsing it down with cold water. Of course, I didn't consider that the entire purpose of that mixture was to cool and harden. As a result, my father and I spent most of his birthday bonding as we slowly chipped shards of hardened, burned peanut brittle out of the disposal and pipes. Peanut brittle: EPIC FAIL.

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  13. My mom always cooks her Thanksgiving turkey in a cold pack canner pot on low heat on top of her gas stove. ALL NIGHT. It is so juicy and tender.

    One Thanksgiving, she and my dad came to visit us and she decided to cook the turkey. She brought her pot and everything.

    We weren't too sure how it would go considering we really weren't very skilled with an electric stove. We found out the hard way it doesn't work the same as a gas stove. We woke up Thanksgiving morning to a cold, thawed turkey that had to be thrown away.

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  14. About two years ago I was just starting out with cooking and baking and when I made a key lime pie from scratch with fresh lime zest, I thought I was on top of the world. My husband loved it, I loved it, and I couldn't wait to make it for my mom and grandfather who were coming to visit in several weeks.

    Fast forward several weeks and I made the key lime pie again. It looked beautiful. I proudly served it to them. I watched as my grandpa took his first bite. . .and grimaced with a face that clearly indicated he was not enjoying the pie. I asked if everything was okay and he indicated that it was not. I looked at my mom. Then I took a bite.

    It was awful. I exclaimed how awful it was. My mom says "Well, I didn't want to say anything. . . " Turns out, I had purchased different limes and they were a VERY tart lime and just made the pie unbearable. I've made key lime pie since then but it's never when my family's around and so they still think that I can't cook/bake. Ugh. Frustrating.

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  15. A few years ago, I was making dinner for hubby (who was boyfriend at the time). I had been making this amazing homemade pasta sauce that I had heard about at an Italian restaurant. They called it "Sunday Gravy" and I called it "What-ever-day-I'm-off Gravy." It is wonderful! I use pork Italian sausage, ground kobe beef and ground veal from this great little market in an older area of town. It's called a day gravy because it literally takes ALL day to simmer, reduce and get fantastically rich.

    Well, on this specific evening I hadn't had all day to make a Day Gravy, so I just started grabbing what was available. Word to the wise--- just grabbing can have awful consequences!

    I had reached into the spice cabinet and thought I had grabbed the red pepper flakes.... I was looking at the dogs being cute or bad (they are so close to being the same, right?) as I started to shake into the pot. Then I looked back to the stove to see that I had grabbed Cayenne and not red pepper flakes. What's worse? I had flipped the top up to "shake out a few flakes" which resulted in a mound of Cayenne.

    I scooped off a bunch of it and continued, vowing not to say anything. I served my squeezie his dinner and then started to get my plate together. From the living room I heard him say "Um... it's hot." I laughed and told him to let it cool off. He said "No, it's like burning my mouth spicy hot. Did you do something different?" I sat down with him and shoveled in a big fork full. Two seconds later I regretted it.
    "Hot" doesn't begin to describe what was happening in my mouth. We tried to eat the pasta for about 5 minutes.... up until the point our LIPS were burning off (and visibly bright red).

    We ended up having sandwiches for dinner. But were not so happily revisited by the day after haunting of the pasta sauce. Ouch.

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  16. When my boys were little I was bound and determined to introduce them to different kinds of food so they wouldn't grow up on mac&cheese and twinkies like I did.

    One night I decided to try "porcupine meatballs"...figuring all kids like meatballs, right? It sounded easy enough, just meatballs with rice. Um...yeah. Not so much.

    The meatballs tasted just awful and the rice? Didn't cook, so we had horrible meatballs with crunchy rice. Sadly, it was a lot like eating porcupine meatballs. Ick ick ick

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  17. I'm a good cook--truly I am. I learned the month after I was married and have been cooking for 30 years. My kids and my husband say I'm a great cook. BUT--one time I was making steak and peppers. It was an Asian type of recipe which called for Teryaki sauce. I was down to the last two drops of sauce. Thinking I could "stretch" the taste with a little water, I added water to the bottle, shook and poured it in the mix. We sat down to the dinner. All were hungry. Eager bites were taken and then "ptooey!" No one liked it. And it was awful! Funny, it tasted like steak cooked in water! This has been my colossal fail at cooking which my children, now almost grown, still remember and still tease my about. And honestly, can't they forget about it??

