Lemons to lemonade…The standby cliché that has encouraged optimism for years is certainly a useful one to keep in mind in the kitchen.
Even though I’m pretty confident in my culinary prowess, every so often my cooking projects don’t turn out the way I expect them to. Occasionally, no matter how determined I am in conquering certain recipes or ingredients, they remain untamed and I am forced to dine on humble pie instead.
This is where some culinary finesse comes in handy — if you’ve spent enough time in a kitchen, shouldn’t you be able to take a problematic dish and turn it into a delicious success?
I’ll say with total and utter assurance…sometimes.
One of the more frustrating food failures I’ve experienced was a few years ago, involving a chicken leg, sweat and tears. The picture in the magazine was of a perfectly lacquered piece of poultry, whereas mine (even after plenty of last-ditch efforts) remained lackluster and insipid. It was edible, sure, but I didn’t enjoy eating it. The taste of disappointment was too strong.
My most recent foray into the land of food flops came with a slightly ironic twist. Back in 2007, I ripped out a recipe for a Crisp Salami Cocktail Mix from the December issue of Food & Wine. I don’t know what about it intrigued me so much, but it seared itself in my brain. I wasn’t sure when I would make it, but I knew it would happen.
I ate Chinese steamed buns on New Years Day quite unexpectedly.
My husband and I had a lazy morning before finally deciding we were hungry enough to leave the house in search of food. To be on the safe side, we called our favorite neighborhood joint to check on the wait for brunch. Forty five minutes, they told us on the phone.
Given that their bloody marys and biscuits are good enough to make nearly any wait worth it, we scrambled to get dressed and drove with haste up the street. Moments later, we found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant. Pleased as punch, we walked through the door…and that’s when things went awry.
My kitchen has been feeling neglected lately. With all the craziness of the holidays, it’s been weeks since I’ve had the time or energy to contemplate a cooking project, let alone actually accomplish one. This is probably why my list of resolutions is basically a list of foods to make!
To get back into the groove, I decided to start the new year with a two-part project: making Chinese BBQ pork and then using it as a stuffing in Chinese steamed buns (Char Siu Bao). Steamed buns are one of my favorite dim sum treats and since I hadn’t ever made them before, I thought it was about time to check them off my list of missions to accomplish.
For the steamed buns, I used a Fine Cooking recipe that I found online more than a year ago. The link can be found here. In that recipe there is a sub recipe for the BBQ pork so I started there. While I could have purchased the prepared meat from a Chinese grocer, I think there’s something infinitely more fun about a project if it’s all made from scratch.
Homemade Chinese BBQ Pork – getting a jump on the char siu bao
While I have a few resolutions (complete another Whole30 and to learn more about my Nikon camera), most of my hopes for the new year involve cooking. I created a new page on this blog to track my food-complishments over the next 12 months, but here’s a quick run-down:
You should all know me well enough by now that I don’t need to explain why I spent a few days creating a recipe for a hot buttered rum Jello shot. In posts past I’ve cemented my love for jiggly alcohol, so instead we can move on to the good stuff.
Hot buttered rum always makes me think of my life-long best friend Nikki Sea. Growing up, her family would make a big batch every December to serve at their annual Christmas boat parade party. There was always some left over which, post-party, would find itself in a most unorthodox place — as part of a peanut butter sandwich.
I should mention, lest you think poorly of us, that the sandwiches were booze free. It was simply the base for the hot buttered rum, made from blending melted vanilla ice cream with sugar, vanilla and butter. Trust me, peanut butter and jelly didn’t stand a chance, that sandwich was like crack.
The fourth (& final) installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”
If you’re wondering, my god, is she still posting about Thanksgiving when Christmas is only a few days away, the answer is (sadly) yes. Trust me, I know — I can’t believe it took me so long to plow through one meal! I’d be embarrassed but this is a crazy time of year and I’ve had a lot to deal with over the past 2 weeks so I’m keeping my head held high as we approach the finish line.
After eating oysters and caviar, scallops with endive, and seared quail in pomegranate, I wanted the final course in our Thomas Keller-inspired Thanksgiving feast to be just as impressive. After searching through several of his cookbooks I decided on hot apple fritters (from Ad Hoc) with Calvados ice cream (Bouchon).
This dessert would have been the perfect finale to our four-course dinner…if my husband and I had had the motivation. After cooking and eating three courses already, our ambition started to slip. We managed to make the Calvados ice cream but when it came time to set up a pot for deep frying, I admit I bailed out first.
“Maybe we should just eat the ice cream and call it a night,” I suggested.