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Kitchen Disasters and I’m Still at It

December 14, 2018 3 Comments

Kitchen Disasters and I’m Still at It

This week, I’m thinking about the trials and tribulations of entertaining—especially my disasters in the kitchen and, believe me, I’ve had quite a few.

I once made this great rice dish for a dinner party. It was a recipe that I’d made before so I knew it was easy and full of flavor. When I served it and finally tasted it, it was gummy and bland. I decided to not say anything and pretend I didn’t realize it wasn’t good—better not to bring attention to the disaster. The minute everyone left, I grabbed the recipe to figure out what I’d done wrong. I’d mixed the cooked rice with all the correct ingredients and then put it into a 350° oven for 30 minutes. Nowhere in the recipe did it say bake for 30 minutes. Baking had turned it into a gummy mess!

What I learned: No matter how many times I’ve made a recipe, read and reread it to make certain I’m not inventing steps.

 

When I first started entertaining, I found an interesting African fruit salad recipe I thought would be fun for dessert. The recipe called for salt as well as sugar to make the sauce. I followed the directions and when it came to the addition of the salt, 1/4 cup struck me as a lot. But this was an African dish and the review said it was unexpectedly good. So I followed the directions and served it. As I dished the fruit salad out, I explained it was an unusual recipe from Africa. My guests listened and tasted. When I finally took my first taste, I gasped in horror at my mouthful of salt! Beyond awful. My guests were good friends, and they hadn’t said a word as I rambled on about this unusual recipe.

What I learned: 1. Always taste your food before serving it. 2. Listen to your instincts; if an instruction seems wrong, it may well be. 3. Always have something to serve as a backup just in case. French vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and cookies are always good.

 

I planned a party at an offsite location. I made lists and lists to ensure I would have absolutely everything I needed. Someone offered to bring the corkscrew. Great—one less thing for me to worry about. I got there early, set everything up perfectly, but when I went to open the wine, there was no corkscrew! The person was late. Guests started arriving and I had no wine to serve them. A party without wine is not good. I tried to explain the corkscrew would be here any minute, but I was beginning to panic. Seeing my expression, my assistant said if I could get her a pen, she’d open the wine. I didn’t even ask how. I got a pen and she disappeared in the back. When I looked back she was serving wine—bless her.

What I learned: Never leave home without the corkscrew even if someone offers to help out.

 

My husband, Mark, makes cinnamon buns for holiday mornings. It’s a wonderful ritual we love. One year, mouth watering, I wandered down to the kitchen to the smell of cinnamon buns. I pulled one apart and placed a piece in my mouth. Oh no, something was wrong, this didn’t taste right at all! I looked around to find my sister and husband staring at me. "What happened?" I asked. Mark explained that when he went into the spice drawer at 5 a.m. he grabbed the cardamom instead of the cinnamon. Once he realized his mistake, he wiped it off and even rinsed the dough. Then he continued his work, this time using cinnamon. Unfortunately, cardamom is a very strong spice and the taste still made its appearance.

What he learned: Put on your glasses and have a cup of coffee before you start cooking! 

 

I was entertaining my cousins who were visiting from France. They were coming for brunch, and I decided to make a Southern meal: spiral ham, kale, potatoes, and biscuits. I’d never made biscuits before, so I read about the best ways to get them light and fluffy. As I did my research, I found instructions on homemade baking powder with no aluminum in it. Great. One less unnecessary chemical in our food. I made the meal, everything was perfect, and I was just waiting for the biscuits to rise and come out of the oven. I waited and waited but all I had was an oven full of flat brown hockey pucks! I explained to my guests—what a shame, because biscuits were really good with ham. The next morning my husband woke me with a breakfast tray that included a pot of coffee and a basket full of freshly baked flaky biscuits. I looked at him, speechless. “I didn’t know you could bake biscuits” I said. “You never asked” was his answer!

What I learned: 1. I shouldn’t try something totally new for guests. 2. How bad can a little aluminum be anyway? 3. Ask my husband if he has any other talents I should know about.

 

I miscalculated a recipe I was making for a dinner party and realized just before our guests arrived that I had to finish the main course at the last minute. Bad planning. I found myself in the kitchen working away as I listened to our guests laughing in the other room. Dinner was great but I felt I’d missed the party and that wasn’t fun.

What I learned: 1. I need to read the entire recipe before I decide to make it for a party. 2. If you want to attend your own dinner party, select recipes that can be made ahead of time.

 

The truth is that no matter how many mistakes I make, I love entertaining. I enjoy gathering with friends and creating good food. There is something so personal about entertaining at home: getting the house ready for company, lighting the house to set the mood for the evening, setting a festive table, and waiting for our guests to arrive.

 

What about you?

Have you had any disasters in the kitchen?

Disasters while you were entertaining?

What did you learn?

Do you enjoy entertaining? Why?

 

 

 

 





3 Responses

Adeline Olmer
Adeline Olmer

December 14, 2018

Lisa, wow what a great comment! Thank you for your detailed explanation. I’m not a baker and have always just trusted that the yeast would work. This may explain some past flops. Because of you I now know what to do. Merci

Jane, oh my, you made me laugh! Why is it those obvious things we don’t see. I don’t know about you but when I have that experience I’ll swear it wasn’t that I didn’t see it but it wasn’t there!
Oh well
Merci

Lisa A Manuele
Lisa A Manuele

December 14, 2018

Let’s talk about Yeast!!
I am a baker. I have loved to bake since I was a child. The biggest disasters I have had in baking involved yeast.
waht is yeast? Yeast is a live organism that has a particular taste for what is likes to eat and the temperature it likes to dine at!

So what have I learned about this mysterious substance?
As in anything when cooking, freshness counts. If you can purchase fresh yeast from a bakery it’s a home run. They have this product as a lifeblood of their business. They need fresh yeast!.

If you can’t purchase fresh yeast, buy the supermarket version which is in the refrigerated section. It is a small block, wrapped in foil.
If you can’t purchase the block type of yeast, buy the packaged type which is a dry granular yeast. LOOK AT THE EXPIRATION DATE
I have lost a few good breads due to not reading the expiration date or using old yeast.

Every good bread starts with a yeast ball – so what is it and how do you make it?
How to make a yeast ball

So what do these little critters eat?
Yeast is a live organism that has to be fed. Yes, you have to feed it in order for it to grow.
What you’ll need
-the yeast block (which is about the equivalend of 2 packages of dried granualted yeast) or 2 packages of dry granulated yeast
-1/4 cup warm, blood temperature, milk
-1 teaspoon of sugar
-1/4 teaspoon of sale
1/4 cup of flour (whichever type your recipe requies)

mix the yeast into the milk with a wisk
add all other ingredients and mix with the wisk
You now have the start of the yeast ball.

I find it best to raise the yeast in a double boiler, placing the yeast in the top
and warm water into bottom pot. cover the pot with a pot cover or plastic wrap
and keep it in a warm place for about 15 to 30 minutes.

you should see “bubble” activity in the yeast mixture, which means the yeast is
eating the sugar, salt and flour and milk.

when it has doubled in size, it is ready to be mixed into your bread mix

if it does not grow double in size, the yeast is dead and you will have to purchase
new yeast and start again

better you know ahead of time before you mix it all together with the dough!

Jane
Jane

December 14, 2018

Love this and I want one of those cinnamon buns! I don’t really cook much. My most recent disaster was that I forgot to add water to the Easy Mac bowl and it ruined my microwave. And I swear to you, the next time I purchased Easy Mac, there was a big add water sign on the top of each little bowl. Guess I’m not the only one…

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