    StacyfrPgh

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  18. So many meals... So many disasters. I blame my mom for this because even as I enter my 50s she is still the one that orchestrates the big stuff- like Thanksgiving. How do you time so many side dishes so everything is perfectly well done- not under or overcooked? Two years ago my mom tripped and broke her leg two days before 18 people were to come to a sit-down-don't-bring-anything-we-have-it-all-covered meal at my house. Until that year I had been only trusted to make the cranberry orange relish, peel the potatoes, chop onions, wash pots and all the things that everybody else hates to do. I have an M.D. and a bunch of other letters behind my name, so it should be a piece of cake, right? How hard can it be to make the same dinner I have been eating every Thanksgiving for half a century? Well, what can I say? The sweet potatoes got forgotten in the oven, the almond slivers for the string beans char toasted in the toaster oven, the little thingy that is supposed to pop up when the turkey is done refused to pop, the pumpkin pies cracked down the middle... I will say that the cranberry relish was wonderful and as we gave thanks, I especially gave thanks to the fact that my mother's leg was going to heal by Christmas dinner.

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  19. If you cook rice with chicken broth, then add lemon zest and juice after the rice is cooked, it is wonderful! At least you were trying to be inventive!

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  20. Dear Stacey,

    When I saw that you were asking for our best most failed recipe story, I KNEW that I was destined for this contest (especially since I didn’t win the Stennifer lunch contest, not that I’m bitter about it. . . . )

    So, my best most failed recipe was cooked approximately 12 years ago. I was trying to integrate new recipes into my cooking repertoire so I searched all these cookbooks, developed a store list, and started cooking a variety of new dishes for my relatively new husband. I had this cookbook that my mother had bought me in which all the recipes came from the backs of boxes, bottles, cans, and jars from decades and decades. The book has some great recipes in it that I had already tried. For instance, the peanut butter cookies are TO DIE FOR and the first time I made them, my husband ate about 3 dozen in a matter of a few hours. My conclusion: Every recipe in this book must be as divinely inspired as the peanut butter cookies. Why else would they put in them in the same book?

    So, with all my ingredients, I turned to page, 149: Fillets Baked in Sour Cream. Now, before I go any further, the little diddy at the top that describes the dish said it was a “sophisticated kind of dish” and that it was something that one might find in an “expensive French restaurant.” Well, this dish was right up my alley: Sophisticated, comparable to a pricey French dish. What more could I want?

    Ingredients:

    4 tsps. Butter or margarine, divided (butter, not fat-free baking spray, good ole’ savor it as it glides down your throat on its way to harden your arteries butter)

    2 lbs fish fillets (sole, haddock, or flounder) **Not a big fish fan, but variety is the spice of life)

    1 tsp salt (if it doesn’t have salt, it probably isn’t good, so this is good)

    ½ tsp. Tabasco pepper sauce (my dear hubby loves spice, so he has to love this dish)

    1 Tbs. paprika (Paprika, oh it’s so pretty. The bits of red will make it look festive!)

    ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (Cheese, everything is better with cheese, I mean everything.)

    1 cup sour cream (Mmmm. Creamy sour cream. . . . good on potatoes, makes great dip, has to be good on fish, right?)

    ¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs (bread crumbs? Well, okay. . . .)

    I should have known something was amiss while this “sophisticated, French restaurant-like dish” was baking. The smell—well to this day I can’t really describe it. In retrospect, I guess it smelled a little bit like soured milk, which makes sense since it had sour cream in it and I was heating it up at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the smell wafting through my house.

    Well, the sophisticated cuisine was set on the table. I will never forget the look on my husband’s face: Fish in the mouth, teeth clamp down to begin the chewing process, and then halted in order to push the food off his tongue in order to prevent the tormenting of his taste buds, and nose slightly crinkled. . . . It’s the only thing that my husband has been unable to eat in my 14 ½ years of marriage.

