Epic Culinary Failures

Oh, where do I start? I started cooking at age seven. I learned to peel carrots and place them in ice water in the frig to curl. My grandfather called them “suicide carrots.” Everything I made was prefaced by that word, but people liked my cooking.

I had an episode recently. For years we’ve had Friday Pizza night. I now use only Italian OO flour for my dough, seldom use tomato sauce and for a regular night it’s just sauteed mushrooms and perhaps bell pepper and lots of quality fresh Italian mozzarella with a sprinkling of pepper and Parmigiano Reggiano at the end. If we have a cooking class or kids the right age to dress their own pizzas I prep at least 17 toppings. Yes, including anchovies.

Cutting the recipe in half to make one pizza was easy. It’s 1.5 cups flour. I always need to add more water wherever I live to make the food processor dough come together. This time It was so wet I was adding flour like crazy. It came together, rose twice and rolled out wet but was a nice tender dough.

What was my mistake? I reached for the dry measuring cups and got 1/3 cup instead of 1/2 cup so the flour/water ratio was messed up. Human error, not the right eyeglasses to see the tiny measurement on the handle!

My husband’s family drove five hours to see us for Christmas one year. I made a lovely pork loin roast with roasted, cornbread-stuffed apples and hard cider gravy. I wanted something that didn’t have pork or apples in it so decided on a root vegetable puree with potatoes and rutabaga. Last night I saw the first episode of America’s Test Kitchen with Julia Child’s classic recipe of Beef with Burgundy sauce. Andy did a test of ricers. Mine wasn’t even tested.

I’m sure you know what a ricer is. Hand-held device, put cooked potatoes in it, place the plunger down and voila! It’s like a huge garlic press, and yields the fluffiest mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten, with seasoning, milk and butter.

Rutabagas were another story. Finally my mother-in-law took over. I could not get them through the ricer as they were so fibrous. I’ve never done carrots through a ricer but I think I probably could do that. I haven’t used it since and my husband bought me an old-fashioned food mill with three blades from a hardware store.

I think Nanny heard of my rutabaga disaster (the meal went well) and got me an old-fashioned sqare pounding potato masher similar to the one from Revere Ware my mother had for decades. It’s fine for the two of us, but if I’m cooking for a crowd either the ricer or the food mill are summoned to duty.

Dee’s chicken chili was a disaster of epic proportions. First off, I found this great recipe but didn’t really know anything about chiles. This is after cooking school, hey, they taught French back then and not Spanish or Mexican or Thai. I was at the farmer’s market and bought a plant, Thai bird chile. It was pretty. I decided to use 1/3 the amount of chili in the recipe and it was so hot it was inedible. The next day I threw in corn and everything but the kitchen sink. No way.

Now I look forward to Hatch chili season and use different peppers, blister them on the stove, steam then peel and seed. I make a great Texas Chili with beef (thank you, Lady Bird Johnson for your 1962 recipe).

Let’s just say this. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Always keep learning. A word, a skill, a tip, fashion, a new dog bowl, whatever. Keep learning. This post is dedicated to Iris Apfel. Sorry to make it one of my culinary disasters! Dee

ps I saw “Iris” at a film festival recently. If you like fashion and big personalities that is Iris. Last night I saw that the film has come out on Netflix. Next week we’ll have a girls’ night in, with food and beverages, and watch it at home. d

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