(Mis) Adventures In Cooking

I can see there are a lot of cooks here with good ideas and good recipes, but we not everyone can be Gordon Ramsay from the get-go. What lessons have you learned the hard way?

On my very first grownup Thanksgiving (cooking for myself in my very first apartment) I had some friends come over for dinner. I was to make the turkey, they would bring everything else.

We were having way too good of a time when I realized I had forgotten to put the turkey in the oven, and it was getting late. Well, if there’s one thing I know it’s basic math, and if the bird is supposed to go in for 3 hours at 350, certainly 2 hours at 500 will work just as well…

The rest is the stuff of legend.

You can always add a bit more seasoning if need be. You can’t take any out if you overdo it.

Lesson learned via mis-reading a recipe’s tablespoon vs. teaspoon.

I did a dry brine and a spatchcock turkey for thanksgiving a while ago. The problem is that the turkey wasn’t quite defrosted. You may see where this is going. The turkey just wouldn’t flatten out correctly after the spine removal. I leaned on that fucker like I was trying fowl CPR.

Long story short, half of the bird was under cooked. The wife and I were in the kitchen like, is this edible? Is this edible?

Ultimately we got a dinner out of it. AFAIK nobody was sick or died. :)

Man I fail all the time, are you kidding me? That’s part of the fun(?) of cooking.

I make eggs over easy all the time. I still fail cracking or dropping an egg into the pan.
I frequently over-season things.
I’ve overcooked onions and/or garlic more times than I can count. Ever burned garlic in a dish? Trust me, just toss it and order delivery.

As far as Thanksgiving goes, I’ve made dry turkey a huge number of times. I’ve had a little better luck lately, but who knows what the Thanksgiving food gods hold in store, this year.

EDIT: We should have a side-poll of when you absolutely fail a recipe, but everyone seems to love it. Success at the cost of failure.

Speaking of burnt garlic, ever try making baked garlic in the microwave?

FWIW I love dry turkey.

Heh. Me too. Unfortunately I’m the only one here. I also like hard cooked scrambled eggs and overcooked shrimp.

You probably could pressure cook a turkey in like an hour. But I wouldn’t want to test that theory out during a dinner party.

I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way. So many that I can’t really remember most of them. Mostly it ends up with me throwing something out because I used too much salt or too many chilies. Lots of times I get recipes that don’t look right, but still taste pretty good.

But one that stands out is this time when I wanted to make a pepper encrusted chicken breast. I didn’t follow a recipe (as I am wont to do) and just basically ended up coating the chicken breast with whole black peppercorns, using egg or something to ensure that a nice solid coat adhered. Then I sautéed it over medium-high heat. The peppercorn started smoking, so I pulled it out of the pan and took the temperature with a probe thermometer. It was still 90 degrees inside. So I put it back in the pan, adding more oil and I lowered the heat to medium. When the chicken was finally at the right temperature on the inside, my apartment was full of this pungent peppery smoke, which thankfully doesn’t burn quite like when you accidentally aerosolize chili peppers. I took my first bite and nearly choked on these burnt peppercorns stuck to the outside. After regaining my composure, I scraped all the peppercorn off the chicken and then again tried to eat it. It was still way to peppery and I had to throw the whole thing out. It’s the only time in my life when something made with black pepper was too spicy for me.

That’s the only way I can tolerate scrambled eggs. Of course they have to have ketchup on them.

I like corn flake crusted chicken since you can get the texture and crunch of frying while not actually deep-frying it.

Rabbit is supposed to taste like chicken, right?
Note to self: No more corn flake crusted rabbit.

Melted butter and softened butter are very much not the same thing in the cooking world.

I looove coconut sugar, but apparently coconut sugar is not meant for baking. Yet, I keep trying and I keep resulting in a liquidy mess. A delicious mess in which I’ll still eat the entire raw batter - but isn’t what I was intending.

The first time I cooked Christmas Dinner for my family and my wifes family, the bird was still a bit frozen (even after thawing 48 hours) I pulled out the plastic gizzard bag and threw it in.

Cooked through well, and while I was scooping out the stuffing I found the 2nd bag with the spine in it.

I quickly threw it away and told no-one (I also thew the stuffing back in the oven for 15 mins to get a little more heat on it.

Didn’t taste of plastic at all, and nobody knew. Lesson learned, there are 2 bags to remove from the inside of the turkey, not 1.

I’ve related a few of my worst mishaps in the main cooking thread. . .

The Legend of the Curry Tornado:

So my Preethi brand Indian Mixer-Grinder is fuckin magical. It’s ludicrously powerful, has two blending cups and a bunch of blades and shit, and wasn’t very pricy at all. On the other hand, it has exactly zero safety features. Press switch, blades move, no questions asked.

So I had made myself some chicken tikka masala. And as I put my stick blender into the pot to blitz it smooth (gf hates to find onion or tomato pieces in her food) before adding the chicken, I realized my stick blender was broken.

Curry’s barely below boiling hot, it’s already like 8PM, and gf is hungry and cranky. So am I.

So I slop it all into the big cup of the Preethi. The lid just fits on with a thin cheap rubber ring to stop most leaks. But it’s just push on/pull off. Not exactly the tightest seal.

I recognize this is stupid. I recognize it’s phenomenally stupid. So I toss it in the fridge for five minutes to cool, wrap a towel completely around it, and then push the lid down with my full body weight while turning the switch. Surely that’ll be enough!