    I found a quote that says, “The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker: an abiding passion for the task, courage to go out on a limb and an impeccable sense of balance” ~Bryan Miller

    I definitely went out on a limb that day! And yet, even as I looked back at this recipe, I thought “this doesn’t sound so bad. I wonder how I could make it taste good?” However, my ego can’t take another blow like the notorious “fish dish” that will randomly come up in conversation. So. . . .fish sticks it is.

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  21. For what I believe was the first Christmas in our new formal dining room with our new dining room furniture in our new house, my husband and I decided to make a formal dinner for our relatives. Among other things, we made what we thought was a lovely beef roast. As I was eating it, I came across a piece of gristle. I discretely spit it into my linen napkin so our 8 guests would not notice. Then I noticed a guest do the same. Then another. Upon investigation, I discovered the hard piece I spit out was not gristle. Our roast was full of buckshot! I guess the "merry" part in our Christmas that year is that no one cracked a tooth or got lead poisoning. Happy holidays!

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  22. I started learning how to cook when I went away to college, and got an apartment my junior year. At the end of the school year, I decided I wanted to make my boyfriend and his roommates dinner as a thank you for letting me stay with them during Senior Week. My boyfriend picked out a Rachael Ray recipe; it was some sort of chinese noodle dish. It had shrimp, which I don't eat and other ingredients like ginger and bok choy that I didn't have any experience with. I was prepping the ingredients and sataying the ginger and some veggies. I must have had the pan on too high because when I went to add the red pepper flakes, it started to smoke instantaneously. The one roommate flung the door and all the windows open, so the smoke detector wouldn't go off and have the fire department show off. I immediately took the pan off the burner, but it was still smoking the entire apartment. My boyfriend came back (he was out getting me a burger since I don't eat shrimp) and was met with an apartment filled with smoke. Because the red pepper flakes burned, it started to to make everyone's eyes burn. We had to leave the apartment for a few minutes will it aired out. It was like homemade tear gas! God bless him, but when we came back, my boyfriend and his one roommate actually ate the food. Supposedly it wasn't that bad, but I think they were just trying to make me feel better. And even though it's been almost 4 years and I have no become a pretty good at-home cook and baker, I am still teased relentlessly about my homemade tear gas!

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  23. I am not a domestic goddess. At times, my apartment could be condemned as a biohazard and it’s only because I have a lot of clothing that I am not naked more often. Fortunately, there’s one thing I can do really well that saves me from being a complete write-off as a homemaker. I make a mean breakfast. Seriously; on some days, my bacon could win awards.

    One Sunday, I was showing off my skill for the Boy. I shooed him from the kitchen (a master should not be disturbed) and was cheerfully dodging dirty pots and pans as I created our morning feast. When the cinnamon French toast was done and the bacon was crisp, I summoned him back, and gave him the one bit of bad news I had.

    I hadn’t refrigerated the real maple syrup and it developed a suspicious crust. He’d have to make due with the fake kind. But hey, I’d made a delicious breakfast and he’d just have to deal. I was still expecting compliments.

    We went into the living room, and dug in. Like a good boy, he made appreciative “nom nom nom” noises as he quickly polished off the first piece of French toast.

    And then. . .

    “Oh look, you gave me a little seasoning,” he said, having unearthed the shriveled body of an ant from beneath French toast slice number two of three.

    “Ew! Sorry baby,” I replied, and we laughed it off.

    Until he found another.

    And another.

    All in all, we scraped 14 dead ants off his plate.

    That’s when I began to look distrustfully at my own food. That’s also when I noticed that what I previously thought was just a little piece of burnt bacon was actually a shriveled dead ant friend of my own.

    And then I found another.

    Worse, I found ant *parts*. “That’s an abdomen,” he told me, gesturing toward my bacon. Oh god, where was the head?

    It was horrifying. Humiliating. It was also fascinating. How in the hell. . . ?

    “It’s the syrup!” I realized. “They’re in the syrup!”

    “Nah,” he said. “How would that even happen?” But he was already up and investigating. Sure enough, at the bottom of the syrup bottle were a bazillion more dead ants. They had sacrificed themselves, lemming-style, into the bosom of Aunt Jemima.

    Apparently, one side effect of being a non-domestic goddess is that the syrup isn’t always immediately put away, like, say, last time (I hope it was just last time!). It also means that maybe I don’t close lids as fastidiously as I should.

    He probably should have taken his chances with the crusty real stuff.

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  24. I have Many, Many stories and am notorious in our family but the one that stands out is 17 years ago when just starting to date my now husband.

    Think back to that early falling-in-love stage where everything is golden and you can do ANYTHING. We were undergrads and on fairly tight budgets. It was fall, the weather turning chilly and I was craving some home cooked country food. I used a whole week of my food budget to buy the ingredients for chicken and dumplings from scratch (we didn't have anything like actual staples in either of our kitchens!).

    Keep in mind I had never actually made chicken & dumplings myself, but I'd seen my grandma do it countless times. (And she'd actually gotten the bird from the henhouse and 'chickenmongered it'--mine should have been easier, right???) Nor did I have anything like a recipe--nobody in my family uses actual 'recipes'! They just know how to do it instinctively, from repetition, and tradition. Except me.

    At any rate, I spent ALL DAY (not kidding) making this dish. Boiled the chicken, picked it, made the dumplings from scratch. Assembled the ingredients that I KNOW were used from my MANY years of observation. Used EVERY SINGLE pot/pan and utensil in the kitchen, to boot.

    After 7 1/2 hours of patiently working, it had to be ready. It was creamy and perfect. I set the table, and grabbed the ladle. In the time it had taken me to set the table (with candles no less). It had congealed over the heat. Completely. There was no thinning it down. The ladle actually was trapped. I picked it up, and the entire thing popped out of the pot--I had a pot shaped chicken and dumpling lollipop on ladle. So I put the whole mess on a plate, cut it and tried to thin some of it down. No go. I finally sliced it like a roast beef and arranged it somewhat artistically just about the time he came through the door.

    We sat down to the worst plate of rubberized horribly grainy chicken flavored slices I have ever tasted. He tried to eat it. Bless his heart he really did, with a fork and knife, by candlelight. Like steak. After we gave in and declared it hopeless, we attempted to give his dog some. The dog sniffed it and gave us a really weird look before walking away. (This was doubly insulting b/c this dog ate some truly unmentionable things!)

    We gave up and walked down the street to the bar that had $0.25 beers that night and filled up on the free chips.

    That is the night (my now)dear husband became the chef in our family. And he's a FINE one at that.

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  25. Early in my marriage (recurring theme I see!) my husband invited over his law partner & his wife. It was a casual event but still an opportunity to impress. For a beautiful fall weekend, we decided to make chili. I had done most of the preparation before the guests arrived so that the aroma would be wafting through the house when they arrived. It smelled terrific! To bond with the partner's wife, I thought she & I could stir the chili and throw in last minute spices. I pulled out garlic powder (or white pepper - I've honestly blocked it out) and proceeded to add a 1/4 teaspoonful. A weird look came across her face when she started to stir the pot. There was some type of flour bug or meal moth on top of the chili, carefully spooned in from the spice jar. We both gagged & screamed. I couldn't believe that I nearly fed my guests & husband an incest infested chili! Pizza delivery to the rescue!

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  26. One of my kitchen disasters (and there are many) that comes to mind is my very first attempt at 'green bean casserole'. I had seen my new husband chowing down on the stuff at a pot luck of some sort. It looked easy enough for a new cook. And since I was also a NAIVE new cook, I thought I could figure out the recipe myself-so I went to the pantry....Hmmmm, no cream of mushroom soup? No problem I will use ranch dressing. No french fried onions? No problem I will use bacon bits. Just for the record a green bean casserole made with ranch dressing, green beans and bacon bits tastes like crap.

    Remind me to tell you the story of when my (now ex) husband decided to fry our Thanksgiving turkey and there was flaming hot oil running down the driveway toward the street.....