Of course, it is not enough. A rising torrent of boiling hot curry, half liquefied, comes swirling up the sides of the mixer-grinder, forces the lid partially off, spraying the towel and quickly me with a jet of pure lava. Shrieking, i fall back, barely managing to flip the switch off, but not before the lid just comes rocketing off as a tornado of curry hell swirls up, skyward toward my vaulted ceiling. Doesn’t quite make it there, so it settles for lazily spiraling outward to coat every fucking surface within 8 feet instead.

Chef pro tip: turmeric-laced curry stains carpet like a motherfucker (I was doing the blending on the gigantic island between my kitchen and living room areas. Never had something spray 3 feet clear across it before).

Or perhaps The Curious Case of the Chicken Pasties?

Once, I decided I was gonna make chicken pasties, because I saw a recipe on Youtube and they sounded like an even better version of chicken pot pie (it’s basically just a CPP with like a 2:1 crust:filling ratio! YESSSS). So I dig around for a few recipes and mix and match and decide on one of those fancy modernist cuisine vodka pie crusts (the vodka wettens the dough enough to shape, but the alcohol doesn’t form gluten with the flour like pure water would, leading to a more tender crust).

Except somewhere along the lines after my food processor produced a sludge altogether like the world’s worst peanut butter when I tried to process cold butter and shortening into my flour, I managed to mix up tbsp and oz on my miniature measuring up (I normally use it for mixed drinks for the gf, and thus default to the oz side). Thus, instead of including the 8 tbsp of vodka recommended by the recipe, I wound up with 16. . .

. . . I tried dumping more flour and butter into it, but it was for naught, and I had to start from scratch, including a trip to the liquor store to get more vodka, since I’d used up all I had in the house on the last go around.

To add insult to injury, when all was said and done and the pasties were made (hideous, malformed lumps of crust that they were, due to being homemade), my gf and I learned that she apparently hates savory pies because her brain can’t get over the mental disconnect of having something savory come out of a shape that is “supposed” to be sweet!


Then there’s the time I made my first curry out of ingredients I hated, or the time I melted my favorite Gamecube controller when it fell behind my precariously situated toaster oven while trying to cook in a cramped single room dorm in college, or the time I shattered a bottle of Thai black soy sauce all over my kitchen and self while making stir fry for lunch on break from work. . .

Pretty sure that was the neck. The bird still had the spine attached. OTOH the neck is part of the spine so you are technically correct.

I remember the first story but not the second. I have a kitchen spill theorem that goes something like this:

  • Any container with any sort of liquid in it will fall at exactly the correct container angle to maximize the spread of said contents as far as possible.

I’ve had a few of those. And as a corollary of the above, of ingredients dropped over a given time, results will skew towards the most colorful and staining.

Really? I was making chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and realized I didn’t have enough brown sugar. I made up the difference with coconut sugar, about half an half. The cookies were a little softer than usual but were perfectly fine.

Years ago I worked at Safeway. We sold holiday meals and left messages for everyone, days before, to pick up their meal. A young couple showed up on Thanksgiving to get their holiday meal and looked completely shocked when I handed them a frozen turkey. They asked if they could have a fresh one instead. We had to tell her the fresh birds had been told out for days and the meals the deli hands out are frozen. She started asking about dethawing in the microwave, and I kind of asked her how big the microwave which of course hers wasn’t big enough.

You got the bird in the oven. That puts you ahead of more than you can imagine.

As for my worst cooking issue. I made a bread ice-cream for my dad once. It was supposed to be a low-carb dessert. It was disgusting, and my dad just sat there eating it because his daughters served it for him. I told him to please stop eating that, and I think we wound up with a quick pudding instead. The texture, the lack of sugar… it was horrid.

After watching an episode of Restaurant Makeover, we decided to try making one of the new menu items that was introduced by the chef Corbin Tomaszeski. It was avacado ice cream. As far as I can tell, I followed the recipe to the letter. The end result looked like ice cream, but my wife and I both agreed it tasted awful and tossed it all.

Avocado ice cream sounds horrible.

@Timemaster_Tim is right though. It looks awesome on TV. Heck some of the weirdest foods look and taste awesome. His experience was like mine. I am pretty sure we did it right too, and it was just… awful.

You gotta hang in there for this story; it is cooking related:

Years ago during a summer, my brother came to town for a visit, and stayed at Dad’s place.

When he was ready to go back home, he called a cab to take him to the airport, as Dad had left to go to work. While my brother was waiting for the cab, he sat in a chair by the window in the living room that nobody used much, and turned on a lamp that didn’t get used much.

The lamp shorted out, there was a loud ‘pop’, and the lamp went out.
Just then, the cab showed up, so my brother didn’t have time to investigate or fix the lamp. He just left.

Weeks later, Dad tried to use the lamp, discovered the short, repaired it, and then had to go and turn the breaker back on, as it had been tripped weeks before when my brother turned the lamp on.

Months after this, Thanksgiving arrived, and Dad went out to the garage, where he had placed a turkey in the deep freeze the summer before. Can you see where this is going?

The turkey was frozen of course, but Dad had no idea that the deep freeze was on the same breaker as that living room lamp. Thus the turkey had sat in that non-functioning freezer for weeks in the summertime before the breaker got turned back on, and he never knew it because he lived alone at the time, and didn’t use it for much else.

When we arrived for Thanksgiving dinner, Dad was running out of the house, carrying a smoking turkey in a pan out to the trash can, where he dumped it in. He claimed he had gotten a “bad turkey”.

When we went into the house, the smell was so bad that we couldn’t eat there even if there was food, and went to a restaurant instead.