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  27. My mother was an adequate cook- everything was edible but nothing was really special. My aunt on the other hand, is the kind of home gourmet that just instinctively knows what flavors will work well together and can tweak a recipe to something spectacular. I am more like my mother- even when following a great recipe my results turn out rather eh. But I digress, when I was in High School, I spent a summer as a kind of nanny to my 2 younger cousins (children of said aunt- basically I was there to call 911 in case of catastrophe while their parents were at work). For some reason or other, I decided to "help" by getting dinner started one night. I'm not sure why anyone thought this was a good idea (see Mother's cooking skills above). Anyway, my aunt left me a recipe called "French Country Kitchen" its basically a casserole- type dish with rice, vegetables, etc. Because my aunt is a great cook, there were ingredients in the house that I had never even heard of let alone seen in my life. The recipe called for a cup of beef broth- but my aunt didnt stock anything as mundane as canned beef broth- there was however a Costco-size jug of beef consommé. I'll let you guess just how salty a cup of beef consommé made the recipe. I was completely unaware of the problem until my uncle (who never met a salt shaker he didn't love) spit his first mouthful across the table. We rinsed the meal under the faucet in an attempt to salvage it and make it edible (it didnt work)- EPIC FAIL! Unfortunately I am still an only adequate cook- but I do know the difference between broth and consommé

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  28. I was desperate to try and generate a meal out of a depleted pantry. This one was all wrong from the ill-conceived get go. Since I'd successfully made a nice salmon loaf out of canned salmon before, I figured I might duplicate the concept, except this time, I only had sardines.

    Having recently acquired a stick-type blender, I thought I'd whip up a can of black beans to add more body and carbs to the dish. (Hummus or bean dip works much better in the food processor than with a stick blender, I've since learned.) Add in a raw egg, seasoning, and jab repeatedly at the mush with the stick blender, until it turns into a lumpen paste, fish bones, skin, beans and all. Pile said paste onto a foil-lined tray and bake in the toaster oven until slightly puffed and dried out on top. Taste. Gag. Pitch into trash.

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  29. Having just moved from the south to Chicago, I wanted to throw a party - not just any party, but a football party - SEC and Bama all the way! The South would rise again amidst my wonderful cooking and the awesomeness of Southern football. BBQ, potato salad, baked beans, cornbread - the WORKS! And for dessert - wonderful banana pudding.

    Menu set, ingredients bought, everything all ready to prepare. I had made everything before at various football parties I had over the years, except for the banana pudding, so now worries or surprises there. But I had eaten enough banana pudding to KNOW how it ought to be.

    I threw the butter in a skillet to melt, along the eggs. I put the three cups of milk on the stove. Not really reading the recipe, I threw the egg mixture in the milk after all had melted and the milk was starting to boil. I turned back to get the flour, salt and sugar to add and started stirring. And realized I had lumps. Not just any dry ingredient lumps, but cooked (scrambled) egg lumps!

    The mixture was useless. Because I had been making scrambled eggs for, oh, about 30 years at that point, and I KNEW eggs+butter+milk+heat = edible! And people were supposed to be arriving in 15 minutes. Ugggh! I re-read the recipe and I now understand the importance of reading AND following the directions, and the use of a double broiler.

    Calling my mother, crying, from the car, I ran to the White Hen down the street and grabbed more milk and two packages of instant pudding, which worked in a pinch, but darn it – I had planning on everything being from scratch.

    Needless to say, Bama won the game and the rest of the food turned out great – and no-one ever knew that I make sweet scrambled eggs to start with – instead of the home cooked banana pudding I had planned (until now)!

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  30. I read recipes and watch cooking shows frequently and in my head, I am a four star chef and can whip together anything with master chef skills. Sadly, this is not the case in real life. I am easily distracted and that has led to many disasters, but the biggest one is still a mystery how exactly it occurred. Imagine Christmas morning and a beautiful turkey is going in the oven for delicious lunch with family and friends. Now fast forward a few hours later when everything that can go wrong does. The turkey...this beautiful turkey that was to be the main dish at lunch...explodes in the oven. Oh yes, yes, it did. In the panic to get the turkey (complete w/ flames shooting) out of the oven, the potatoes are left cooking on the stove with no one attending to them. As we are cleaning up the turkey remains that are all over the place, the smoke alarm goes off. The potatoes, of course. The water had evaporated and they were just burning in the pot. EPIC FAIL X10. I have never attempted a turkey again, I leave it in the hands of the professionals in the family.

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  31. I am a pretty good cook.I am LOVING your new book, and it is inspiring me to come up with new things to make for my family and I think of some fabulous comments to send to you (which I will do when I finish the book).
    My most recent disaster happened when I was making my own home version of Pho. My 5 year old son LOVES it. I wanted to get it started before I took him to his 5pm karate class so that when we got home, there was very little left to finish off before it was ready to eat when we got home at 6. I was simmering the broth with the star anise, fennel seed, ginger and garlic on medium low. Only it wasn't becoming fragrant. So I turned up the heat, thinking I would pack his bag, go to the bathroom, and then turn the heat to low before we left. Can you see where this is going?? Uh huh. WAIT! It gets MUCH better!!!
    While he was in his class I remembered what I had done, called my neighbour frantically and asked her to go in and take the pot off the stove.
    When we got home, she said there was smoke in the kitchen, but no fire.
    So I cooked the noodles, started again with some new broth in a new pot, and saw that the "broth" in the other pot didn't look that bad.... so I added it to the new broth. Um yeah. She had put water in the pot which had apparently boiled dry, black etc.....
    so it was quite a burnt awful tasting Pho. My son said, "This doesn't taste as good as it usually does, Mommy". No kidding.

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  32. Can I just say this reminds me of the meal Bridget makes for her birthday in the movie "Bridget Jones Diary" - I love when she ties the leeks with blue twine and her leek soup comes out blue.

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  33. We were young when this happened... having grown up in rural west central Wisconsin we had a huge garden. One of the things that we grew, in great plenty, was zucchini. My mom put it in the frying pan one night and told my brother and I to watch it while she ran downstairs for something.

    When she returned a few minutes later the smoke detector was going off and the whole kitchen was filled with thick black smoke. She screamed, why didn't you turn down the heat?

    We replied, because the smoke was too thick to see the knob.

    She still made us eat the burned zucchini.

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  34. Here is my two cents for this particular subject. I learned how to cook from very early on (age 10+) but I was still a novice to the pressure cooker at age 22. Yeah, you can already know why lies ahead, I thought I would do my man proud and make an old family recipe for stewed chicken. Got all the ingredients together, making sure to get everything just like Mom always did.. Yeah, NOT!! I do remember her saying to me to make sure it was locked and sealed tightly - (thinking to myself - yeah, yeah, yeah as she repeated it again to me) -- I went on to clean up the house while my chicken stewed - only to hear such a ruckus from the kitchen - I went downstairs to see that I now not only didn't have dinner any longer - I had a kitchen to clean from ceiling to floor. You would think the story ends here - but no - - we ended up getting take out from a local establishment - and getting food poisoning too! Needless to say he broke up with me shortly afterwards - telling his friends that I was like the black plague and to never eat anything I cook. Moral to the story, be thankful you have a man who thinks the world of you and your cooking - and never ever let him go!! Carry on our fearless leader - I can't wait to see where you take us to next!!

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  35. I was going to make a potroast for my boyfriend. So went out bought the roast, the potatos, carrots, celery, onion, garlic seasoning and beef broth. Got everything prepared the night before and put it all into the crockpot the next morning, setting it to low. Upon coming home from work, I didn't smell what I thought would be filling the whole apartment... to find out I didn't plug in the crockpot. Needless to say, we had rice, salad and fish sticks for dinner that night... oops!

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  36. oops, I missed the deadline, but thought I'd tell you my story anyway.... Last Christmas I was assigned dessert for the big dinner. I had been having a spectacular baking season, so thought I'd make a bouche noel. I made the ganache first, and after it was done accidentally knocked the bowl and spilled about a third of it. Despite it being Christmas, there were a couple of f-bombs dropped at that point. One cardinal rule of my kitchen is never waste good chocolate and heavy cream, so I spooned up what I could that wasn't touching the counter (just in case, you never know). I got a lot of it up, then only had a thin layer of ganache to wipe up/waste. Then I got to the cake layer. Many minutes of whipping and blending later, I had it poured onto the pan and in the oven, when I noticed the egg whites sitting on the counter. Begin the long string of f-bombs...at increasing volume. So I let it finish cooking, just in case the egg whites were not really necessary (yep, pathetic optimist). Needless to say I had a piece of chocolate leather.... ok, start it again. That's when I realized that I had used the last of the sugar for the first attempt. Really? Really? More f-bombs. Ok, I only needed 1/3 cup, so I dug around in the cupboard and found some packets of sugar brought home from many coffee runs.... no, I'm serious. So I started opening packets, and ended up with just slightly less than 1/3 cup, and decided it was good enough. Fortunately I had enough of everything else, and the cake was baked, and only one small crack when I rolled it up, which was hidden by the ganache. So in the end, it turned out fine, but there were enough f-bombs dropped that I'm expecting that Santa will never be coming down my chimney again. Ever.

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  37. Okay, me, my then husband stationed in Germany in '70, 8 hungry, lonely GIs and a pot roast with all the trimmings in my converted coal stove oven. 2 hours -still tough, 3 hours- still not ready, 5 hours - like a large golf ball. Never figured out what happened, ended up emptying our tiny freezer of all the fish sticks, spaghetti, etc. to feed the guys. And they still loved the meal. But by that time they were so hungry, I could have fed them cat food.

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  38. Ahh! I missed the deadline too but I have to share because my failed recipe story just happened. I was recently married and got a lot of wonderful kitchen/cooking stuff for the wedding. My husband's birthday was last week - both of us are HUGE chocolate fans, so he asks for a chocolate with chocolate icing. Knowing that I'm pretty bad in the kitchen he suggests I use a boxed cake mix. No no I say, I want to make you one from scratch. We got all these great cookbooks and fancy pans for the wedding, I'll make you a cake. Plus I've been looking for an excuse to use my kitchenaid mixer. The result? Bad, very very bad chocolate cake. Actually the cake wasn't terrible, but the icing was pretty bad. My husband was sweet and told it was wonderful when we both had a piece on his birthday. Sadly, rest of the cake is sitting on my beautiful cake dish - untouched. A week has gone by and neither of us has had a second piece. So much for being the perfect domestic cooking wife.

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  39. I know the deadline is way past, but I wanted to make two comments to you:
    1. I finished Good Enough to Eat, and luuurved it. There are very few characters in modern lit that I empathize with so much as Melanie. Thank you for writing such an entertaining, witty, and sensitive tale.
    2. My kitchen disaster is Jessica Seinfeld's fault. I watched her demonstrate recipes for her Deceptively Delicious" cookbook on Oprah. I ran to the bookstore, and came away determined to make my family healthy through pureed veggies. Let's just say that there's a reason for chicken nuggets to not be coated in liquified carrot and flax seed. My 2 year old didn't speak to me for 2 days!

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  40. Heather M., Columbus OhioOctober 19, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    My failure in cooking happened as a child. We had to take a turn a week in preparing dinner and for my big night, I was to make tuna noodle casserole. Easy enough you say? Not in the least. No one ever mentioned that you actually had to boil the noodles prior to baking. Needless to say it was extra crispy nastiness that my German mother insisted be consumed. Too bad we never had a dog, I imagine it would have had a feast.

    Needless to say I've moved on to bigger and better things, and made the best decision ever in my culinary trials - I now date a chef. :)

    He does the cooking, I do the baking and it's a happy balanced world.

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  41. Too late for your contest, but it needs to be said.

    Even though with playdough you can make little round balls, and long snakes, please don't make my mistake and think that this wonderful talent will transfer to the kitchen.

    Meatballs. YES.

    Meat snakes. NO.

    When they are red and raw, they look fine, no problem... but remember what colour they are when they cook.

    Yes, I served my family turd shaped meat logs for supper...

    My husband really was quite nice about it, but now I just follow all recipes VERY closely.

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